Mermaids have been speculated about since the ancient days of Rome, but now a new mockumentary, "Mermaids: The Body Found," is bringing up questions about the persistent fable. Although the Animal Planet special did not actually find mermaids, their theories about are certainly thought-provoking.
"Mermaids: The Body Found" was part of Animal Planet's Monsters Week, and filmmaker Charlie Foley's representation of the mythical creatures is monstrous to boot. While the famed and familiar bottom fin is still intact, Foley's mermaids are far from beautiful, with jagged teeth, and they portray a more Medusa-like appearance than Disney's Ariel in "The Little Mermaid."
Foley's mockumentary features researchers "discovering" a mermaid inside the belly of a shark, and then the conspiracy being covered up by the Navy. While the fictional narrative is pure entertainment, the filmmaker says it's based on at least grains of reality.
"There are cases of animals going from terrestrial to aquatic," Foley told the Huffington Post. "And when you look at what makes humans unique among other terrestrial animals, it raises some interesting questions on whether mermaids might be plausible."
While some science fiction may have been involved with the film, more influential on the idea of mermaids is the legend's origin. Merpeople and mermaids have been traced back over 1,000 years.
The goddess Atargis of the Assyrian people was the first mermaid, according to the Encyclopedia Britannica. According to ancient lore, the deity loved a shepherd, but killed him accidentally. Shamed, she dove into the water, but even the waves couldn't hide her unearthly beauty. She was part human and part fish.
After that, the legend again surfaced by sailors in the form of sirens, who would call to seamen with beautiful, haunting songs to steer ships off course.
"Usually these legends of singing sirens were made by sailors as explanations for why they were led astray," Natalie Underberg, a folklorist from the University of Central Florida, told the Underwater Times. Perhaps the most notable of these was from explorer Christopher Columbus, who noted "female forms" that "rose high out of the sea" on his journey.
Could mermaids be real? Although no legitimate modern reports have surfaced, some have claimed to see bodies in the water.
See the trailer below for "Mermaids: The Body Found" and their representation of mysterious merpeople.