Stories about mermaids come from almost every country by the sea—from Iceland to India; America to Arabia. Most mermaids have flowing golden hair, long graceful tails, and a beauty that lures men to the bottom of the sea. Sven, in the Danish story, “Sven and Lilli,” followed Lilli to her ocean home, where “they live happily. And there, in their domed house under the sea, so people say, they are living still."
But not all mermaids are beautiful, and some are unchancy creatures indeed. There is a mermaid in the Irish tale, “The Magic Lake,” who has “pig’s eyes and wolf’s teeth, and a mouth…grinning from ear to ear.” And the beautiful mermaid Groach, in the Breton story, “The Groach of the Isle of Lok,” casts a spell over handsome young men, marries them, and then turns them into rainbow-colored fish.
In these sixteen stories Ruth Manning-Sanders captures the quicksilver personalities of mermaids and mermen as she tells of their marvelous schemes and adventures.