An Overview of Mermaid History with historian Sarah Peverley
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You asked for more mermaid history, so we tracked down the queen of mermaid historians! Yes, that is a real job, and we are pretty jealous that it’s not our job! Sarah Peverley is a medievalist, cultural historian, and BBC Radio 3 New Generation Thinker. She’s also the author of two forthcoming books, The Mermaid’s Tale: A Cultural History of Mermaids. & Mermaids of the British Isles. Sarah has an amazing amount of knowledge, and we talked about everything from early interactions with mermaids to the mermaid’s role in Christianity to circuses who travelled with mummified mermaids. Get ready, mer-friends, you are about to learn a lot!
In this episode, we talk about:
- Mermaids of the British Isles
- Cultural History of Mermaids
- Water deities
- The Little Mermaid
- mermaids at the royal wedding of Meghan Markle & Prince Harry
- mermaids in early Christianity
- a map Sarah is making of mermaid sites and sightings in the UK
- the Rudston Villa Venus Mosaic
- difference between meerwifs & mermaids & sirens
- how mermaids are perceived in different historical periods,
- how mermaids were used to explain Christ’s divinity
- Melusine, the water fairy and her aristocratic descendants
- Mermaids as metaphor for anxieties about women
- Mermaids role in the rise and fall of Mary, Queen of Scots
- The book The Mermaid & Mrs. Hancock
- Samuel Eades mummified mermaids & “feejee mermaids”
- Scientific debates about the validity of mermaids
- the mermaid Samuel Fallour claimed to have kept alive on the island of Ambon
- Historical interactions between humans & mermaids
- Jimmu Tenno, Japan’s first emperor who was said to be descended from a mermaid
- Mermaids as they appear in Beowulf, the Norman conquest, monasteries, medieval churches, medieval mystery plays, and The White Queen!
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Meet The Mermaids In this Episode
Find Sarah Peverley on her website, Twitter and at Mermaids of the British Isles.
An image of Samuel Fallours’s mermaid, as published in Louis Renard’s Poisson, Ecrevisses et Crabes. This is the mermaid mentioned which was kept alive for several days in the early eighteenth century.
Two posters advertising the (feejee) mermaid exhibited by Samuel Eades in London 1822:
Here’s one of the mummfied mermaids like the one displayed by Eades and Barnum (it’s not theirs, but similar):
Melusine: one version of the Melusine myth and a blog by the British Library.
Here’s a piece Sarah Peverley wrote for The Conversation giving an overview of mermaid history
The University of Liverpool podcast episode with Sarah Peverley, “Why do we love mermaids?”
Featured image: Detail of a Mermaid making music in La Bibliothèque nationale de France, MS français 143, f. 130v.