Mermaids Around the World

A sketch for our own mermaid, Ariel, by Costume Designer Robin McGee.

A sketch for our own mermaid, Ariel, by Costume Designer Robin McGee.

Did you know that the idea of a “mermaid” is thousands of years old?  In anticipation of our production of Disney’s The Little Mermaid, we have researched these marvelous, mythical creatures across cultures.

Selkie  |  Scotland
Gaelic stories call them “maids of the sea” – an untraditional mermaid, Selkies are actually seals when in the water, but shed their skin when on land.  But if the sealskin is lost or stolen, the Selkie can never return to the ocean.


Ningyo  |  Japan
This is a giant fish with a human face and a monkey’s mouth.  Eating a Ningyo will bring eternal youth and beauty, but can cause terrible storms to villages if they are caught in nets.


Mami Wata  |  Africa
This is a celebrated and feared African goddess who appears in disguise as an incredibly beautiful half human/half fish to both her followers and her victims. 

Rusalka  |  Russia
The Rusalka were half human/half fish water nymphs who lived in rivers and marshes – they were the spirits of girls who died terrible deaths. Being spirits, they had translucent skin and used their long hair to entangle and trap their victims. They would lure people to their watery doom.


Siren  |  Greece
Sirens were beautiful and dangerous mythological creatures that would lure nearby sailors to their death by singing irresistible songs, causing the men to jump in the water and drown, or crash their ship on the rocky coast of their island. Odysseus resisted the Siren’s call in Homer’s Tale, The Odyssey, by latching himself to his ship’s mast.

Marakihau  |  New Zealand
From Maori folklore, the Marakihau are guardians of the sea, and have human heads and long fish bodies. They also have long, tubular tongues (like a frog) that would flick out and destroy canoes.

Posted on November 4, 2018 .