MerMay 2022 – The History of Mermaids – Guest Post by Lisa Dawn

Happy Mer-May Jewel Fans! It’s the month where we celebrate all things under the sea, and today we have a real treat for you! Friend of the site Lisa Dawn, the force behind The Princess Blog, also is a huge fan of mermaids, and wrote this amazing history of mermaids!

Of all the mythological beings presented in Jewel Riders, the mermaid is one of the most popular alongside unicorns and faeries. The word “mermaid” is a combination of the Old English words “mere” for “sea” and “maid” for “young lady.” Mermaids were not always presented as the innocent young women with fish tails dreaming of love beyond the waves that we see today. In Greek mythology, deadly sirens would wait at sea for unsuspecting sailors and lure men to their death with their angelic singing voices. Sirens were described as beautiful nude women with bird-like wings. Over time, stories about these femme fatales shifted into tales of fish-like women who lived in the ocean and sought the love of human men.

The most famous mermaid story is Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Little Mermaid,” which was published in 1837 as part of an anthology of fairy tales. It is a beloved tale that portrays the story of a young mermaid princess who gave up her voice in exchange for legs so she could marry a human prince and gain a soul. This concept was inspired by an 1811 novella called Undine by Friedrich de la Motte Fouqué in which a water spirit marries a knight to gain a soul but must spend one day away from him each week, during which she resumes her mermaid form. This romantic depiction of mermaids continued throughout the 20th century, when sirens were broken off into a separate entity from the more romantic and kind-hearted merfolk. During this transitional period, many stories, such as J.M. Barrie’s 1904 play Peter Pan, depicted mermaids as somewhere in between the dangerous femme fatals of Greek mythology and the playful and loving creatures portrayed in Disney’s adaptation of “The Little Mermaid.”

The 1980s and 1990s were a peak period for the popularity of mermaids, driven largely by Ariel’s irresistible charm in the classic 1989 Disney film, The Little Mermaid, which followed on the fins of a live-action romantic comedy about a mermaid called Splash. The first half of the ‘90s brought two animated series inspired by Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tale. One was a prequel to the Disney film that followed Ariel’s adventures in Atlantica a year before she met Prince Eric. The other was produced by Saban and told the story of a blonde mermaid named Marina who acquired a magic potion that could turn her human for one hour each day to be with her prince, Justin, who had a potion that allowed him to breathe underwater for an hour each day. Princess Gwenevere and the Jewel Riders continued this trend of cartoon mermaids in the episode “Jewel of the Sea,” when Tamara was transformed into a mermaid after an accidental exchange of enchanted jewels with a young merboy.

Around the turn of the millennium, the sport of “mermaiding” picked up popularity as a recreational activity that inspired girls who grew up with Splash and The Little Mermaid to become mermaids themselves. These talented beauties would put on custom-made tails and dive into an underwater fantasy world for photoshoots, parties, and other public appearances. Real-life mermaids like Hannah Fraser popularized the sport in 2003, and it caught on like wildfire. Today, it’s very easy for talented swimmers to find a tail in their choice of color and style made from lightweight patterned fabric or realistically textured silicone. This beautiful ballet-like sport was used to entertain wide-eyed dreamers all over the world long before it became a mainstream recreational activity. Places like Weeki Wachee State Park in Florida have been entertaining audiences with their appointed mermaids since 1947.

The increase in real-life mermaid activity did not go unnoticed by film and television studios. The 2000s and 2010s saw a significant worldwide increase in mermaid shows and movies. Australian producer Jonathan M. Shiff created two popular mermaid series within the past two decades: H2O: Just Add Water in 2006 and Mako Mermaids in 2013. Both shows took place in the same universe and featured shapeshifting teens who turned into mermaids whenever they came into contact with water. Each intricate golden tail was molded to the body of the performer and had tiny glittering scales attached individually by hand. The Philippines have their own version of “The Little Mermaid” called Dyesebel, which started as a graphic novel by Mars Ravelo in 1952. Dyesebel was a curious young mermaid who was destined to repeat her mother’s tragic fate of falling in love with a human. The story was adapted into various films over the years. The most notable versions are the two aesthetically beautiful and heartbreakingly emotional telenovelas that came out in 2008 and 2014 respectively. Today, Disney is in the middle of producing a live-action adaptation of their own Little Mermaid starring the lovely singer Halle Bailey as Ariel.

Mermaids will always be beloved by fans of fantasy, princesses, and fairy tales. They represent the dreamer in all of us that aspires to reach new heights and find impossible love. Their deadly siren ancestors create a mysterious allure of the unknown and fill us with a sense of foreboding. In Hans Christian Andersen’s tale, it was the mermaid who had to give everything up for her prince. This created a shift in morality for those who wanted to experience the beauty and wonder of the world under the sea without bringing harm to those who admire their charms. Today, it is easier than ever to put on a beautiful tail and become a mermaid. How much would you be willing to sacrifice for love?

 

Jewel Riders has a long history with mermaids too, especially with the Season 2 episode “Jewel of the Sea.” In this episode, Tamara switches jewels by accident with Gilly and ends up becoming a mermaid. The jewel riders later use these forms in the final battle with Morgana in the last episode. We love a good bit of continuity!

And for those just joining us, did you know that there was going to be a Mermaid Tamara doll? Unfortunately she was not produced along with the other second season toys, but we have images of the prototype! You can also check out Ronnie’s roundup of other fabulous ’90s Mermaid dolls!

You may not be able to get a Mermaid Tamara doll, but we have some really great items on our Redbubble featuring the girls as mermaids! Be sure to check them out!

And last but certainly not least, enjoy this mermaid mashup featuring Tamara with that other famous redhead mermaid. Have a Happy Mer-May Shellebration everyone!


– Chris & Ronnie

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