Follow TV Tropes

Following

Sirens Are Mermaids

Go To

https://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/Sirens_lament_1589.jpg
Siren's Lament by Anne Stokes

"I have heard the mermaids singing, each to each."
T. S. Eliot, "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock"
Advertisement:

As You Know, mermaids, like all fictional creatures, can vary in their portrayal from work to work.

However, despite all the differences in mermaid portrayals, they seem to have one thing in common. For some reason, mermaids tend to be called sirens, and are given the ability to sing phenomenally well, to the point of leading unsuspecting people to their doom. In traditional definitions of mythology, the Siren is not depicted as a mermaid-like fish-woman, but as winged bird-woman hybrid — in fact, the original Greek Sirens were portrayed as a cross between women and songbirds, and could die by drowning.

This trope is an old one; the siren as mermaid was well-established in the medieval bestiary. In Thomas Hoccleve's early fifteenth century text, La Male Regle, line 233, speaks of mermaids singing men to their deaths, "as old books tell us." The issue is not helped by the fact that, in many Romance languages, sirens and mermaids are referred to by the same word, typically a derivative of the Latin sirena. In another part of the world, the Filipino sirena were described in what we now envision as the mermaid siren. It could be an example of Lost in Translation that these two words became used interchangeably, displacing parts of both.

Advertisement:

Compare Our Mermaids Are Different and Enthralling Siren.


Examples:

    open/close all folders 

    Animation 
  • Mermaid, a Russian animated short, is about a rusalka, a mythological Russian creature that is basically a cross between a mermaid and a siren. It lives in the water like a mermaid, but it sings and lures men to their deaths like a siren. It also has a fully human body, like a siren.

    Anime and Manga 
  • Mahou Sensei Negima!: Akira Okouchi's pactio name is Siren Valida, while her outfit is more clearly mermaid-themed than harpie.
  • Sailor Moon: Sailor Aluminum Seiren is named for a Siren but is clearly filled with mermaid influences, and comes from Planet Mermaid. An overall blue color scheme, a seashell charm on her choker, her attack, Galactia Tsunami, is water based. In the anime it is just her throwing juice boxes and water bottles. Her anime civilian name, Reiko Aya, even contains a pun on Mermaid.
  • In Puella Magi Madoka Magica, the witch Oktavia von Seckendorff is an Eldritch Abomination resembling a weird cross between a mermaid and an orchestra conductor. Possibly an accidental example, however, because there are symbolic reasons for this form. Her backstory resembles The Little Mermaid, but with a musician friend in place of the prince.
  • Rosario + Vampire: Averted, as Mermaids and Sirens are completely different monsters. The mermaids also never sing (they instead suck the life energy of people), while the Sirens do and from what we see can see from their true form, they are birdlike, resembling angels.
  • Bakugan: Sirenoid is quite clearly based off of a mermaid.

    Art 
Advertisement:

    Card Games 
  • Magic: The Gathering goes back and forth with this trope. On the one hand, there's the merfolk card Seasinger, which is modeled after a mermaid and allows its player to take control of another player's card, representing the siren's enthralling song. On the other, they have a separate "siren" creature type, which is represented by winged humanoids instead.
  • Cardfight!! Vanguard has the clan Bermuda Triangle — a clan of Mermaid Idol Singers. Their similar counterpart are the Battle Sirens from the Aqua Force clan, which are mermaids and uses their voices for various effects, from attacking to boosting their soldiers.
  • Yu-Gi-Oh! has Deep Sea Diva, a mermaid with a heavy musical motif that can summon other monsters to it from the deck like a siren.

    Comic Books 

    Fan Works 

    Films — Animation 
  • In Disney's The Little Mermaid, Ariel has a beautiful singing voice. Most Disney heroines do, but here it's actually a plot point, since the Big Bad's price for changing her into a human is her beautiful voice. However, this is taken from the original storynote . Used in a more direct fashion when Ursula transforms herself into a human woman and uses Ariel's voice to cast a spell on Eric, hypnotizing him.
  • In Coraline, the Other Spink sings the line "I'm known as the siren of all seven seas" while dressed as a mermaid.
  • In Ice Age 4: Continental Drift, sirens appear as amphibious lungfish, the prehistoric equivalent of mermaids.
  • In My Little Pony: Equestria Girls – Rainbow Rocks, the Dazzlings' original Siren forms resemble hippocampi or merhorses. When they appear in the parent cartoon, however, they're flying rather than water-based.
  • My Little Pony: The Movie (2017) inverts this, where the seaponies have to be taught how to sing and dance by the land based ponies.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, mermaids also have beautiful singing voice and lure men to death. And one of the mermaids is named Syrena. Justified because it's a mostly-ignorant human who names her that; her actual name is unpronouncable.
  • Mermaids: Venus, one of the mermaid sisters, is a Siren and able to hypnotize men though with her dancing and her eyes instead of singing. Her powers don't work if someone knows that she's a Siren.
  • The horror film Nymphnote  features an evil mermaid as its monster — but she also has powers of a Siren. Namely she hypnotises men with her singing and a quote about "the silence of the Sirens" is used to describe her.
  • The Last Jedi has a really weird variant in the form of creatures called thala-sirens that live near the Jedi Temple on Ahch-To and provide Luke with green milk. Unlike mermaids or classical sirens, these critters aren't humanoid at all — but they do resemble manatees, which are often considered a major inspiration for mermaid stories.

    Literature 
  • Sirena: The heroine is one of the actual Greek sirens... and a mermaid. Of course, even the humans of her time have gotten a lot of the facts wrong about her and her fellow myths.
  • In the Anita Blake series, sirens are described as super-powerful mermaids, able to control even their own kind with the power of their voices.
  • Island of the Aunts: Parodied: a mermaid tried to make money by causing a ship to sink, enchanting the captain with her hypnotizing singing voice. Sadly, the times had changed and, instead of gold and treasures, the ship she caused to sink had oil on board.
  • Xanth: In The Source of Magic, the Siren is a mermaid with a voice that lures all men who hear it to her.
  • In Magic By The Lake, by Edgar Eagar, the children go on an adventure with a mermaid who "sings down a ship." Martha chastises her for luring men to their deaths.
  • A Harry Potter tie-in book describes three subspecies of merpeople, one of which is the sirens. They live in the warmer waters of Greece and are the more beautiful kind that human art tends to depict; the other kinds are, from a human perspective, ugly. All merpeople apparently have a love of music, though.
    • There's also a quirk to their music: outside of water, merpeople's voices are loud, unpleasant screeching that humans can only understand if they've learned it as a separate language (Mermish). Underwater, it becomes the hauntingly beautiful music that humans can understand just by hearing it.
    • There's also a variant: the Scottish merfolk in Goblet of Fire are called "selkies," which are likewise a different creature in actual mythology. The third type, Irish merrows, actually are mermaids in folkloric tradition.
  • In The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, mermen and mermaids sing at the Pevensies coronation and the singing is described as haunting and enchanting.
  • In Siren, by Tricia Rayburn, the sirens don't have fins, but they need salt water to survive and can stay under water for long periods of time.
  • In Lost Voices by Sarah Porter, the main characters are basically humans turned into mermaids, but are given magical voices like the sirens, which they use to lure humans to their deaths. These mermaids/sirens are all formerly human girls who were abused or neglected, and take vengeance on humanity for the mistreatment in their previous lives by sinking ships and drowning people.
  • Septimus Heap: The Syren is described as a mermaid, and she uses her song for malicious purposes.
  • In Voyage of the Basset, the mermaids can sing with haunting beauty. In a variation on the usual presentation, they're actually friendly and sing to get their pet sea serpent to save boats from being dashed on the rocks.
  • Dream Girl: The mermaid Áine seduces rapists and murderers by sneaking into their rooms at night and singing to them (basically hypnotizing them), then "accidentally" bumping into them on the street and causing them to fall in love with her and her "quirky" ways. Then she kills them and drinks their blood.
  • In Watersong, by Amanda Hocking, sirens (descendants of the Muses who were cursed by Demeter) are a combination of the classical versions of mermaids and sirens. They have three different forms: On land, they're human. In seawater, they're half-human, half-fish. When they need to fly or (more importantly) feed on the mortal men they lure with their songs, they're bird-women. They have beautiful voices and appearances only in their first two forms; the third form is a case of One-Winged Angel.
  • Into The Drowning Deep: Mermaids are capable of perfectly mimicking any sound they hear, such as whale song and human speech, in order to lure prey in. Eventually, they are designated as sirens because mermaid implies they are all female. The study of mermaids is also known as sirenology.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In H2O: Just Add Water Cleo has a reaction to the full moon's reflection and gains a singing voice that is able to hypnotise all the boys in town. Lewis explains that "she's a Siren, just like the mermaids in mythology whose singing lured sailors to their deaths". Funnily enough that's the only episode of the show that doesn't feature the girls transforming into their mermaid forms.
  • Charmed (1998) has a notable subversion. The fifth season featured two episodes pretty close together, one dealing with a mermaid and the other dealing with a Siren. Though in this case the Siren doesn't really match mythology, either — she still has hypnotic singing, but looks fully human and is actually a vengeful dead woman who comes back as a demon.
  • Aquaman: The pilot for the otherwise unaired TV show introduces what probably would have been recurring enemies — Sirens that were basically really ugly mermaids.
  • Once Upon a Time: Averted. The mermaids are separate creatures from sirens. A siren shows up in the episode What Happened to Frederick, appearing as a beautiful shapeshifting lady in a lake. Mermaids (including Ariel) show up in Neverland. However, mermaids do have alluring singing voices, and at least one is encouraged by her father to lure ships onto rocks.
  • The Faerie Tale Theatre adaptation of "The Little Mermaid" has a scene where the mermaids discuss how humans can't seem to tell mermaids from sirens, though they are completely separate species.
  • The TV series Siren is about mermaids who indeed have hypnotic singing abilities.

    Mythology 
  • In Irish folklore, merrow were beautiful mermaids who fell in love with mortal men and bewitched them into following them beneath the sea... where they used their magic to keep their husbands alive under the sea so they could live Happily Ever After. Male merrow were ugly and more sinister; they killed their victims and trapped their souls under the sea, although even then, some stories implied they thought their victims were happy about the whole deal. The fact that male merrow were so ugly and repulsive was precisely WHY female merrow were so keen on keeping their mortal husbands alive. According to some stories, they could take on human form and live on land for a while, but eventually they would want to return to the sea, and so would ultimately move the family back home.
  • The Sirena of the Philippines appear to be directly inspired by this trope, being mermaid-like creatures who sing lovely songs to lure people to their watery graves. They have a few cousins, however, including the Siyokoy (a male variant that looks more like a resident of Innsmouth than a merman) and the Mambubuno (a two-tailed merperson which comes in male and female variants, lives in caves and prefers to put its prey in a trance as its "spouse" over killing them).

    Pinball 
  • Fathom: The mermaids don't do any singing, but they definitely take sadistic glee in leading divers to their watery doom.

    Tabletop Games 
  • In Dungeons & Dragons, sirens are aquatic creatures with an enchanting song, a humanoid torso and the tail of a shark or serpentine fish.
  • Pathfinder, on the other hand, goes back to mythology and makes its sirens woman-headed birds and well-distinct from the setting's mermaids.
  • In Rifts, the Psiren is a creation of the Lord of the Deep, and can have the lower half or either a fish or a sea lion.

    Theater 
  • Shakespeare:
    • In A Midsummer Night's Dream, Oberon's story of the magic flower for the love potion includes a mermaid's beautiful singing, though she calms the sea rather than allures anyone to death.
    • The Comedy of Errors alludes to this trope with the line "I'll stop mine ears against the mermaid's song."
    • In Henry VI Part 3, Gloucester claims that "I'll drown more sailors than the mermaid shall."

    Video Games 
  • Luminous Arc 3: Elulu's job class is Siren, but also bears a lot of traits similar to mermaids.
  • Mabinogi: The Sirens fit this to a tee. If you need an image, you don't need to look for one, they're almost the same as the above picture from Luminous Arc (however, they are NOT a rip-off). And they're bad guys.
  • The Legend of Zelda: In a little bit of Fridge Brilliance, the Zora (read: merfolk-like fish people) evolve over time into the Rito (bird folk). Medli, one of the main Rito in The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker, even plays a harp, though luckily not to coerce anyone to their doom.
  • Castlevania: Averted; the Siren is a Palette Swap of the Harpy enemy, making them birdlike.
  • Fable: Played with. An Siren appears underwater, but with legs instead of a mermaid's tail.
  • God of War: Averted, as sirens are land-dwelling (levitating) demons.
  • Defense of the Ancients: All-Stars includes a Siren hero whose ultimate spell is to sing the opposition to sleep and whose character model is a mermaid.
  • Legend of Mana: Averted but acknowledged. Mermaids and Sirens are different species, mermaids being fish-tailed humanoids who can teleport via bubbles and sirens being beautiful harpy-like creatures that look like a cross between birds of paradise and women. The two species are friendly with each other, however, and are implied to be distantly related in some way.
  • The Final Fantasy series averts this, with Siren being an uncommonly recurring character (often a summon) that usually just resembles a beautiful woman. Final Fantasy VIII actually has more of a bird-like appearance with feathery details including long hair styled like wings — though its summoning sequence does feature it appearing on a rock jutting out of the sea.
  • Mega Man 9: Referenced with Splash Woman, who's basically a robot mermaid and has an attack involving singing to summon fish to attack Mega Man.
  • Pokémon Sun and Moon: Primarina, Popplio's final evolution, is referred to as a sea lion and a mermaid, but also has the distinctive singing feature of sirens. It is also part Fairy-type.
  • Dragon's Dogma: Averted: the Sirens of Bitterblack Isle harken back to the original portrayal of sirens, being a Palette Swap of harpies.
  • The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt: Sirens (and their stronger kin, the Lamias and Ekhidnas) appear this way... at least at a distance. In fact, their beautiful female upper bodies are a means of luring prey (read, unwary sailors) along with their voices. The deception drops when they attack, revealing the true, monstrous form beneath. They can both swim and fly but are rendered practically defenseless if knocked onto solid ground.
  • Lone Siren: The titular Siren is actually a mermaid.
  • In Soda Dungeon, the Water Temple mermaids are surrounded by hearts. Sirens appear as undead mermaids. In the Lair of Despair, the Harp mermaid sits on a rock and plays the harp like a Siren.

    Webcomics 
  • In Hark! A Vagrant, by Kate Beaton, a mermaid aims to drown a sailor with her frilly singin'. Mermaids matching this trope make a few other appearances, including one longer story arc (where no mermaid singing is heard, but is referred to, along with their tendency to drown people).
  • In MYth, Amphitrite is a subvertion. Amphitrite is pretty much a mermaid (and in side art, she's drawed with a fish tail, to boot) but she's actually deaf tone and a horrible singer. Even the Muses' instructor, Apollo, couldn't help her and he had to made up the whole "you sing better underwater" to avoid her singing disturb land and Olympus. But now, the underwater realm have to suffer her.
  • In Siren's Lament, they prefer "siren" over "mermaid". Seemingly as a more politically correct term.
  • The Noordegraaf Files: Inverted, as sirens are stated to be bird people, and the whole "why we refer to mermaids as sirens" thing explained above is then stated. The closest thing to mermaids are Nereids, which are half-squid, not half-fish.

    Web Original 
  • In The Dragon Wars Saga, the chief songstress of the merfolk clan encountered early on is named Sirin and the mermaids have command of some kind of vocal music.
  • In the webseries "Mermaid Miracles", the sirens are mermaids bent on the destruction of the human race.
  • Averted in this creepypasta where the protagonist is a young girl who dreams about being a beautiful mermaid, but is actually a monstrous siren.

    Western Animation 
  • DuckTales (1987): Averted in "Home Sweet Homer". The Sirens turn out to be disembodied heads mounted on tentacles, which are atop the head of a much larger, uglier monster.
  • The Marvelous Misadventures of Flapjack: Coincidence or not, the mermaid queen reincarnates into a flying version called a "skymaid", becoming more like a siren. This could also have been a reference to the original ending of "The Little Mermaid".
  • American Dragon: Jake Long: Averted, as both mermaids and sirens are present and are quite different from one another.
  • Popeye: One of the King Features cartoons has Popeye mesmerized by a siren who's basically a wily mermaid with a harp; it takes Olive to snap him out of it.
  • Family Guy: In one episode, Peter remembers how he lured sailors to their death with his siren song... dressed as a mermaid.
  • My Little Pony 'n Friends: "Rescue At Midnight Castle" features the Seaponies, the first characters to get a song. It's very reminiscent of a Busby Berkeley Number, and they would always appear singing a chord of "shoo be doo" in the remainder of the episodes.
  • Arthur: Averted in the episode where D.W. retells The Odyssey, with herself as Odysseus. The sirens are just random girls dancing to "Crazy Bus," a song that D.W. became obsessed with in an earlier episode.
  • ThunderCats (1985): Played very straight when the mermaid appears; her song entrances Tigra, and the obvious purpose of this is to lure him to her and get him to hold still so she can feed on him; the shot of her vampiric fangs right before the break to a commercial is one of the most chilling in the series.
  • Disenchantment: Played With — the mermaids aren't called sirens, but play the siren legend totally straight, to the point where The Odyssey's "wax or tied up" strategy is used to combat them. Later subverted when it turns out that they're actually the walruses from a neighbouring island that are the sirens.
  • The Simpsons: In Tales from the Public Domain when Homer retells the story of The Odyssey, Homer (as Odysseus) and his army are led to the Island of Sirens who sing a parody of "Copacabana". However, they are turned away when Sirens turn out to be Patty and Selma.

    Real Life 
  • This trope is so widespread that many languages simply do not have distinct words for sirens and mermaids — in Spanish, French, Italian, Polish, Latin, Romanian and Portuguese, the word for mermaid is respectively sirena, sirène, sirena, syrena, syreni, sirenă and sereia.
    • Averted in Finnish, where seireeni is explicitly a woman-waterfowl hybrid (usually a swan). A woman-eagle hybrid is harpyia. A mermaid is merenneito, maiden-of-sea. Likewise in Russian "Сирин" (sirin) is a woman-bird hybrid which has inherited the etymological and the musical aspect.
    • German even has three different words for mermaids — "nixe" (probably etymologically a "water spirit"), "sirene" and "meerjungfrau" ("ocean virgin"). According to The Other Wiki, the first one would be approximately the siren (nobody except a poet when hearing "sirene" will think other than "police siren", thus that word is obsolete) but the two are used as effective synonyms.
  • It's popularly held that manatees (Order Sirenia) are often mistaken for mermaids. Although mermaids don't look very much like humans, they do have their nipples located under their flippers, which might cause them to be mistaken for a woman.
  • The salamander genus Siren was also named in reference to this trope—it's the only animal that has human-like arms and a fish-like tail.
  • December Diamonds, a company that makes mermaid ornaments, has one mermaid ornament whose female half dresses like a cop. They call her "Siren".
  • There is a congenital deformity called Sirenomelia, in which the legs are fused together like a mermaid's, and parts of the urinary, lower digestive, and reproductive systems fail to develop properly. Most individuals with this condition die before or shortly after birth; to date only a handful of survivors are known.
  • The Starbucks coffee house chain uses a half-woman, half-fish creature for their logo and mascot, which they say is a Siren rather than a mermaid due to the tails. It's easier to see in their original logo, which is in full view and much less stylized.

Top

How well does it match the trope?

Example of:

/

Media sources:

/

Report