Traditional stories of mermaids describe the creatures as beautiful maidens who sing sweetly as they lounge on rocks and comb their long, flowing hair… but like sirens, mermaids lure sailors to their death with their beauty and song. The less popular of the merfolk, mermen, were not blessed with the beauty of their feminine counterparts, but they were just as dangerous – calling forth stormy seas whenever one of their kind was hurt.
These ancient creatures appear in stories across cultures and times, from Beowulf to The Little Mermaid, mermaids remain popular in fantasy stories. But what do representations of these creatures in our fiction say about our society, and in particular, the way society views and treats women?
For this discussion, we are joined by Beth Cartwright, whose debut novel Featheride features a few merfolk!
It’s a really dangerous thing to present opinions as fact, but it happens all the time, increasingly so.
Texts mentioned in this episode include:
- The Little Mermaid (Disney)
- The Little Mermaid by Hans Christian Anderson
- The Odyssey by Homer
- The Lord of the Flies by William Golding
- Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie
- Red Dwarf
Beth Cartwright has taught English in Greece and travelled around South East Asia and South America, where she worked at an animal sanctuary. A love of language and the imaginary led her to study English Literature and Linguistics at Lancaster University, and she now lives on the edge of the Peak District with her family and two cats.
Feathertide is out July 30, 2020, from Penguin.