by Carissa Zurbrugg
The existence of merfolk (mermaids and mermen) has been a fascination and a topic of question for people for thousands of years now. This belief consists of the idea that there were aquatic humanoids, residing in the depths of the sea that were some sort of half fish, half human hybrid. Information on merfolk appears in Japanese legend, Greek mythology, ancient folklore, and through tales of medieval sailors who clam to have encountered “sea maidens.” This belief was most popular during medieval times, but is even popular to this day, as Animal Planet’s “Mermaids: The Body Found” series, which aired in the 2000’s, was the most popular show in Animal Planet history. It is important and extraordinary because even though there is no real evidence for it, the idea of these fish people has still inexplicably attended to the minds of almost all sea-faring people for thousands of years.
Evidence (which lots of people claim to be false evidence) for mermaids was presented in Animal Planet’s series. It claimed that mermaids were real, and scientists from the NOAA (National Ocean and Atmospheric Administration) were hiding their secrets of mermaids from the world. Although Animal Planet did include a disclaimer saying “This two hour special is science fiction based on some real events and scientific theory.” The documentary series also presented a clip of a supposed mermaid washed up on the coast of Israel in 2009. Other evidence of the existence of mermaids is only spoken through word of mouth from sailors and sea-faring people who have claimed to have interacted with merfolk; this was mostly during medieval times when their existence was essentially assumed, just as much as the existence of other sea creatures was assumed. Stories say they were associated with misfortune and death, trying to lure sailors off their course. Japanese legends have their own embodiment of merfolk called “kappa” which were water spirits that appeared less human than other depicted merfolk, but interacted with people and challenged them to games, in which the consequence for losing was death. Modern evidence against mermaids claim that the human-sized ocean animals that are described in folklore are simply sea animals such as manatees. A statement from the NOAA simply says that no real evidence of aquatic humanoids has ever been found.
Those who believe in merfolk could possibly be mistaken or interpreting their anecdotal evidence wrong, as a source says that the supposed “half fish-half human” being that sailors claim to have seen at sea could have been a different sea creature, since only a small part of the creature was seen along with the contributions of low light at sunset and the distances from which they were seen. It is basically saying that being able to identify these creatures at all would be very hard. This is why people who claim to have seen mermaids could possibly be mistaken.
The belief of mermaids mostly comes from the sea-faring people’s community. Social influences that help them to sustain this belief are eye witness sightings and stories passed among them of sightings and interactions with mermaids.
Psychological explanations for the belief system of mermaids is that there is no physical evidence for or against mermaids; no one can yet prove that they did exist, yet people who have spent lots of time at sea claim to have seen and interacted with these aquatic phenomenons. They have somehow been a topic of interest among people for thousands of years now, and will continue to be an extraordinary belief of the sea-faring community until they are proven fact or fiction.
3. http://www.slate.com/articles/technology/future_tense/2016/08/ the_lasting_damage_of_fake_documentaries_like_mermaids_the_body_found.html