Mythos Monday: A Whale of a Tail

I absolutely couldn’t resist the change to share this clip of Kirk Douglas singing.  And not just singing, either.  The man actually shakes his booty!

I loved that song as a kid.  Heck, I loved that movie.  Anything to do with underwater worlds: Atlantis, Captain Nemo, mermaids …

I’m sure most of you are pretty familiar with mermaids.  Disney’s Little Mermaid, anyone?  In fact, a mermaid makes a cameo in my first novel Kissed by Darkness.    

But that’s not the half of it.  Let’s travel back in time about 3,000 years.

The earliest mermaid story comes from Assyria around about 1000 BC.  The goddess Atargatis, embarrassed by an unwanted pregnancy, threw herself into the sea.  Instead of dying she was changed into a creature half fish and half woman.

I’m pretty sure a man made up that story.  I can’t imagine any woman being pleased at sprouting a fish tail.  I certainly can’t imagine a goddess being embarrassed and throwing herself into the sea.  She’s a goddess for crying out loud.  But I didn’t make up the story, ancient Assyrians did and in that time and place women were pretty much treated like property, so make of it what you will.


According to Greek legend, Alexander the Great’s sister, Thessalonike, became a mermaid after she died. (Does that make her a zombie mermaid?) Whenever she encountered a ship, she asked its sailors only one question: “Is King Alexander alive?”   If the sailors were smart, they’d answer: “He lives and reigns and conquers the world”  She would then calm the waters so the ship had smooth sailing.  If they answered wrong, she would raise violent storm, sending the ship and every man aboard to the bottom of the sea.  

I quite like the “sea people” the One Thousand and One Nights which are anatomically identical to humans, but can breathe underwater.  They can live for a time on land, interbreed with us and the children of such mixed race couples can live both on land and under the sea.  It’s like an alien race, but underwater.  So cool.

In British mythology, mermaids were unlucky.  It was believed a sighting foretold disaster.  Sometimes they would swim up fresh water rivers and lakes and deliberately murder people who came too close.

Oddly enough, there are also British tales of mermaids being benevolent.  Teaching humans how to cure diseases.


Many cultures consider mermaids virtually identical to sirens.  They would make men fall in love with them, then drag them down into the depths of the sea where the men would drown.  You know, what with not being able to breath underwater and all.

Sometimes this was an accident.  (Oh, whoops.  Squeezed my pet too hard.)  But sometimes it was deliberate.  Creepy, creepy mermaids.


Of course, while the mermaids like to flirt with humans and either seduce them or eat them for dinner, mermen were said to be uglier, wilder and completely uninterested in the human race.


Probably they were more interested in watching underwater football.  Typical men.

So, tell me, do you prefer the beautiful, seductive mermaid?  Or the nasty, murderous one?  Or perhaps the alien underwater sea people?  Or maybe, just maybe, you prefer the hunky guy on the right …



13 thoughts on “Mythos Monday: A Whale of a Tail

  1. Awesome stuff, Shea! While I’m sure my daughters would prefer the nice little mermaid, I’m more for the anatomically correct sea people (personally, I never knew why a guy would be attracted to a woman with a fish bottom but hey who am I to judge).

    Love the Kirk Douglas clip, haven’t seen that in years.

    1. I’m with you, Gene. I really don’t find fish tails attractive on men! 😉 lol

      Isn’t that a great clip? I think it’s got to be one of my all-time Disney favorites. Especially as Kirk Douglas was usually such a tough-guy.

  2. When I was young I really loved The Little Mermaid and always thought that mermaids were so nice and kind… and when the horrible “truth” the fact that in most legends they are evil creatures… and as time passed I began to like the evil story lol 🙂 mermaids which seduce men and take them to their doom… I love that!

  3. The guy on the right looks great. Can he turn into a human? I llike stories were the mer people can become human. I was a big fan of the Little Mermaid. It kept my little darlings entertained for hours. LOL.

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