Old Wives' Tales
Radio & TV
Toxin du jour
Claim: Photographs show the discovery of mermaid-like sea creature.
Example: [Collected via e-mail, 2006]
Origins: This is one well-traveled creature
The correct answer here, however, is "none of the above": these are pictures of a mock-up created by artist
Creatures identified as "merfolk" (half-human, half-fish creatures who live in the sea, both male "mermen" and female "mermaids") have been a staple of folklore and mythology for many centuries. Although the popular modern image of merfolk is almost exclusively limited to depictions of human-sized, attractive females with human upper torsos and fish-like tails (as exemplified by Ariel, the heroine of Disney's popular 1989 animated film adaptation of "The Little Mermaid," an 1836 children's story by Hans Christian Andersen), that image has not always been the standard.
Depictions of mermaids as gruesome, dimunitive creatures, and the use of parts of other animals (primarily monkeys and fish) to create exemplars of such creatures, are both very, very old, as demonstrated by a supposed mummified mermaid which was exhibited in Japan several centuries ago and is thought to be up to
More recently (but still a considerable time ago) phony mermaid-like creatures crafted from various body parts and bones of fish and other animals, usually joined to desiccated monkey heads or skulls, were a common feature of
The mysterious Dr. Griffin was in fact a fictitious character played by Levi Lyman, an associate of the famous American showman and huckster
Although times have changed considerably since the days of Barnum, human nature has not. We continue to be fascinated by the same tales and the same forgeries, crafted in the same time-honored fashion.
Last updated: 31 August 2006
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