May 13, 2011

creature feature: merfolk

I think the most enchanting magical creatures are merfolk, creatures that live in the mysterious underwater world with other equally fantastic creatures. Who is to say that there aren’t merfolk living in the deep darkness of the ocean? It’s a place as unexplored as outer space. It’s a pity that mermaids are overlooked in a lot of fantasy reference type books. They pop up in nearly every fantasy setting.

Merfolk have the upper body, arms, and head of a fair-featured human. Instead of legs, however, it has the scaled tail of a great fish. 

The merfolk are playful, marine-dwelling people. Although wary of surface dwellers, they are not usually hostile: They prefer sunning themselves on rocks to engaging in warfare.
Both male and female merfolk decorate themselves with shells, coral, and other underwater adornments.

Adventurers who encounter merfolk are often the victims of pranks and mischief. The sport of merfolk can be cruel, although they are not actually evil. Should surface dwellers do them harm, however, these creatures can be formidable enemies.
Dungeons & Dragons Monster Manual, 3.5 edition

MERPEOPLE (also known as Sirens Selkies, Merrows)
M.O.M. Classification: XXXX
Merpeople exist throughout the world, though they vary in appearance almost as much as humans. Their habits and customs remain as mysterious as those of the centaur, though those wizards who have mastered the language of Mermish speak of highly organized communites varying in size according to habitat, and some have elaborately constructed dwellings. Like the centaurs, the merpeople have declined “being” status in favour of a “beast” classification.
The oldest recorded merpeople were known as sirens (Greece) and it is in warmer waters that we find the beautiful mermaids so frequently depicted in Muggle literature and painting. The selkies of Scotland and the Merrows of Ireland are less beautiful, but they share that love of music which is common to all merpeople.
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

SEA PEOPLE can be normal SCALY FOLK, but there are quite a few other kinds. The most common of these are the quasi-human:
  1. Mermaids and mermen (Merfolk OMT). These seem to have given up tempting mariners to their deaths and are generally friendly.
  2. SHAPESHIFTING people. These often manifest as seals but in some cases can be whales, dolphins, or fish. The Management refers to them impartially as Selkies; this means “seals,” but must here be considered a technical term. Selkies are often fey and as hard to understand as MYSTICAL MASTERS, but if they appear in human form it is always because they have something important to tell you. See BAYS for where to contact them.
The Tough Guide to Fantasyland

Related to the mermaid is the water siren, such as the Lorelei of German legends.
The Lorelei is a water spirit known for her beautiful appearance and her beautiful song. In fact, like the Greek sirens, the Lorelei’s song is nearly irresistible and lures men to their doom.
The Writer’s Complete Fantasy Reference
Merfolk have a strong hold in popular culture, the best known being Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tale The Little Mermaid, and his portrayal has become the basis for modern depictions of mermaids. It was famously adapted into a Disney film of the same name. Mermaids appear in Peter Pan in which they try to drown Wendy. They appear in the new Pirates of the Caribbean film, as well as many other films in the last century. 

Merpeople appear in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire during the Second Task. In The Chronicles of Narnia, mermaids are mentioned at the end of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, and they also appear in Voyage of the Dawn Treader.

There are several novels coming out soon that deal with mermaids: Mermaid by Carolyn Turgeon; Fins Are Forever by Tera Lynn Childs, sequel to Forgive My Fins; and The Mermaid’s Mirror by L.K. Madigan. Other recent novels include Tempest Rising by Tracy Deebs, Real Mermaids Don’t Wear Toe Rings by Helene Boudreau, and The Forbidden Sea by Shiela A. Nielson.

So it looks like mermaids are back on the rise.


  1. Mermaids were my favorite when I was little. I loved The Little Mermaid and wanted to be just like Ariel (Fins included.

  2. I had an Ariel costume one year for Halloween and my mother made me sing for the video camera all day long. After that, I never dressed as Ariel again... LOL