Mermaids and their cultural significance in literature and folklore
Knight, Lara Renee
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Mythological characters, mermaids represent seductive women and hybrid personas; their dual nature often reflects a conflict within their environment. By studying different popular mermaid appearances in literature and folklore, I can map cultural changes along with ideas and symbols that vary little between cultures. Hans Christian Andersen s story The Little Mermaid, for instance, allows a female character to take charge of her destiny within a patriarchal world; his little mermaid finds a road to salvation she can walk alone, without a man. Many critics have condemned Disney s adaptation of Andersen s story because it neglects the spiritual quest. Instead of explaining this shift as a regression, a common trend among scholars, I have considered the film within the context of the 1980s and the context of mermaid traits found in mythology. I have also traced mermaid appearances in American legends of the Flying African. Mermaids represent several cultural variations.