There are many legends about mermaids and even a few dozen historical claims of supposedly “real” mermaid sightings. Hundreds of years ago, sailors and residents in coastal towns around the world told of encounters with sea-maidens. One story, dating back to the 1600s, claimed that a mermaid had entered Holland through a dike, and was injured in the process. She was taken to a nearby lake and was soon nursed back to health. She eventually became a productive citizen, learned to speak Dutch, performed household chores
Another supposed mermaid encounter is described in Edward Snow’s “Incredible Mysteries and Legends of the Sea” (Dodd Mead, 1967). A sea captain off the coast of Newfoundland described his 1614 encounter: “Captain John Smith saw a mermaid ‘swimming about with all possible grace.’ He pictured her as having large eyes, a finely shaped nose that was ‘somewhat short,’ and well-formed ears that were rather too long.
Smith goes on to say that ‘her long green hair imparted to her an original character that was by no means unattractive.’” In fact, Smith was so taken with this lovely woman that he began “to experience the first effects of love” (take that as you will) as he gazed at her before his sudden (and surely profoundly disappointing) realization that she was a fish from the waist down. This dilemma is reflected in a popular song titled “The Mermaid,” by Newfoundland band Great Big Sea: