View Full Version : Legend of a mermaid showing up a priest

01-12-2012, 11:53 AM
I seem to recall a legend about a mermaid who asked a priest/monk/hermit/saint if she too could convert (to Catholicism?) and be saved and go to Heaven. He arrogantly proclaimed that his worn walking stick would sooner sprout new branches than a pagan mermaid be saved... only to look on in shock when the staff did, in fact, bloom with new growth and life. The mermaid then slipped away happily, never to be heard again.

I'm Catholic, and I find this idea (and the message that people who claim to know that God only accepts or loves certain people are often very wrong) to be a fascinating one, and I was hoping to use it in one of my stories, but I can't remember anything about the story's source. Is it an actual legend, or is it a story made up for some other book? I thought I saw the story on wikipedia, but it doesn't appear in the entry on mermaids, so now I'm confused. Anyone else know where I could find it?

Also, it's interesting that, while the primary goal of Andersen's Little Mermaid is to gain an immortal soul, the mermaid in this story is more successful. Let that be a lesson to all faithful mermaids out there... if you're looking for an immortal soul, go embarrass the pompous hermit instead of making deals with the witch.

01-12-2012, 12:49 PM
I find that interesting because in Hans' story mermaids don't possess a soul like people do- they turn back into sea foam when they die. Is that used often in stories of mermaids or is it only Hans that used that?

In any case, I rather like that idea for a story. Not that I've read every piece of mermaid literature out there, but I've not heard it and think it's a fun thought. Might make an amusing story :)

It says something about being open too. You never know when someone who seems to have few redeeming qualities can be saved.

01-12-2012, 03:03 PM
I'm not faimiliar with the particular story you're speaking of, Joy, but there's a great book called "Mermaids: Nymphs of the Sea" that could give more insight into mermaids and Christian-dom.

In the book there's a whole chapter on 'the mermaid soul' explaining in depth the historical connection between mermaids and Catholicism/Christianity, because there was at one point a huge boom in the Middle Ages where mermaids flourished. The Church of course took every chance they could to pretty much discredit any and all Pagan symbols, but they kept the mermaid as a symbol of temptation and licentiousness as a warning to people in regards to their immortal souls. To employ the ideals of mermaids within the church, they began to claim that if a mermaid were to marry a Christian man then she would in fact be awarded a soul, and therefore loved by God and welcomed into Heaven...

It doesn't touch on the story you're referring to, but it does a few others that are pretty similar. "Nymphs of the Sea" has loads of information from lore to historical claims and plenty of pretty pictures. I definitely suggest it if you haven't read it! :-)

01-12-2012, 07:49 PM
I too have heard that story, but can't remember where.

In the movie Miranda and it's sequel, Miranda has a human cousin because they have a common ancestor in a local vicar who fell in love with a Mermaid. Something about Mermaids and clergy I guess.


01-12-2012, 10:05 PM
hey Joy...
I HAVE read this legend before in a book I have... it's an old book (which I am not home to look up), and it's very thick. It's all on fairy legends and lore. The legend I read was about a fairy, not a mermaid... but the premise was the same, and I believe so was the outcome. It was about a fairy walking with a priest and asked if he could have a soul and go to heaven... and likewise, the priest was unloving.
When I finally get back to NYC, if I remember, I'll look it up for you!
I'm sure, like all legends, they go through many incarnations... and a fair number of people place merfolk into the faery folk plane of existance

01-12-2012, 10:07 PM
they began to claim that if a mermaid were to marry a Christianman then she would in fact be awarded a soul

This reminds me of this: http://www.siliconvalleywatcher.com/noname.jpg

01-12-2012, 11:14 PM
Malinghi, I have seen that before, and it is wonderful :) One of the nice things bouncing around the web.

Merboy78xy, I did post a thread on here asking about the mermaid/fairy spectrum, and yeah, there is a lot of crossover.

Alveric, apparently mermaids find priests to be hot under the collar :)

Mermaidondine, thanks for the recommendation. I don't believe I've read that book (though I have to recommend Mermaid Tales from Around The World to everyone on this site).

Shymer, apparently P.L. Travers, author of Mary Poppins, reprimanded Andersen for his ending of the Little Mermaid (particularly the part about how when children are naughty, more time gets added to the little mermaid's "penance," telling him that it was blackmail and that the children knew it and forgave him for it anyway). And yeah, it would make an interesting idea for a number of different media.

01-12-2012, 11:56 PM
Malinghi, I'm surprised that that Presbyterian pastor has evidently not read C.S.Lewis.


01-29-2012, 05:36 PM
This was originally a German myth about a knight of the Crusades named Tanhausen (might be spelling that wrong...) who fell in love with the goddess Venus. In spite of his love for her, he felt so guilty for turning his back on the church that he left her to beg forgiveness of the Pope, who turned him away with the above-mentioned retort. Three days later, flowers bloomed out of the staff & the Pope, recognizing a miracle, sent messengers after the knight, but he had returned to the goddess and was never seen again. Now if you'll excuse me, I have to go convert my dog to Catholicism.