The Last of the Sea Maidens

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This is my last blog of the series.  It’s bittersweet, because I have thoroughly enjoyed it!  And yet I  know my heart is in other writing projects right now…or should be.  It is no small endeavor to write…

But this has been such a delightful, wild, wonderful, ride!  Kind of like meeting a mermaid would be, full of surprises and sometimes a little tragic.  This is actually the first of my blogs that has given me inspiration for a future novel on mermaids (all my other story inspirations were inspired apart from my blog).  Or, rather, it’s the first blog God has used to inspire a story in my heart.  I look forward to sharing that with you in the (far distant) future. 

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Disney’s “The Little Mermaid”

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I won’t lie, there’s a part of me that’s sad to write this post.  Ariel inspired an entire generation of women to love and long for the mermaid life…even though, ironically, Ariel herself wanted nothing to do with it. 

I loved the Little Mermaid growing up.  But after reading of the poignant longing of Hans Christian Anderson’s Little Mermaid…well, I have to say I love Ariel less.

But she does fit into our story, in a very interesting way (even if it is a bit sad).

Last week, we talked of serpent women, and how they connected to Northern European sea women.  We covered how these serpent women – and indeed, probably all sea-maiden tales – were ancient and warped memories of Eve and her part in the Fall in the Garden.  

We talked of how Eve was the original mermaid, wild and free in Christ…and then when she reached for the forbidden fruit, that image became tarnished.

But we, like Eve, can still be wild and free in Christ.

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Bridging the Gap: From Serpent to Fish

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Last time, I talked about sea maidens in Asia, and how they compare to their Northern European cousins.  They obviously have a common link, which seems to be the true story of the Fall of Man as recorded in Genesis.

But…they look so different!  Sometimes it’s hard to see the link until you have an example.  And fortunately, we have two tales that bridge this divide, linking east and west…

Sirens: Bridging East and West

It would be unconscionable to do a series on mermaids without touching on the sirens, however briefly.  In our culture, sirens and mermaids have become synonyms, meaning a half-fish, half-woman creature.

But they didn’t start out that way.  The actual Greek Sirens from mythology were half-bird, half-women.  Not quite as alluring, is it?

That’s ok, because they were not meant to allure men – not with their bodies at least.  Fascinatingly, they allured with knowledge.[1]

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Serpent Women

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On the other side of the globe, our sea maidens look somewhat different.  However, (I know it’s bad to generalize, but…) they are very similar to our Northern European maidens.  They are beautiful water deities who can bring both good and ill.  Some of them are major deities, who are associated with beauty and lust/love, just as Aphrodite/Venus were (who also is said to have come from the sea).

This should not surprise us.  After all, the oceans and seas are all relatively the same.  They are beautiful, and can bring both good and ill to those who travel upon her.  There is a musical quality to the sea, and those who love the sea seem “called” as if by a voice to keep returning.  Thus, it would make sense that aquatic deities across cultures have similar powers.

But as I said, their look changes.  And the look makes all the difference in the world…

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Our Lessons in the Fisherman and His Soul

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It’s been awhile since I’ve mentioned the mermaid lessons inherent in every story so far.  This is because it’s easier to discuss them after you know the story. For the lessons make up a vital part of the overarching theme of the story…

Worldly vs. Godly Mermaids

In my first few posts, I talked about how everyone has the opportunity to be free and wild like the mermaids.  Either you are free and wild in a worldly way, or you are free and wild in Christ.

But there is another category: those who are not wild, either in the world, or in Christ.  I’d say we deal with those types of people throughout the story.

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The Fisherman’s Priest

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Ah, the Priest.  I made a huge deal about him in my first blog on The Fisherman and His Soul.  I went so far as to say that the entire story was about how Christians refuse to get near the lost.  Frankly, you can’t get that from what we’ve read so far.  Or you could…it would just be stretching the material.  A lot.

But there is one last portion of the story – one that completely changes everything about it.  And it has to do with the Priest…

The Self-Righteous Priest

The next morning, the priest comes to bless the sea, since it had been troubled in the night.  There he finds the bodies of the Fisherman and the little Mermaid.  He gets angry, cursing the Seafolk and all who have dealings with them.  He had them buried in the Fuller’s Field, with no mark over their graves.[1]

“For accursed were they in their lives, and accursed shall they be in their deaths also.”[2]

I think there is a great deal of truth in his reaction.  For don’t we – the holy believers who have dedicated our lives to serving Christ! – often think the same of non-believers?  Or if we do not outright think it…don’t our actions, like the priest’s, say it just as loudly?

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Love Reunites

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After realizing his great loss, the the Fisherman lives near the sea for a year, searching and calling for the little Mermaid.  “And ever did his Soul tempt him with evil, and whisper of terrible things.  Yet did it not prevail against him, so great was the power of his love.”[1]  When that angle didn’t work, the soul “tempted him with good.”[2]  All in an effort to be in his heart again – for they were still divided, even though the Soul was now in the Fisherman once more.

At the end of the second year, the Soul begged him to let him enter his heart.  Pitying the soul and the cruelty it had faced in the world, the young Fisherman agrees.  But the Soul could “find no place of entrance,” for the Fisherman’s heart was full of love for the little Mermaid.[3]

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The Soul’s Heartless Journeys

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Just as it said it would, the Fisherman’s Soul returns the next year and calls for the Fisherman.  The Fisherman comes and hears the Soul’s tale…

The Journey East

The Soul journeyed East and joined a caravan.  In one of the cities they enter, the Soul goes into the temple and demands to see the god of the city.  After a few attempts to show him “fake” idols, the priest takes him to what they truly worship: the Mirror of Wisdom.[1] 

Then the Soul says, “‘And I did a strange thing, but what I did matters not, for in a valley that is but a day’s journey from this place have I hidden the Mirror of Wisdom,” and begs the Fisherman to take him back, for wisdom’s sake.

“But the young Fisherman laughed.  ‘Love is better than Wisdom,’ he cried, ‘and the little Mermaid loves me.’”  With that, the Fisherman dives into the sea, and leaves the Soul. [2]

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The Sad Flight of the Fisherman’s Soul

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The Fisherman follows the young Witch’s instructions and ends up entering into a gathering of witches in a clearing.  He fulfills his promise to the Witch – dancing with her wildly.

And then a man in black comes, whom the witches begin to worship.  The man is about to kneel before him, but “without knowing why he did it, he made on his breast the sign of the Cross, and called upon the holy name.”[1]  At that, the man and witches flee.

Funny how the man does not believe in Christ, and yet seeks protection from Him.

Anyway, the man catches the Witch before she flees and forces her to tell him how to separate his soul from his body.  She tells him that “what the men call the shadow of the body is not the shadow of the body, but is the body of the soul.  Stand on the seashore with thy back to the moon, and cut away from around thy feet thy shadow, which is thy soul’s body, and bid thy soul leave thee, and it will do so.’”[2]

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The Fisherman’s View of his Soul

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Last week, I talked about how tragically the Fisherman was treated by the Priest.  However, this doesn’t mean the world treats him any better, as can bee seen when he goes to the marketplace:

“When the merchants saw him coming, they began to whisper to each other, and one of them came forth to meet him, and called him by name, and said to him, ‘What hast thou to sell?’

‘I will sell thee my soul,’ he answered: ‘I pray thee buy it off me, for I am weary of it.  Of what use is my soul to me?  I cannot see it.  I may not touch it.  I do not know it.’

“But the merchants mocked at him, and said, ‘Of what use is a man’s soul to us?  It is not worth a clipped piece of silver.  Sell us thy body for a slave, and we will clothe thee in sea-purple, and put a ring upon thy finger, and make thee the minion of the great Queen.  But talk not of the soul, for to us it is nought, nor has it any value for our service.’”[1]

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