Monday, September 7, 2009

Wave to the mermaids


Bye-bye summer. Farewell to long days when everyone can play outside until bedtime, when breezes carry excited voices, when soft-serve melts on your fingers, when flip-flops flap on the sidewalk. And good-bye, too, to sand in the sheets, peeling noses and sweaty nights.

This cool graphic comes from Penniwig's.

Do mermaids say good-bye to summer? Do they miss a warm doze upon a rock? Or are they glad the tourists go home?

I confess: I have mermaids. Among them is a wildly colorful poster in my writing room. Another is a beautiful creature with scary hands on a candy dish/ashtray thingie purchased at a Renaissance fair.


And then there is the haunting mermaid on a ceramic vase that belonged to a dear friend, gone now from this world. I think of him when I see her reaching out imploringly from the waves.

What is it about mermaids that keep us enchanted, even though we've been warned?

William Butler Yeats in "A Man Young and Old: III The Mermaid," weaves the tale of a mermaid who plucks up a comely lad for her own and carries him into the deep, laughing all the way. Yeats explains that she forgot in cruel happiness that even lovers drown.



T.S. Eliot in "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock" laments, I have heard the mermaids singing, each to each. I do not think that they will sing to me.

But Hans Christian Andersen gave us "The Little Mermaid," a bittersweet story where the mermaid sells her watery power and alluring voice for a pair of human legs so she can be near a prince she saved from drowning. She gives all for love and, when he marries another, she turns into seafoam, frothy and ethereal.



Piers Anthony turns tail--ha,ha--on the mythology in MERCYCLE, a wild, sci-fi/fantasy romp, which is meant for adults, not kids. In his version of mermaids, a group of experts searching the deepest trench in the Atlantic Ocean in a top-secret government project, encounter a fish-tailed woman of extraordinary attributes. The experts survive the pressure and get oxygen with bicycle-generated power. I told you this is a wild and crazy tale. The mermaid, it is revealed, is part of a Chinese experiment to see if humans can be adapted into merfolk. Okay, if you want more, you have to read it.

I am currently reading Delia Sherman's "Changeling," a middle grade/YA tale in which a girl who's been raised by fairies in Central Park has to go on a quest to save herself and loved ones. One of her challenges is to get the mirror of the Mermaid Queen--a spike-haired creature covered in piercings and tats, including a nuclear submarine she can undulate on her tail. Her mirror is not about vanity, it's about power. And you'd best be scared.

Which brings us back to why we love the concept of mermaids, who are very liberated, going topless and all that. They are sexy, playful, tricksy, murderous, but, mostly, mysterious, representing the unknown depths of the sea. Water not only covers most of the planet, it comprises much of the human body. Mermaids may hold stories we have yet to learn.

I'd love to hear any mermaid stories you want to share, but first I must woo-hoo.

I am really honored that one of my favorite bloggers, Suzanne at Tales of Extraordinary Ordinariness, has passed along the Superior Comments award to me.

Do not this panda and songbird make you smile?

This award is blissfully free of strings and rules, but it is far too lovely and feel-good to not pass on.

I hearby dub Robyn at Putting Pen to Paper for her tireless, enthusiastic and often hilarious comments on the blogs of her fellow writers.
I hereby add MG Higgins for a second Super Comments Award for fabulous and fun blogs and comments. Love that blog.

16 comments:

Yat-Yee said...

I've never been particularly interested in mermaids, but your post has changed some of that! And yes, that panda and song bird did make me smile.

Tess said...

Oh, I love mermaids. My daughter draws the most beautiful ones in her sketchbook. That has endeared me to them even more :)

Tabitha Bird said...

Congrats on the award :) I love the mermaids too.

Corey Schwartz said...

I'd love to be a mermaid in my next life!

MG Higgins said...

One of my crit buddies has sold a YA mermaid story. Not sure of the publishing date, but I understand that mermaids are the next vampires/zombies/werewolves. You're on the leading edge with your post, Tricia!

storyqueen said...

Big mermaid fan here. You know, there is a Celtic legend that had mermaids originating in Ireland. A young girl's village was destroyed by a flood when a lake (Lough Neagh or something like that)overflowed, killing everyone but the girl and her dog. The water faeries in the lake felt bad for the girl, so they turned her into a mermaid and her dog into an otter, so they could live in the lake for eternity. Of course, the church also appears in the story and after three hundred years, a priest blesses the girl and she goes to heaven as a human (or something like that.) It's been a long time since I read it. I was once trying to write it into a picture book, but didn't have the right voice for it at the time.

It's in the queue somewhere.....

Shelley

Tricia J. O'Brien said...

Yat-Yee: So glad I sparked your interest. There's tons of lore and gorgeous paintings to be found.

Tess: Oh, I'd love to see your daughter's drawings. How cool that she likes art.

Tabitha: Thanks!

Corey: Hmmm, why does that not surprise me, Scuba Girl?

Mel: Oh my. I also have a YA mermaid story that I put aside for the one I've been working on this year. Perhaps I'd best dust that one off if your inside info is right.

Shelley: I LOVE that story. Remember that film the Secret of Roan Inish? It was about a selkie (seal woman) who came ashore, had a family and went back to the sea. You should do that picture book (see Mel's comment above)

Marilyn Donahue said...

Oh, what a lovely page this is. Mermaids! They fascinate me. I must read more about them! Marilyn

Shelli said...

have you read sea of change by aimee friedman - just came out. Met her this weekend and she is adorable. it is about mermen :) even better!

Tricia J. O'Brien said...

Marilyn: Welcome to my blog and happy mermaid reading!

Shelli: No, I hadn't heard of it. Just googled after seeing your comment. Sounds fun, and cute mermen, yes!

Donna said...

I'm looking forward to reading the Celtic tale, "Sea of Change," "Mercycle," and "Changeling." I love mermaids, but hadn't heard of those.

"The Secret of Roan Inish" is a definite favorite, as is "Aquamarine," both the film and the Alice Hoffman YA novella.

Suzanne said...

I have measured out my life in coffee spoons. ;)

Robyn Campbell said...

Tricia, thanks so much for such an honor. I will treasure it!

And didn't you know? I am a mermaid!! :)

Tricia J. O'Brien said...

Donna: How could I forget Aquamarine? A great tweener/teen book and movie.

Suzanne: Ah, yes the spoons. Isn't it an incredible poem? So filled with luscious description and original thought.

Robyn: Mermaid treasure, yay!

beth said...

Wow...your mermaid art is beautiful. I love the dish, and the vase is amazing!

Tricia J. O'Brien said...

Beth: I love that you love the art. Life would be much poorer without the art that surrounds us.