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Under the Sea
“Stay away from the underground lake I implore, The Siren will see you are heard of no
more.” (E.A. Bucchianeri, Phantom Phantasia: Poetry for the Phantom of the Opera Phan)
When people hear the word Mermaid they normally think of a cute red haired girl with big
innocent blue eyes. Disney has made mermaids out to be cute little sea dwelling creatures
that are so kind to humans. They are made to be out as curious creatures full of compassion
and sweetness. However, that isn’t the real version of the Mermaid. The original mermaids
are to be scary tales told from the sea. These beautiful half women half creatures are not to
be messed. There song allures men to a deep watery death. In this paper I will be sharing
with you the truth behind mermaids. I will also share the difference in strength that they
carry throughout time. I will be looking at three different versions of mermaids to assist in
conveying the idea of what strength the mermaid has had in different time periods.
To begin, we will look at where it all started, the original myth of the mermaid. The name
Mermaid came from “mer” meaning sea and then maid for girl or woman.(A Mermaid and a
Magic Comb – origins) Syria holds the earliest myth that came from about 1000 B.C.
(Mermaid Mythology) The myth says that a Goddess by the name of Atargatis took the form
of a mermaid. (Mermaid Mythology - Mermaids Myths and Legends) In many cultures Gods
and Goddesses were powerful. People would pray, give offerings, and do sacrifices in their
names so that the Gods and Goddesses would not curse them. With the first myth being
about a Goddess taking the form of mermaid shows how much power she held. In later
Greek mythology many Gods were placed in the sea. If they were female they were called
sea nymphs and if they were males they were called Tritons. (Mermaid Mythology -

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Mermaids Myths and Legends) However, looking at the mermaids in the old mythology
reveals that they are seen as protectors. (Mermaid Mythology - Mermaids Myths and
Legends)This portrays the strength that women have as care givers. Women have the power
to love, feed, and protect all the while have the power to harsh things in order to protect what
is her. It is also interesting to note here that most females in mythology have a relation to a
body of water of some sort. The symbolism of water is nurturing there again reinforcing the
strength and nature of women.
In Greek mythology mermaids were viewed differently. The Greeks didn’t call them
mermaids, but instead called them “Sirens viewed differently. The Greeks didn’t call them
mermaids, but instead called them “Sirens”. (Mermaid Mythology - Mermaids Myths and
Legends). Mermaids are beautiful with voice that would drive men crazy. There were stories
told where men would die of starvation looking for the owner of the voice. Other men were
lured in to the sea to meet their untimely death. Sirens would swim in groups of only women
and what they wanted when they wanted. They did not have anyone to tell them what to do.
When someone interfered with their independence or freedom they would lure that person to
their death. These stories were told by sailors. The reason behind it is because they were
simply scared of going out into the unknown. They had no idea if they were going to come
back alive or dead. They did not even know if they would come back at all. The ocean is was
a very mysterious place back then. It is still mysterious today. There are depths unknown to
us today even with all the technology we have. Also, because the ocean is still so unknown
we believe in the possibilities of mermaids. We have programs on the Discovery Channel
with footage of mermaids. Along with the fear of the unknown, there was also the fact that

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the men were alone for months at time and all they had were the company of men. So,
mermaids were the solution to all of their fears. The power the mermaids had is a reflection
on the power women had. Not only could they do whatever they wanted, that also had an
overwhelming influence on men.
Then next era of mermaids we are going look at is Han’s 1837 version of the Little Mermaid
which is also known as the Little Sea Maid. In this version Han’s takes away the woman’s
voice, therefore taking away her opinion. The witch that gave her the possibility of living up
on the shore with the man she loves and literally cuts out her tongue. (Hans Christian
Andersen) Now she is supposed to get the prince to fall in love with her without her voice
and the prince thinks someone else is pretty. This shows the oppression of women and how
women are objectified by men. The Little Sea Maid is not accompanied by her own crew of
mermaids which is very different from the myths we have so far discussed. The prince does
not even pick her at the end. (Hans Christian Andersen) He picks a pretty young girl who he
thinks saves him. (Hans Christian Andersen) This story has many morals and even a biblical
touch on it. When The Little Sea Maid is presented with the chance to kill the prince and be a
mermaid again she does not do it. (Hans Christian Andersen) She cannot bring herself to do
it. At this point she is supposed to die and turn into sea foam but she does not die. (Hans
Christian Andersen) Instead the air faeries come down and take her with them and tell that if
she does good deeds for three hundred years than she would obtain a human soul. (Hans
Christian Andersen) She would finally get to live where the humans lived. (Hans Christian
Andersen) In a way there is still some power for women in this story. It shows the high level
that women can love and how compassionate they can be. Even though he was married to

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someone else she loved him so much and wanted him to be happy and that is a strength in
itself. It also portrays the reward system. If you do something then you will get something
back in return. In this case the Little Sea Maid was taken to a heaven like place. The story
also conveys once again a woman’s nurturing abilities. We can see that when the Little Sea
Maid was told if she did the 300 years of good deeds that she would get a mortal soul. She
was also told for every child that was behaved well and smiled she would get a year off the
three hundred year sentence. However, for every tear a child had shed she would get one day
added to her sentence. Again, this shows the belief that women are nurturing, compassionate,
and show power through caring for others. Although that being compassionate and caring
can be viewed as strength it still shows a decrease in the overall power women were given in
earlier times. Also, showing the objectivity and the repeated belief that in order for a woman
to get a man she needs to just sit quietly and look pretty. She is to keep all of her opinions to
herself completely.
The last era of mermaids we are going to look at is Walt Disney’s The Little Mermaid. This
was the movie that changed all and any perceptions of mermaids. Now mermaids are pretty
and adventurous and relatable. In this story her name is Ariel. She does not obey her father.
All she wants is to find herself on two legs on the sandy beach of the shore with her prince
charming. This a great decrease in women’s power and independence. Ariel is only sixteen
and wants to be married to someone she just met. She gives up almost every part of her
identity just to find him and be with him. She does have to give up her voice to Ursula in
return for two legs. This again shows that women are to be quiet and pretty in society.
Women are to let men do all the talking. In this version it seems to be that women are but

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pretty objects for men to stare and claim as their own. Although the tale is not as
empowering as the original myths for women, there are still some inspiring lessons and
morals. For example, with Ariel’s voice getting taken it pushes her to communicate in
different ways. It shows us that love is more than just words. Another example is that the
grass is not always greener on the other side. Our favorite little crab Sebastian sings a little
number on that. I found this moral in both Han’s story and Disney’s. Ariel had a hard time
learning to walk and winning Prince Eric’s love and affection. Whereas The Little Sea Maid
felt like she was walking on glass and knives with every step she took. Successfully showing
the grass is not always greener on the other and that each side of the grass has its struggles.
The one moral that is only in Disney’s version is that love conquers all. Ariel and her friends
stopped Eric from marrying the wrong the person (which was Ursula). Ariel and her friends
got her voice back and Eric knew she was the one that saved him from the ship wreck. The
love conquers all message seems to have always been a theme throughout all of Walt
Disney’s creations.
In conclusion, mermaids are seen as woman power as well nurturing creatures. Through the
years, as women have been oppressed, mermaids have been reflecting that in the form as a
decrease in power in stories. Mermaids are also a way to explain the unexplainable. Humans
need to understand everything. When something is unexplainable and mysterious that scares
us. Still to this day we believe in mermaids. Even still the mermaids caught on camera are
much different than Ariel. They have webbed hands, they are bald, and have ugly fish tales.
There are ongoing scientific investigations on their existence. There is even a documentary
on the Discovery channel about the existence of mermaids. With this new found evidence it

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is possible to say that maybe the myths of mermaids are more than just stories told by scared
and lonely sailors.