Mermaids are fascinating. They seem to symbolise both the seductive beauty and danger of the sea, the borderline nature (or liminality) of the coast- of the earth but moulded by water; and also our human condition: do we belong to the natural, animal world, or are we separate? Stories of love between humans and merpeople can be the ultimate in doomed love; how can people who live in different elements ever marry? It's a compelling story, that has been told and retold since Homer's Odyssey.
I have read two books recently that retell (in different ways) Matthew Arnold's The Forsaken Merman.
Firstly, Liz Kessler's The Tail of Emily Windsnap
. Emily lives on a boat in a seaside town with her mother. Despite them living so close to the sea, her mother has never allowed Emily to learn to swim. During a swimming lesson, Emily finds out why: as soon as she hits the water, her legs fuse to a tail, and she becomes a mermaid! Believing that her mother is terrified of water, she doesn't tell her of her discovery; instead she puts her new tail to the test, swimming further and making a new friend. However, she discovers that merpeople are forbidden to have contact with humans, and that her mother is being betrayed dreadfully by someone who has a reason to keep it that way... A great, fun read.
The EDGE: Rivets
series is an exciting-looking range of books for readers who are not yet ready for the challenge of sustained reading that novels for readers 8+ can present. Katherine Langrish, a writer I really admire, has retold the story of the Forsaken Merman from the point of view of Mara, the daughter of the merman and Margaret, the human woman who has left her family and returned to land. Mara journeys to find her mother and bring her back. Told in simple yet beautiful language, it's a compelling read. Highly recommended.
I'd recommend both books for 8+, Forsaken particularly for children who enjoy stories but find reading quite daunting. And the title of this post? The jaunty song
from Disney's The Little Mermaid, of course!
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