Hello my Marmosets,
Between the legendary animals, the nocturnal creatures and the various characters that populate our imagination, there is another kind of “mystical entities”: these are the hybrid beings. Half-human, half-animal, these “creatures” often allow us (in our mind and therefore our subconscious) to exteriorize our own fears, our own “bestiality” by giving the human being a semi-animal appearance. These beings resemble us, but are different. Above all my marmosets, know that, concerning the sirens, there are two “myths” (why make it simple when one can make complicated?):
The siren most ingrained in our minds and the one we know best comes from medieval and Scandinavian folklore (contemporary myth): the siren half-woman half-fish.
The second comes from Greek mythology (ancient mythology) where the siren is depicted as a chimera half-woman half-bird.
For these two myths, the origin of the word would come from the Greek: “seirến“, and from the Latin “siren“.
From siren to siren
Their real meaning
“In general, demons of the souls, demons of the dead, tutelary geniuses of tombs, beings in turn or at the same time beneficial and malicious, as many characters of ancient demonology are, the Sirens are all this, and this aspect Is no longer disputed since Weicker’s important work on this subject. “
[Source: Odette Touchefeu-Meynier, “De quand date la Sirène-poisson” (“When did the Mermaid-fish appear?”)]
Their evolution through time
For the Scandinavians, the mermaid is a formidable monster called Margygr (the “giant sea”). This monster looked tall, with a terrible face, a pointed forehead, wide eyes, a large mouth and wrinkled cheeks. Yes, we are far from Ariel the little mermi super siren of Disney… sorry girls if I just break the image you made of her? … what? I’m a bit sadistic? Think about it, maybe a little!
According to Édouard Brasey, a French novelist, these oceanic creatures look in a mirror, symbol of the planet Venus in astronomy. Aphrodite, goddess of Love born of sea foam, is often represented with a mirror of gold. Even if she has no fish tail,
Aphrodite would be “the ancestor of sirens and protector of sailors”.
As with all the creatures of our imagination, the physical appearance we are giving them today is a succession of more or less important transformations over time. The Nordic siren, therefore, does not escape the rule!
In the medieval bestiaries, sirens are described as women “from head to pelvis” and fish from “basin to bottom with claws and wings”, thus merging the fabulous traditions of the Greek and German mythologies. Their image is engraved on the steles, tombs or Romanesque churches where they personify the soul of the dead as in ancient Egypt.
The Norwegian work “Konungs skuggsjá” describes her as a lovable creature, resembling a woman up to the waist, for “this monster had big nipples on her chest, like a woman.” She would also have long arms and long hair, and her face seemed human.
In the seventh century, the English monk Aldhelm of Sherborne describes them as fish-tailed virgins covered with scales. (So good!)
These two representations will coexist until the fifteenth century when the flying sirens (of the Greek myth) leave definitely the place, at least in our minds, a pretty woman with long hair and fish tail.
I would point out that at the time when all these myths permeate our imagination, women, or feminine beings, have mostly long hair. I think, and it is only my opinion (That’s it, I think I’m starting to play it smart to death again?), That the hair, like the nipples, are not only a feminine attribute, but also a “sexual” attribute having To attract, from a purely physical point of view, the “male” in its… nets… (yeah, I know, I’m too strong to take you where I want!). And then I can understand that it is more pleasant for the male sex to look at a pretty girl even if she has a fish tail (each her tastes) rather than a humanoid that squalls for a long time and goes away “at the wing” to the slightest annoyance (Alexia said, I remind you, that I was armored with humor: woman bird, at the wing, it’s rather funny, is not it?). Fine. I close the parenthesis.
Johannes of Cuba, a German naturalist, makes them live in gulfs at the bottom of the seas. As for Jacob Van Maerlant, a Flemish writer, says that one can find them as well in the seas as in the rivers. I suppose the latter has relied on the folklore of many European legends which mention sirens, living not only in the sea, but also in rivers and small streams.  They are then called sirens, but are also sometimes called “naudia” (nymphs) in Germanic beliefs, “dragas” or “donas d’aiga” (water ladies) ) In Occitania, etc.
Note that anglophones call them siren, the sirens antique (half-women, half-birds), and mermaid, the sirens scandinavian (with a tail of fish).
The origins and first traces…
From woman-bird to woman-fish
The bird-woman appeared in the first half of the 8th century BC, gradually giving way to the woman-fish.
The origin of the sirens, as we know them, probably comes from the narratives of navigators; The sailors might have mistaken the sirens with manatees (large aquatic mammals [their head reminds me of a dolphin]) and / or dugongs also called “sea cows“.
Well, I do not know what you think my marmosets, but to confuse a marine mammal whatever it is with a female creature (fish tail, we understood, thank you) must still be drunk a few liters of mead, or… have drunk a few liters of mead! Because physically, it’s still not the same thing!
In 1403, near Edam in Holland, two young girls captured a “specimen”. It was in fact a woman, found naked in the water and speaking no known language, and who was nicknamed the “siren of Edam”.
Christopher Columbus himself reports that he would have crossed three sirens near the coast of Santo Domingo. Disappointed, he would have said that they were not as beautiful as in the writings!
(Sorry my guy, but you can not have everything in life: “discover America” and fish the beautiful fish). On the other hand, American sailors would have seen it near the Sandwich Islands [Hawaii], (sandwich like tuna sandwich … ok … there, it’s not funny) “of great beauty that yielded nothing to the most beautiful women “. It is my opinion that it was not the same sirens. Especially that between the two “locations” almost 400 years ago. Unless in the meantime the sirens have embellished.
The influence of Ulysses on their transformation into women-fishes
A Megarian bowl discovered in Athens in 1947 during the excavations of the Agora, and a Roman lamp (belonging to the Canterbury Museum) illustrate a passage of the song where Ulysses is seduced by the daughters of Achéloos and both make their sirens Of women with tails of marine animals. And hang on well: the lamp dates from the 1st-2nd century AD, and the bowl of the second century BC!
The siren depicted on the Roman lamp is a woman of long, curly hair, with a prolonged torso, not a real caudal fin, but by the volute tail, smooth and without scales, of a marine reptile.
[Source: Odette Touchefeu-Meynier, “De quand date la Sirène-poisson ?” (“When did the Mermaid-fish appear?”)]
The legend of the siren-fish has spread to Haiti where it is known as “Mami Wata” (now, after several changes over time), where it would be assimilated to a sort of divinity of fertilization. But she would also be the “Mother of the Waters“, fear of the fishermen, symbol of the foster mother and destructive ocean. The cult of Mami Wata has spread to the Atlantic coast of Togo through Nigeria, Cameroon and Congo.
Today we owe our modern siren to Hans Christian Andersen, Danish writer, thanks to his story where the siren is no longer the terrible temptress but becomes a romantic heroine in search of love.
[To know: In Greek mythology, the descendants of Triton, son of Poseidon, called “tritons“, are considered the masculine equivalent of sirens. But, unlike them, this class of marine creatures could be male or female!]
Between myth and reality
A fascinating figure
The siren inflames the spirits, sometimes the hearts. She enchants us so much by her bewitching voice, as by all the myths that accompany her. (Girls in power!) However, the mysteries were such that scientists tried to find a rational answer.
From the 16th century, “dried” reproductions were exhibited in fairs and museums! (Berk!) In the seventeenth century, in the Netherlands, a certain Pavio would have dissected a siren in the presence of Johannes de Laet, a renowned doctor, which would have brought credit to their real existence. The head and chest were human, however, from the navel to the foot the creature was shapeless… but without tail.
The human being being what it is, it’s reported that in the nineteenth, Japan, India or China, hideous monsters were made with a monkey bust and a fish tail. It is obvious that this kind of “mutation” does not, in general, allow the survival of the child.
When science is involved!
In 1758, the sirens were briefly noted in the Systema naturae of Carl von Linné  (a work which founded the scientific classification of living organisms), but this taxon was soon abandoned by scientific classifications for lack of specimens or Credible descriptions .
Although the existence of sirens has not been considered by scientists since the 19th century, some have continued to take an interest in it, with more or less seriousness, such as ocean scientist Karl Banse.
According to him, sirens would be marine mammals and therefore would not have scales, and their corpulence would limit their distribution to the warmest waters of the tropics, they would have an agricultural way of life (algae, molluscs). They would eventually supplement their diet with human flesh, which would explain their habit of charming the sailors and taking them to the depths.
Conversely, some studies have addressed biological problems that prevent the existence of beings such as sirens. Several physiological parameters make it impossible for an animal of such an appearance to be viable, such as without going into details, temperature, etc. Other scientific possibilities suggest marine primates, but this is another story…
We can, as in the case of many fantastic creatures, ask us whether or not the siren (Nordic or not) really existed (or really exists). However, if it seems that eating fish helps us to have a good memory, some Asian writings report that eating siren flesh would make immortal!
I’ll stop you right now! Do not rush on pieces of breaded fish or various fish-based burgers, there is little chance that they contain siren flesh! Rather, precipitate yourself on the books and various media that relate more or less their legends: you will see: reading does good as much for the mind as for the memory!
Where to find them?
- The Little Mermaid, Hans Christian Andersen, 1876.
- Peter Pan, written by J. M. Barrie, 1911 (including sirens, among others)
- Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, 2000, characters of sirens are approached. (The book and the film)
- Mermaid, written by Carolyn Turgeon, 2011 (new literary).
- The Kingdom of Lenacia, written by Priska Poirier, 2011 (series of popular literary works)
- The siren, Kiera Cass and Madeleine Nasalik, 2016.
Movies – TV Series:
- The Little Mermaid / Rusalochka, Ivan Aksenchuk, 1968.
- The Little Mermaid / Malá mořská víla, CSR; Miroslava
- Safránková – Mermaid and Libuse Safránková, 1976
- The Little Mermaid / The Little Mermaid / Russalotschka / Rusalka, Bulgaria / RSS, Vika Novikova – Mermaid, 1976.
- The Little Mermaid, Tomoharu Katsumata, 1979.
- Splash, 1984.
- The Prince and the Mermaid, television series, 1995,
- Sirens, 2003 (telefilm).
- H2O, 2006 (Australian television series)
- Aquamarine, 2006.
- Pirates of the Caribbean: The Fountain of Youth, 2011.
- Mako Mermaids, 2013 (Australian TV series)
Mangas – cartoon – Animated features:
- The Little Mermaid, from Disney Studios, 1989.
- Mermaid Melody, 2003.
- Mermaidia, 2006 (Barbie’s animated feature)
- Ponyo on the cliff, Hayao Miyazaki, 2009.
By immersing ourselves in all these fabulous archives and manuscripts (whatever they may be), we appropriate, during the time of their reading, a little of that immortality which, through all these fabulous creatures, passes through the centuries and Will survive tomorrow…
The writings remain, the words fly away … but the mystery still reigns …
See you soon my Marmosets!
Article written by S-P Decroix (author of The Princess Of The Deepest Times) and Leandro De Carvalho (author of Little Red Riding Hood: A New World).