Every time Animal Planet runs its 2011 mockumentary, “Mermaid: The Body Found,” their web site heaves under all the views they get. It was the most successful series Animal Planet has ever run, and repeat airings still pull in a crazy level of public attention according to Nielsen.
And if you haven’t checked it out, you should. It’s this fabulous blend of myth and supposition that feels perfectly real, presented in a cinematographic package of wonderfulness. But. Should we all go on a mermaid hunt?
As a writer of stories containing mermaids, my opinion is ‘yes’… but not in the actual ocean, where sharks could eat you or jellyfish poison you or hypothermia cause you to drown. (Picture me wagging a motherly finger in your face and warning you to keep that wet suit in the closet.) Scientific evidence, the fanciful exposition by Animal Planet notwithstanding, is overwhelmingly against the possibility… and again, the research could kill you!
Mermaid MYTHOLOGY is a different proposition, however, and it will not actually deep-six you to consider it. Independent populations all over the globe have rich, developed, gratifying narratives absolutely worth our attention as reader/thinkers. In addition to my own novels – Updrift and Breakwater – there are so many riffs on the theme out there for those interested, from Carolyn Turgeon’s “Mermaid” to the “Of Poseidon” series by Anna Banks; to the classic lore contained in Brazil’s “Sirena” or Guam’s “Lara” stories. Or (of course) the widely read Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale.
So, by all means, be a believer, and happy exploring… but I think we should put our belief in the “true” stories here, which are in books, not the sea.
(The link to the Discovery Channel feature – and it’s pretty fun – is here if you want to take a peek: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z1L4oCVj-vM )