How do the Five Enchanted Mermaids match the centuries old literature regarding mermaids? Parents and grandparents have asked us this, or a variation, for the several years that the Five Enchanted Mermaids have existed. We decided that it was an area we needed to explore.
We thought about it and felt we had to have answers to the questions and, perhaps, we should have thought about this from the beginning and fitted our Mermaids into the mermaid genre. Hmm.
I would like to say that we undertook this research and had discussions at the outset, but we did not. My bad!
Perhaps it’s not too late.
Let’s start by turning to the basics of the mermaid myth. Mermaids are mythical creatures and over time hundreds, perhaps thousands, of books and papers have been written about them. These tales usually depict a mermaid, half human and half fish, who is young and does not age for hundreds of years, outliving her human friends and lovers. Some of the stories have happy endings, some tragic.
These accounts fall across centuries of mermaid mythology so let’s check on the questions and how our Five Enchanted Mermaids fit.
Who were the first mermaids?
One of the first references to a creature that was part human and part not, is from nearly 4,000 years ago when the ancient Assyrians worshipped a goddess called Atargatis. She exhibited the characteristics of being half human and half fish and was linked to the moon, fertility and water. Relating this to our Five Enchanted Mermaids series makes no sense, although we did “borrow” the name of the goddess and use it to name the location of the mermaids’ home base – the mystical kingdom of Atargatis.
A thousand years later, in Greek mythology, sirens appeared. Sirens started out part-woman, part-bird, but later on, they became part-woman, part-fish. They are best known for attempting to lure Odysseus onto the rocks with their songs. They were not depicted as “good guys” whereas in most literature mermaids are. Our Mermaids are definitely “good guys”.
What does the term Mermaid mean?
The term mermaid is not surprisingly from an older form of English, with mere meaning sea and maid meaning girl. We were clear about that one too. We decided to go-with-the-flow and use the well-known name, not sea girl.
Where do mermaid stories take place?
Mermaid stories have been written about mermaids in nearly all of the world’s countries that border the sea and even one from the landlocked Karoo desert in South Africa. We set our stories in one place and we don’t specify whether the undersea kingdom is in the Atlantic, the Pacific or elsewhere. Atargatis could be anywhere but each of the five mermaids come from different ethnicities.
What do Mermaids eat?
In terms of diet, since they live in water, the mythical diet of mermaids logically comprises lobster, fish, crabs, shrimp, oysters, and clams. One thing was clear. The mythical mermaid diet was not going to be possible. Most friends of Zari, Emily, Sofia, Jenny, and Anna are in these food categories. I guess our mermaids have to be vegetarians, or possibly vegan, and enjoy only different types of seaweed! Oh well.
On what are Mermaids fixated?
Another myth is that mermaids are fixated on pearls. Some stories talk about catching mermaids by enticing them with pearls. They tell tales of mermaids taking pearls from oysters and using them for decoration, being attracted by the sheen of the pearl. Since one of Zari’s best friends is Pearl the Oyster and honesty is the superpower of one of the Mermaids, we decided not to follow this theme.
So, how old are the Mermaids?
Most of these questions were easy to address but this one eluded us. How old are the mermaids? Since legends imply that a mermaid is ageless and remains young for several hundred years, are Zari, Emily, Sofia, Anna and Jenny actually hundreds of years old?
Our mermaids are different. They were created to appeal to little girls. We wanted them to be both friends for the youngster and also to provide advice on how to deal with everyday developmental milestones that the little girl might experience – fear, confidence, truthfulness and so on.
And there lies the paradox. For the dolls, the mermaid needs to be about the same age as the little girl to allow the youngster to relate to her as a sister. But, for the books the mermaids take on a teaching or mentoring role so have to be older providing support in parenting from grown-ups.
How can they be about the youngster’s age for one role and a lot more experienced, and older in the other?
I guess the answer could be that the Five Enchanted Mermaids could be young but a little older - and wiser - than the little girl. They could be big sisters.
We pondered this for weeks.
But, having gone through this intellectual exercise, we looked at each other and said, “Hey. the little girls love ’em regardless and THEY DON’T THINK ABOUT THE MERMAIDS’ AGE.” They’re telling us that age doesn’t really matter.
Maybe our little ones are smarter than we are.
The Five Enchanted Mermaids celebrate diversity in our world and the belief that each child deserves to have a mermaid that looks like them. Through their individual personalities and traits, they weave stories that help teach skills for children in this age group.
The idea for the Five Enchanted Mermaids was born to provide a fun but educational backdrop for girls aged 3 to 7 years. The characters address emotional skills (making friends, resolving conflicts, coping with change, making their own choices and “being good people”) and educational skills (learning to read, the alphabet, counting, symmetrical shapes, time, value of monetary coins/notes) that are important at that age in the development of young girls.
The stories use each of the diverse mermaids as a role model for behavior and values.
LifeMadeSimple, LLC and acclaimed children’s book author, Lois Petren, are collaborating to provide a series of books, party accessories and other appropriate items as mermaid gifts for girls to support these goals.
Visit us at www.fiveenchantedmermaids.com