Merpeople Through the Ages
With all the hype surrounding the new Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them movie coming out in November, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about mythological creatures lately. My favorite creature of all time is definitely the merperson. I’m sure I’m not the only one with beasts on the brain, and this is confirmed by MuggleNet’s brand new podcast, called SpeakBeasty, where they cover all sorts of topics regarding Fantastic Beasts. Coincidentally, its logo features a mermaid reclining in a martini glass with a font reminiscent of the roaring ’20s.
Different tales of merpeople (pun intended) come from various cultures all around the world—from Greek stories of ship-sinking sirens to The Little Mermaid (who was recently Sorted into Slytherin). Throughout written history, merpeople have existed within the pages of literature and oral storytelling. What makes this mythological creature so captivating?
In Harry Potter, the merpeople living in the Black Lake are known as selkies, which are found in both Irish and Scottish folklore. However, during Harry’s bath in Goblet of Fire, he notices that the mermaid portrayed in the bathroom does not look like the rather frightful merpeople in the Lake. This leads us to believe that the variations between merpeople are not reasons for reasonable doubt that they exist, but rather that, just as in all of nature, environment affects adaptations and appearance.
The typical mermaid most people will imagine is like the one Harry finds in the prefects’ bathroom—a beautiful woman with long, flowing hair and a fish tail. The Siren type of merperson was first described in Greek mythology, in stories such as The Odyssey, as creatures who would lure sailors to their deaths. However, these beautiful specimens are found in much warmer water than the selkies, which explains the physical variations between the two.
A question I keep asking myself is, “Will there be merpeople in Fantastic Beasts?” While the legend itself is prevalent in our society, it more than likely traveled to the United States from other parts of the world. However, Newt does say that merpeople can be found all over the world. Regardless of where the stories originated, there could be a possibility that we will see merpeople within the many bodies of water in New York City. Hopefully, we will see something much more convincing than the old Feejee mermaid, created by fusing the top half of a monkey with the bottom half of a fish.
Are you excited for the chance to see another portrayal of merpeople in the wizarding world? What other creatures are you excited to see or learn more about? Let us know! Also, please don’t forget to keep tuning into SpeakBeasty, our new podcast, for more information and discussion on the upcoming film.