“You cannot realize our free and untrammelled existence” ~ the Mermaid to Old Man Lutey
This series seems to be one of fluidity – it’s always changing, always surprising. I had all sorts of disparate ideas about mermaid stories, and I’m beginning to see them all come together in a way only God can do.
Last time, I talked about our “questions” and lessons, but I want to expound upon them further. We are all trying to answer these two vital questions: “Do I have what it takes?,” and, “Am I worthy of love?” We talked last time of how mermaids answer our questions for us; however, only God can truly fulfill those questions. He gives us the ability to “do what it takes” in any endeavor, and He gives us our worth.
What we turn toward to answer our “questions” determines what type of “mermaid” we are. Either we are “worldly mermaids” or “godly mermaids.” And as such, everyone has a “mermaid tale.” I think that’s why there are so many mermaid stories – they all resonate differently with each one of us, according to our life stories. Or, some may say, testimonies.
“Worldly mermaids” turn to the world to answer their questions. And sometimes the world answers in a positive way…at least it often does in our stories! And so I found myself asking: how do you convince those who think they’re free that they are not free? After all, we all know those people – the unbelievers who truly seem to be better people than we are, who embrace a “what will be, will be” attitude. Like the mermaid above, they tell us we “cannot realize their free and untrammelled existence.” How do we show them that they do need Christ? How – when Christianity looks like such a fetter to most people?
On the other hand, “godly mermaids” turn to God to answer their questions. The mermaid is all we were meant to be – alive, vibrant, free; we were just meant to be so in Christ. Mermaids should be a representative of the true Christian life. We truly have a “free and untrammelled existence”…but do we live that way?
Thus, everyone is either exhibiting a false-freedom as a “worldly mermaid,” or is dwelling in the true freedom of Christ as a “godly mermaid.”
These are wonderful lessons, however they are all derived from the stories themselves…which adds another layer of complexity. While going through the stories, I was intrigued by the treatment of our mermaids. She is un-tamable and free. Despite all that happens, she is victorious in the end. She is beautiful, wild, and wonderful – as she should be. And yet, repeatedly throughout the stories, she is a creature of damnation. There is no hope of salvation for her, or those who love her. How can this be?
It has to do with how the stories came to us. Although I’m convinced that the original mermaid was an anthropomorphisation of the sea, the stories seem to hold some truth. There are flesh and blood women in these stories, and it is our job to discover them.
I’ve come up with four general categories. The first category contains explanatory stories…meaning they explain why something is the way it is. In these stories, mermaids give meaning to confusing or otherwise pointless events. They do not always speak to the lessons, but occasionally they do. We will look at both instances, for Christ appears in both.
After that, we begin delving into the stories of the sea maids of old – the maidens of the deep past we barely recall…
The first “historical” mermaids are the kidnapped mermaids. These tales are timeless in the sense that this has tragically happened throughout history. It is a sad fact that women were often taken during raids on coastal shores. These “sea women” – women taken from across the sea – longed for home…and in these stories, the mermaids attain what most real women never could.
Next, we have the deity/priestess/priest “mermaids” and “mermen” (yes, men, too!). Their stories merge between what mankind worshiped and the servants of these false gods. Sometimes it is difficult to pull apart the truth from the fiction; but I shall try. These men and women were dark and powerful, misusing the gifts God gave them. Their stories often incorporate the meaningful mermaid and kidnapped mermaid themes; or, they get incorporated into our last category, the “sanctified” mermaids.
These “sanctified” mermaids are the remnant stories of pagan priestesses (and priests) who came to a saving faith – or tried to, at least. According to the stories, there was a struggle, and it often cost the mermaid dearly.
There are other stories to be sure, and I hope to cover many of them! I’ll admit, I’m daunted with the amount of information I want to impart. But I’m encouraged by these stories, and want you to be, too. For through all our stories, like a melody floating through each, you can hear the love-song of our Savior, luring us to New Life in Him through the mermaid…
 Heidi Anne Heiner, Mermaid and Other Water Spirit Tales from Around the World (Nashville, TN: SurLaLune Press, 2011), 345.