Thursday, February 9, 2017

Far Beneath the Waves: 6 Enchanting Mermaid Tales

You never know a good thing till it’s gone. By August, when the air conditioning’s broken down, the sparklers are all burned out, and the car feels like a takeout-bag scented sauna, you’re praying for summer to end. Now that February’s here in all its colorless, slushy glory, you’re probably missing those sparklers and maybe even your smelly car. The closest we can get to a summer vacation right now is escaping into a book or movie—and what’s more summery than a deep-sea mermaid story? Here are six of my favorites.

1.) Ondine

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Set in a small Irish fishing village and inspired by Celtic mythology, this film revolves around the legend of selkies, beautiful women who can transform into seals. When Syracuse, the town drunk, discovers an unconscious woman in his fishing net, his daughter believes he’s caught a selkie. The woman calls herself Ondine, and though she doesn’t have a sealskin, she does sing songs that seem to lure fish into Syracuse’s nets….

2.) Men Who Wish to Drown

Art by Anna & Elena Balbusso

This one’s as creepy-yet-cool as the title suggests. A reluctant first-time whaler falls overboard and ends up stranded on the Weepecket Islands, where he meets the love of his life. Too bad she’s a mermaid cursed by a sea witch. This short story is available to read for free over at

3.) The Secret of Roan Inish

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Fiona’s brother, Jamie, disappeared the day her family left Roan Inish. His cradle drifted out to sea, but when she returns years later Fiona spots a boy his age living alone on the island. Fiona’s family is supposedly descended from a fisherman who married a selkie woman, and Jamie takes after her side of the family. In some ways similar to Ondine, yet also completely different, The Secret of Roan Inish is the movie that made me fall in love with selkies.

4.) Forsaken

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Mara’s human mother abandoned their family, supposedly to save her immortal soul. As a mermaid, Mara knows she doesn’t have a soul and doesn’t care—she just wants her mother to come home. This chapter book, written by Katherine Langrish, retells Matthew Arnold’s poem “The Forsaken Merman.”

5.) Rusalchoka

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This Russian movie is a little hard to find but well worth looking for. It’s a retelling of “The Little Mermaid” featuring a gorgeous mermaid, an arrogant prince, and a kind-hearted storyteller, and ends with a tragic yet perfect romantic twist.

6.) The Mermaid’s Three Wisdoms

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Here’s a bit of obscure mythology—according to some stories, mermaids have no tongues. In The Mermaid’s Three Wisdoms, they communicate through sign language, and an outcast mermaid befriends a hearing-impaired human girl. This book is (unfortunately) long out of print, but you library may have a copy, and used copies are available for a couple dollars on Amazon.

What are your favorite mermaid stories?


  1. I deeply appreciate this post. People don't give mermaids nearly as much love as they should. Thanks for the suggestions! I haven't heard of any of these but will definitely check them out now.

  2. I like how these don't necessarily fall into the straight-up Disney quote. Mermaids were creatures that struck fear into the hearts of men, so thumbs up to the writers carrying on that tradition. :)