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For other uses, see Merman (disambiguation).
A Crowned Merman - Arthur Rackham.jpg
A Crowned Merman, by Arthur Rackham
Grouping Mythological
Sub grouping Water spirit
Similar creatures Mermaid
Mythology World Mythology
Country Worldwide
Habitat Ocean, sea

Mermen are mythical male equivalents and counterparts of mermaids – legendary creatures who have the form of a male human from the waist up and are fish-like from the waist down, having scaly fish tails in place of legs. A "merboy" is a young merman.

In contrast to mermaids, mermen were traditionally depicted as unattractive.[1][2] However, some modern depictions show them as handsome.


Mermaid and merman, 1866. Unknown Russian folk artist
Triton with a Nymph
Banff "Merman" on display at the Indian Trading Post

In Greek mythology, mermen were often illustrated to have green seaweed-like hair, a beard, and a trident. In Irish mythology, mermen (see merrow) are described as extremely ugly creatures with green hair, teeth and skin, narrow eyes and a red nose.[3] In Medieval Europe, mermen were sometimes held responsible for causing violent storms and sinking ships.[3]

In Finnish mythology, a vetehinen, a type of Neck, is sometimes portrayed as a magical, powerful, bearded man with the tail of a fish. He can cure illnesses, lift curses and brew potions, but he can also cause unintended harm by becoming too curious about human life. The boto of the Amazon River regions is described according to local lore as taking the form of a human or merman, also known as encantado ("enchanted one" in Portuguese) and with the habit of seducing human women and impregnating them. Chinese mermen were believed to only surface during storms or, in some cases, were believed to have the ability to cause storms.

The actions and behavior of mermen can vary wildly depending on the source and time period of the stories. They have been said to sink ships by summoning great storms, but also said to be wise teachers, according to earlier mythology. Mermen, just like mermaids, can lure and attract female humans with their enchantingly beautiful, soft melodic and seductive siren-like singing voices and tones.

Notable mermen[edit]

  • The most well-known merman was probably Triton, son of Poseidon and Amphitrite. Although Amphitrite gave birth to a merman, neither Poseidon nor Amphitrite were merfolk, although both were able to live under water as easily as on land. Triton was also known as the Trumpeter of the Sea for his usage of a conch shell.
  • Other noteworthy mermen were the Babylonian Oannes and Ea, and the Sumerian Enki.
  • Another notable merman from Greek mythology was Glaucus. He was born a human and lived his early life as a fisherman. One day, while fishing, he saw that the fish he caught would jump from the grass and into the sea. He ate some of the grass, believing it to have magical properties, and felt an overwhelming desire to be in the sea. He jumped in the ocean and refused to go back on land. The sea gods nearby heard his prayers and transformed him into a sea god. Ovid describes the transformation of Glaucus in the Metamorphoses, describing him as a blue-green man with a fishy member where his legs had been.
  • Norse mythology, in particular Icelandic folklore, has mermen known as Marbendlar.[4]
  • In Dogon mythology (not to be confused with the semitic fish god Dagon), ancestral spirits called Nommo had humanoid upper torsos, legs and feet, and a fish-like lower torso and tail.
  • The Russian medieval epic Sadko contains a Sea Tsar who is a merman.


A "merman" (actually a Fiji mermaid) was supposedly found in Banff, Alberta. It has a display at the Indian Trading Post.[5]


In some modern works and films however, mermen are portrayed as handsome, strong and brave. They are almost always portrayed wearing no clothing, no matter what the temperature of the water is, with the exception of armour or cloaks in some settings.

  • In the DC Comics mythology, mermen are a common fixture of the Aquaman mythos, often showing a parochialistic rivalry with humanoid water-breathers. Their origins are described in the Atlantis Chronicles, the metafictional collection of atlantean lore. When Orin the First, ancestor of Aquaman and first king of Poseidons (an underwater city born after the submerging of Atlantis) perfected a serum to turn human beings into water-breathers (the current humanoid water-breathers, ancestors of Aquaman himself and his people), his sorcerous brother Shalako spitefully tampered with the serum, using dark magic to turn his fellow citizens of Tritons into mermen and mermaids. One peculiar merman, the villainous Kordax the Accursed, Shalako's nephew, exhibits a strength exceeding his brethren and the ability to telepathically commune with water life, somehow passing both gifts to Aquaman, making him a superhero and an outcast at the same time.[citation needed]
  • In an episode of Family Guy, after falling overboard from a cruise ship, Lois Griffin is saved from drowning by a merman who, in reverse of tradition, has the upper body of a fish and lower body of a man. The merman, believing all women fantasize about making love with mermen, is incensed when Lois rebuffs his advances, despite his use of logic in stating that the traditional merman would be unable to have sex. The merman attempts to force himself upon Lois before she pushes him down and leaves him flapping helplessly in the sand.
  • In Kamen Rider Kiva, Bassha is a Merman who takes the form of a young boy, and provides one of Kiva's weapons. He can spit deadly water bubbles.
  • Matthew Arnold's poem "The Forsaken Merman" is based on the story of a merman marrying a human.
  • In season 3 of Eastbound & Down, Kenny Powers pitches for the Myrtle Beach Mermen and the baseball jersey depicts a cartooned mythical creature[7]
  • The Mermen are one of the creatures in the TV series Ugly Americans. In this show, the Mermen have the appearances of the Gill-man.
  • The Merman appears in The Cabin in the Woods performed by Richard Cetrone (who also performed the Werewolf in the movie). This version is depicted as a half-human, half-fish monster with flabby blue skin, a huge mouth full of sharp teeth and long, scraggly black hair, and a blowhole on its back.
  • The live-action TV series Mako: Island of Secrets (a spin-off of H2O: Just Add Water) is about a teenage boy named Zac, who becomes a merman with special abilities after touching magical water in a sea cavern while a full moon is directly overhead. Season 2 of the show introduced another merman named Erik.

In popular culture[edit]

A new fashion style called "merman hair" has appeared in which men dye their hair and beards with bright colours.[8]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Knudsen, Shannon (2009). Mermaids and Mermen. Lerner Publications. p. 7. ISBN 0822599813. Retrieved 25 July 2015. Mermen, on the other hand, are often ugly. 
  2. ^ Watts, Linda (2006). Encyclopedia of American Folklore. Infobase Publishing. p. 266. ISBN 1438129793. Retrieved 25 July 2015. Mermen do appear within folklore, but are relatively uncommon in American lore. They are also said to be much less visually appealing than mermaids. 
  3. ^ a b Rose, Carol (2001). Giants, Monsters, and Dragons: An Encyclopedia of Folklore, Legend, and Myth. W. W. Norton & Company. p. 224. ISBN 0393322114. Retrieved 15 July 2015. 
  4. ^ Ármann Jakobsson, "Hættulegur hlátur," In Úr manna minnum: Greinar um íslenskar þjóðsögur. Ed. Baldur Hafstað & Haraldur Bessason (2002), 67–83.
  5. ^ Babin, Tom (2007-01-22). "Banff's oldest celebrity resident". Calgary Herald. Retrieved 2007-08-08. 
  6. ^ A.W. (May 1, 1954). "Movie Review – The Creature From the Black Lagoon". The New York Times. Retrieved 2009-05-19. 
  7. ^ "Myrtle Beach Mermen". Retrieved February 9, 2012. 
  8. ^ "They're feeling blue! Bold new 'merman hair' trend sees guys dyeing their locks – and their beards – a myriad of ocean-inspired shades". Daily Mail. Retrieved 29 June 2015. 

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