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Dive into centuries of mermaid lore with these captivating tales from around the world.
A Penguin Classic
Among the oldest and most popular mythical beings, mermaids and other merfolk have captured the imagination since long before Ariel sold her voice to a sea witch in the beloved Disney film adaptation of Hans Christian Andersen's "The Little Mermaid." As far back as the eighth century B.C., sailors in Homer's Odyssey stuffed wax in their ears to resist the Sirens, who lured men to their watery deaths with song. More than two thousand years later, the gullible New York public lined up to witness a mummified "mermaid" specimen that the enterprising showman P. T. Barnum swore was real.
The Penguin Book of Mermaids is a treasury of such tales about merfolk and water spirits from different cultures, ranging from Scottish selkies to Hindu water-serpents to Chilean sea fairies. A third of the selections are published here in English for the first time, and all are accompanied by commentary that explores their undercurrents, showing us how public perceptions of this popular mythical hybrid--at once a human and a fish--illuminate issues of gender, spirituality, ecology, and sexuality.
About the Author
Cristina Bacchilega is a professor and the graduate program director in the Department of English at the University of Hawai'i at Manoa. Her published works include Postmodern Fairy Tales: Gender and Narrative Strategies, Legendary Hawai'i and the Politics of Place: Tradition, Translation, and Tourism, and Fairy Tales Transformed? Twenty-First-Century Adaptations and the Politics of Wonder.
Marie Alohalani Brown is an assistant professor and the undergraduate chair in the Department of Religion at the University of Hawai'i at Manoa. Her first book, Facing the Spears of Change: The Life and Legacy of John Papa 'I'i, won the Palapala Po'okela Award for the best book on Hawaiian language, culture, and history.
“Accessible yet rigorous, passionately diverse, and thoroughly spellbinding . . . Many-voiced, irresistible, and essential . . . [with] insightful story notes, generous attributions, and tantalizing bibliography. The desires and dangers of the shape-changing sea have rarely been so intelligently and inclusively showcased.” —Publishers Weekly, starred review
“Readers fascinated by myth and diverse cultures will find much to enjoy and ponder in this gathering of mermaid tales and assessment of how these beings reflect the complexities of human nature.” —Booklist
“A perfect gift for the mermaid lover in your life. This nuanced and comprehensive look at mermaids and water deities includes stories I had never heard of; I found it enchanting.” —Zoraida Córdova, author of The Vicious Deep trilogy
“Superb: the first substantial anthology of mermaid stories. Nobody knows what mermaids are, but there is great enjoyment in reading tales that make us believe in them. They are alluring, demonic, vengeful, innocent, hypnotic, enchanting, and divine, and you can find all of them and more in The Penguin Book of Mermaids.” —Jack Zipes, Professor Emeritus, University of Minnesota
“Tapping into the seductive sorcery of mermaid lore, The Penguin Book of Mermaids reminds us why these aquatic beings—who awaken both dread and desire—continue to attract our attention.” —Maria Tatar, Harvard University