Sections cover ‘Water Deities and Sirens from Olden Times’, Mermaids and Other Merbeings in Europe’, ‘Literary Tales’, and ‘Merfolk and Water Spirits Across Cultures’. Hans Christian Anderson’s ‘The Little Mermaid’ is the longest pieces in the book, most other entries being between a couple of paragraphs to a couple of page, and entries are comprehensively introduced.
To have a book about Mermaids handy for bath time reading seems a bit self consciously affected, but it’s been perfect for picking up for the 5 - 10 minutes that I prefer. It’s a great bus book for the same reason, and reading through it in fits and starts like this has given me plenty of time to think about some of the stories.
Some were already familiar, some are interesting as curiosities or glimpses into other times and cultures (if that sounds patronising it’s not how I mean it) other stories are haunting enough to have got right under my skin. These have mostly been from the ‘Literary Tales’ section, specifically I’m thinking of Kurahashi Yumiko’s A Mermaid’s Tears, and Genevieve Valentine’s Abyssus Abyssum Invocat.
Neither were writers that I was familiar with, Kurahashi Yumiko has been compared to Angela Carter for her subject matter and erotic content, but the introduction also points out that she was much more conservative in her position on women and sexual politics than Carter. Either way I’d like to read more of her work, although a quick look at amazon suggests that’s she’s not been translated. I’ll look out for Genevieve Valentine too who should be easier to find.
As I’ve said, I can never resist books like this (not that I try very hard) and they’re generally satisfying, but this one is genuinely something more. A proper treasure chest full of material to explore that I’ve found really inspiring. Mostly my interest is in tracing links between different traditions as well as how they diverge. This collection makes me wish that I could write fiction.