Mermaid fiction is as popular as ever—in fact, it seems like it will never go out of style. Since the first mention of a mermaid in 1000 B.C. as an icon of Assyrian folklore, these nautical beauties have played a memorable role in culture and mythology. With appearances in everything from Greek mythology and One Thousand and One Nights to the many iterations of The Little Mermaid and contemporary romance novels like Valentine to Faith, mermaids hold an epic, mythical place in wide-ranging works of fiction.
What is it about this sub-genre that makes it so alluring? Here are a few reasons why we love books about these magnificent beauties.
1. Location is Everything
Mermaid fiction takes place in a setting that lends itself to unlimited possibilities and endless imaginings. We’re human beings who can only dream of an underwater existence. When we read about mermaids, we have the chance to explore beautiful worlds with never-ending possibilities, filled with kingdoms and graveyards and everything in between. From white sand beaches to sea caves and castles made of coral and reef, there is never a dull location for a book about mermaids.
2. Shapeshifting Abilities
Mermaids possess unparalleled shapeshifting abilities that take them from beautiful, vulnerable sea creatures to frighteningly dangerous witch-like sirens. In mermaid fiction, these magical enchantresses can go from being the love of the protagonist’s life to their worst enemy—and have the talents to do either in the blink of an eye.
3. Mermaid Fiction Brings the Drama
Mermaid stories always keep readers on their toes! Whether it’s the goddess Atargatis accidentally killing her mortal lover, drowning herself and becoming a mermaid in ancient Assyrian myths, or Ariel dissolving into the sea foam in Andersen’s original The Little Mermaid, you can always count on the drama.
4. Forbidden Love
One of the major components that almost every type of mermaid fiction has is a forbidden love story. Poor mermaids often choose the most unattainable beings to fall in love with—humans who can’t live underwater. Unrequited love often takes mermaids down the road of revenge in darker tales, while their love stories give the author artistic license to develop creative ways for that love to prevail.
5. Mermaid Fiction Can Cross Over
Mermaid fiction delights readers because it often crosses genres, providing opportunities for everything from epic fantasy stories to horror, murder mystery and even historical fiction. A mermaid out of water even offers room for humor—just think of the classic movie, Splash!
Mermaid fiction has transcended centuries to forge and maintain a place in both history and pop culture—and authors continue to deliver ingenious spins on these magical sea creatures. We predict that we will continue to hear the call of these enchanting beauties for years to come—at least in mermaid fiction.