June's Literary Blog

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Tuesday, May 15, 2018

The Mermaid Handbook

Had I known that Noah was a cohort of merpeople, I would have included a character or two based upon these interesting aquatic creatures in my musical Noah’s Rainbow. According the Carolyn Turgeon, the editor of The Mermaid Handbook: An Alluring Treasury of Literature, Lore, Art, Recipes, and Projects, he was worshipped as Oannes in Chaldea at Erech ‘the place of the ark’. She quotes naturalist Henry Lee who, in 1883 in Sea Fables Explained, equates Noah with Oannes as “the sacred and intelligent fish-god, the teacher of mankind, the god of science and knowledge.” [page 78]. Turgeon goes on to explain that a woodcut in a 1483 copy of the Nuremburg Bible depicts Noah in the ark with mermaids, mermen, and [of all things] merdog[s] swimming alongside it.

What a wonderful scene, replete with the appropriate song, that would make!

But probably not as wonderful as the HarperDesign book – just released today – that relates this bit of information along with scales, er, scads of other scintillating stories, accounts, reports, visions, and descriptions – as well as explanations – of and about mermaids.

Now, I don’t know about you, but growing up “back in the day”, I was enchanted by The Little Mermaid, the original story by Hans Christian Andersen upon which the Disney movie is very loosely based. I used to play “mermaid” in the shallow kiddie pool in the backyard and convinced two of the kids on the block to act out the story with me for our parents. [That was probably the beginning of my aspriations as a playwright.] As a much younger adult, I once had a martini or two at a “mermaid bar” in New Jersey watching women – and the occasional man – in fish tails swim in an underwater lagoon. And I spent the major part of this past rainy weekend doing nothing more than immersing [pun intended] myself in the Handbook that is, if nothing else, now the foremost authoritative compendium of all things mermaid.

Beautifully bound and illustrated – as all HarperDesign books are – The Mermaid Handbook includes, along with folklore, myths, tales and crafts, mermaid cuisine and fashion. Did you know you can actually buy a custom-maid tail online? And did you also know that there are professional mermaids out there? And if you’ve never visited Weeki Wachee in Florida… Well, this is the second-best thing to being there. From a literary perspective, however, I was most intrigued by mermaid history and literature. As well as the well-chosen poems that are delicately sprinkled throughout. It was this aspect – especial the stories of famous mermaids – that kept me reading far into the deep dark swells of the night.

While this blue tome with its gilt-edge pages acknowledges that mermaids have had an understandably bad rap through the centuries luring sailors on the high seas to their untimely deaths, it more than compensates this negative by the more positive beguiling and enchanting aspects of the mysteries inherent in mermaid life. An enjoyable companion piece to Turgeon’s The Faerie Handbook, it is a required adjunct to long summer afternoons at the beach or sitting by the pool.

Enjoy the read!

3:51 pm edt          Comments

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June J. McInerney, the host of this Literary Blog, is an author, poet, and librettist. Her currently published works include a novel, a book of spiritual inspirations, two volumes of poetry, stories for children (of all ages) and a variety of children's musicals. Her titles include:
Miss Elmira's Secret Treasure: A Novel of Phoenixville during the Early 1900s
Colonial Theatre: A Novel of Phoenixville during the Roarin' 20s 
Phoenix Hose, Hook & Ladder: A Novel of Phoenixville during World War I
Columbia Hotel: A Novel of Phoenixville during the Early 1900s
the Schuylkill Monster: A Novel of Phoenixville in 1978
The Prisoner's Portrait: A Novel of Phoenxville during World War II
Rainbow in the Sky
Meditations for New Members

Adventures of Oreigh Ogglefont
The Basset Chronicles.
Cats of Nine Tales
Spinach Water: A Collection of Poems
Exodus Ending: A Collection of More Spiritual Poems

We Three Kings

Beauty and the Beast


Noah's Rainbow

Peter, Wolf, and Red Riding Hood



Originally from the New York metropolitan area, June currently lives near Valley Forge Park in Pennsylvania with her constant and loving companions, FrankieBernard and Sebastian Cat. She is currently working on her sixth novel.

June's novels can be purchased at amazon.com, through Barnes and Noble,
at the Historical Society of the Phoenixville Area,
the Gateway Pharmacy in Phoenixvile, PA

For more information about her musicals, which are also available on amazon.com,