Before The Little Mermaid, before Splash, before the discovery of the mythology, there was a passage that I learned early on in my childhood which planted the seed of my fascination with mermaids.
I have heard the mermaids singing, each to each.
I do not think that they will sing to me.
T.S. Eliot’s poem The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock was one of the first verses I ever read–though I definitely can’t claim I understood it–and these two particular lines have stayed with me for over 20 years. I think they encapsulate, more than anything, the reason why mermaids and their kind remain in the consciousness of people all over the world. It might be 2013, but mermaids still appear in literature, film, music and photography, and they garner the same enraptured reactions as ever.
Mermaids look like us, popular renditions of them can speak and sing and laugh like us, and movies like The Little Mermaid and Splash make it seem like they could be human too, with just a little bit of determination. The belief in the selkies of Ireland and Scotland is still prevalent to this day because people are enchanted with the idea of the sea bringing a little bit of magic into their ordinary lives. There is still a little thrill that courses through when you dive into the ocean, because who knows what you could find there? Blink and you may miss a flip of a tail, a mermaid darting past you and into the depths.
They capture our imagination because they point out the capacity for magic to exist, and the possibility that that magic could touch us too. They charm us because one day, the song they sing could be meant for us.
Categories: Splash into Summer