The Penguin Book of Mermaids
Trade paperback format. Edited by Cristina Bacchilega and Marie Alohalani Brown.
Dive into centuries of mermaid lore with these captivating tales from around the world.
A Penguin Classic
Among the oldest and most popular mythical beings, mermaids and other merfolk have captured the imagination since long before Ariel sold her voice to a sea witch in the beloved Disney film adaptation of Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Little Mermaid.” As far back as the eighth century B.C., sailors in Homer’s Odyssey stuffed wax in their ears to resist the Sirens, who lured men to their watery deaths with song. More than two thousand years later, the gullible New York public lined up to witness a mummified “mermaid” specimen that the enterprising showman P. T. Barnum swore was real.
The Penguin Book of Mermaids is a treasury of such tales about merfolk and water spirits from different cultures, ranging from Scottish selkies to Hindu water-serpents to Chilean sea fairies. A third of the selections are published here in English for the first time, and all are accompanied by commentary that explores their undercurrents, showing us how public perceptions of this popular mythical hybrid–at once a human and a fish–illuminate issues of gender, spirituality, ecology, and sexuality.
“Notable for its wide scope, both in terms of region and time period . . . [and its] highly perceptive introduction . . . We still crave supernatural creatures. The Penguin Book of Mermaids definitely satisfies that craving, drawing us into their narrative depths with alluring promises.” —Los Angeles Review of Books
“Accessible yet rigorous, passionately diverse, and thoroughly spellbinding . . . Many-voiced, irresistible, and essential . . . [with] insightful story notes, generous attributions, and tantalizing bibliography. The desires and dangers of the shape-changing sea have rarely been so intelligently and inclusively showcased.” —Publishers Weekly, starred review
“Readers fascinated by myth and diverse cultures will find much to enjoy and ponder in this gathering of mermaid tales and assessment of how these beings reflect the complexities of human nature.” —Booklist
“A perfect gift for the mermaid lover in your life. This nuanced and comprehensive look at mermaids and water deities includes stories I had never heard of; I found it enchanting.” —Zoraida Córdova, author of The Vicious Deep trilogy