1063-0740/03/2902- $25.00 © 2003
Russian Journal of Marine Biology, Vol. 29, No. 2, 2003, pp. 131–133.
Original Russian Text Copyright © 2003 by Biologiya Morya, Ivanova.
Dear Editor! Since you found it possible to publish
a brief note about the “round table” devoted to the
problem of the origin of mermaids, which was held in
Saint Petersburg in 1998,
I dare call your attention to
new information connected with the aforementioned
We had a lively discussion, which exceeded the
limits of the announced theme and went on in an epis-
tolary form after the “round table” had been closed. As
a result, dozens of interesting hypotheses were put
forward. A more detailed account of this meeting is
given in the brief monograph “Almost Everything
about Mermaids” (2001). Unfortunately, some inter-
esting pieces of evidence, as is frequently the case,
escaped the attention of the debaters, and I would like
to bridge this gap.
At the meeting at the round table it was fairly cate-
gorically stated that it is necessary to differentiate
strictly between the mermaids and the sirens because
the former are human–ﬁsh and the latter, human–birds.
However, later on we became acquainted with a medi-
Biologiya Morya, 1999, vol. 25, no. 3, pp. 253–259.
eval picture that portrays creatures combining the fea-
tures of both: they have the head, breast, and hands of a
woman; the wings and legs of a bird; and the tail of a
ﬁsh (Fig. 1). This gives ground to advance one more,
perhaps overly bold hypothesis.
As is known from authoritative sources, the sirens
were ﬁrst ordinary and beautiful maidens; but Aphro-
dite turned them to half birds because “out of pride they
did not allow either humans or gods to deﬂower them”
100 Monsters of the Ancient World
Moscow: Mir, 1997, p. 116). After that, the poor souls
settled on the rocks somewhere between Sicily and
Italy. Their captivating songs charmed sailors, and
when the latter went ashore, the sirens killed and
devoured them. But the sirens suffered defeat twice:
Orpheus was the ﬁrst to sail safely by them because he
sang better than these predatory females did and drew
away his fellow travelers; and Odysseus was the sec-
ond. The latter managed to outwit the sirens—he
ordered his men to tie him to the mast and the oarsmen
to seal up their ears with wax. Thus, his life was rescued
and he was fortunate to enjoy the singing of the sirens.
TO THE EDITOR
Once Again About Mermaids
Three sirens (Belyaev, 1997).