How much do you ACTUALLY know about mermaids? 🧜‍♀️


KAT VANCIL

THE STORYTELLER'S SAGA

QUEST 61

Well hello there, Reader,

This weekend I’m going to be heading to a family wedding. And like I do for nearly all weddings I’m invited to (whether or not I actually attend) I’m gifting the happy couple with a watercolor painting.

Sometimes it’s a landscape of the Grand Canal in Venice. Or their favorite place in Disney. This time it’s a beachscape not too far from where me and my husband spent our anniversary last fall.

While we were staying at the Jabberwock Inn in October I was doing setting research for some of my upcoming stories including my M/M Romantasy novel, This Fair City. (You know, the one that’s releasing later this year.)

In case you’re curious, This Fair City blends Romeo and Juliet with The Little Mermaid into a Queer Romantasy with a twist ending. I started on it back in 2021 around the same time as that aforementioned Venice watercolor. And the same time as Mermay.

What’s Mermay you ask?

Well, Mermay is a prompt challenge that many creatives participate in each May. (Yeah I know we’re a bit late for that. But there’s always next year, right?) And during my research for This Fair City, I dove into the depths to familiarize myself with all the mythical creatures of the deep related to mermaids.

So in case you’re thinking about writing a fin-tastical tale this summer, here’s a mini catalog of mermaid-adjacent creatures to help get you started:

Merrow

(plural merrows) also called murdúchann, samguba, suire, or muirgheilt which means “sea wanderer”

Merrows are mermaid or siren-like creatures from Irish folklore that can be any gender. Their name derives from an Anglicized version of the Middle Irish word murdúchann, meaning “sea singer.”

It is said, that merrows supposedly require a magical red cap in order to travel between the deep water and dry land. They’re also considered to be exceptionally beautiful. Most are described as having long green hair, greenish-tinted scales, and a slight webbing between their fingers with a white delicate film resembling “the skin between the shell and the yolk of an egg.”

And unlike other fae denizens of the water, merrows were said to have a modest, affectionate, gentle, and benevolent disposition.

Stories that feature a Merrow:

Waterfire Saga, Disney’s The Little Mermaid, Castle Swimmer

Cecaelia

(plural cecaelia or cecaelias) also called octomaid or octoman

Cecaelia are a subset of the merfolk that originated in Asian and Native American mythology, legend, and folklore. They have the upper torso of a woman (or more rarely a man) while their lower body is the tentacles of an octopus or squid much like a mermaid or sea witch.

Stories that feature a Cecaelia:

Disney’s The Little Mermaid, Castle Swimmer, Prince of Endless Tides

Siren/Sirena/Sireno

(plural sirens,plural female sirenas, plural male sirenos) also called Magindara in Bicol and Visayas

Though the original sirens that plagued Odysseus were half woman, half bird, sirens—as we think of them today—are actually more similar to the Filipino Sirena. A mythological sea fae from Filipino culture, sirenas are described as having the upper body of a human and lower body of a fish. Sirenas were described as being particularly beautiful sea fae with long, flowing hair that was often curly or wavy.

However, much like their Greek kin, they were said to have alluring and irresistible singing voices.

Stories that feature a Siren/Sirena/Sireno:

To Kill a Kingdom, Prince of Endless Tides, The Wicked King, Some Kind of Twisted Love

Nixie/Nix

(plural female nixies, plural male nixes)

A river dragon-mermaid of German folklore similar to a water nymph or sprite that tries to lure people into the water.

Male nixes can take different forms including that of a human, a fish, or a serpent. Female nixies generally take either human form or a mermaid-like form with a human torso and a fish tail. Both nixies and nixes can be recognized by the wet hem of their clothes.

Though it is said, they lured people down to the water with their enchanted songs, nixies and nixes were not always malevolent. And many stories exist where the river nymph agrees to live with the human they fall in love with.

Stories that feature a Nixie/Nix:

The Wicked King, Rosemary and Rue, Ironside

Kelpie

(plural kelpies)

A kelpie is a shape-shifting fae that inhabits the lochs and waterways in Irish and Scottish folklore. They are usually described as a gray or white horse-like creature able to take human form.

Most accounts say kelpies have the ability to transform themselves into non-equine forms, though some say they retain their hooves when appearing as a human. Others say they betray their human guise with perpetually wet hair or wet weeds in their hair. It is also said, that kelpies wear a silver necklace as a bridle while in human guise, and if it’s removed they will revert back to their equine form.

Stories also say that male kelpies will attempt to woo young women into becoming their brides.

Stories that feature a Kelpie:

The Scorpio Races, Tithe, The Ancient Magus’ Bride, Rosemary and Rue

Selkie

(plural selkies) also spelled silkies, sylkies, or selchies

Selkies are shape-shifting fae of Celtic and Norse origin that can shift between seal and human forms by removing or putting on their seal skin. Like many other water fae, selkies have a dual nature. They can be friendly and helpful to humans, but they can also be dangerous and vengeful.

It is said selkies are attractive and often seductive in their human form. In fact, many stories involve them having romantic relationships with humans that result in children.

But selkies can also be coerced or tricked into marrying humans. There are plenty of stories about humans stealing or hiding their seal pelts by means of preventing them from returning to the sea. However, such marriages are often unhappy and the selkie always longs for the sea. Eventually, the selkie always manages to escape—sometimes with the children in tow—back to the sea.

Stories that feature a Selkie:

Song of the Sea, A Local Habitation, One Salt Sea

I hope this mini catalog of water fae helps you on your journey to create a fin-tastical tale. Until next time, ubscriber.first_name | strip | default: "Story Quester" }}, this is your friendly neighborhood storytelling Kat wishing you a wonderfully creative week.

Your cohort in storytelling,

Kat Vancil

🐱

PS 👉 Which of the 6 mermaid-adjacent water fae piqued your interest most? Hit reply and let me know.

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