28 May 2013

when is fact really fiction?

Considering the crappy weather, and my helpers actually snowed under, I figured that it be fun to do something different this afternoon after work finished. I randomly wrote "mermaids" into the google search engine and watched what happened. Okay, so I deliberately typed in the word. I could have done it with "dragon" or "yeti", or any other random word associated with mythology. Consequently, I came across a mockumantory called Mermaids: The Body Found.

Okay, so they try and explain how mermaids may have come up, other than from the figment of some ancient mariner's imagination. Perhaps it was bound to happen. Mermaids had been part of folklore since the day some drunk sailor saw a manatee for the first time. In some cases, entire cities were founded upon a legend of a protective fish chick. Not that I'm ditching that.

As legends go that is cool.
"Why wouldn't we be mistaken for mermaids?"
"Oh, I dunno bro, cause we're awesome."

Take the legend behind the founding of Warsaw, Poland's capital city:

Feisty, beautiful and busty. Her image has bewitched millions, and you’ll find her film star looks printed on everything from flags to mags. But stop panting at the back. She turns out to be it, and it turns out to have a tail. Who is this godless Jezebel you ask? Well, none other than the Syrenka, the fresh water mermaid who’s been representing Warsaw since before you’d remember.

The first known mention of a mermaid as the symbol of Warsaw can be traced to a royal seal dated from 1390, though this one certainly wasn’t much to look at; depicting a hideous looking bloke with a dragons tail was as close as you’d come to seeing a marketing blooper in medieval times, so it’s no surprise that over the next few centuries this rather grim form was given a bit of plastic surgery – man was turned into woman, and the dragon became a fish.

The legend has been debated and disputed scores of times, and it’s safe to say short of inventing time travel we’re not going to become any of the wiser. Until that time content yourselves instead by familiarizing yourself with the myth. First off is the one you’ll find espoused within these humble pages; Prince Kazimierz, while hunting in the marshlands that are now Warsaw, lost his bearings and faced a night in the open. Miraculously, a mermaid emerged and guided the prince to safety by firing burning arrows into the sky. Warsaw was founded out of gratitude, and the mermaid adopted as its emblem.

Sourced from Inyourpocket.

Still, as a writer, the idea of trying to explain something like mermaids and dragons from a purely scientific perspective is intriguing. Entire stories have been written on the possibility of dragons being real, to Atlantis being found or that Jesus wasn't the one who died at the Cross but Judas, to name a few. It spurs the imagination.

My question however, why did people actually believe that mermaids existed due to some aqua lad theory, or some-such crack pot theory?

More importantly, why did Animal Planet air it?

I have just read this blog post that rubbished the whole mockumantory here, if anyone is interested. Well. okay, "rubbish" is too strong a word. Let me use another: debunk. I whole heartedly agree with him that the movie ought to have been aired on SyFy or some other similar channel, but on a science channel? Next people will be asking if crabs do indeed talk under water....
"But I sing too!"

Seriously, let's leave fiction out of scientific or natural programmes, as it can be confusing. People will really believe anything, especially those younger ones. I mean, isn't it bad enough that we tell our kids that Santa isn't real...?

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