Native American Tales

The Woman who Married a Merman

The Woman who Married a MermanThe Woman who Married a Merman

Coos

A well-liked woman would often go swimming. One day she came out of the water and noticed that she was pregnant. Her brothers were a bit upset over this, but she couldn’t explain how it had happened. She gave birth to a boy. The baby cried all the time.

One of the brothers suggested putting the baby outside. The baby would stop crying when it was outside. When it was brought inside, it would cry again. The woman even found her baby chewing on a piece of seal meat one day and she didn’t know where it had come from. Her brothers told her to watch.

She hid herself outside one day and watched all day, nothing happened, until late. A man appeared and told her that he was her husband and that she should go with him. She was a bit hesitant, but he assured her that she would come to no harm. She held onto his belt as they dove into the water.

The man was one of the five sons of the chief in the water. The little boy loved to play with arrows, that his mother would make. She told him that his uncles up on the land had many arrows. The boy wanted to go and get some, but his father told him no, but the mother would be allowed to do so.

She dressed in five otter skins and swam up to the surface. People thought she was a real otter and shot at her, but none could kill her, even the woman’s brothers were there shooting at her. Everyone gave up except the oldest brother. As the strange otter came ashore, he saw the shape of a woman in it. It was his sister. She told him that she lived under the water and that sometimes her village could be seen. She gave him the five otter skins and he gave her as many arrows as she could carry. She told him there would be a gift of a whale on the beach in a couple of days, which there was.

She came to shore one more time. Her shoulders had begun to become scaly like a sea serpent. She never came back ashore after that, but gifts were left ashore. The waters soon teemed with sea serpents and the people shot arrows at them because that’s what they thought they wanted.

Observations

Mer-people tales exist from all over the world, just all over. It’s a very common theme in mythology and folklore. Why that is, I don’t exactly know. There must be some basis for this, but I don’t know what it would be. Any country that has some ocean most likely has a piece of folklore about some type of mer-person. America does seem to have less stories about mer-people than other places, but I haven’t investigated deeply enough into it yet.

Although this story is kind of cute, let’s point out the fact that this woman got pregnant and she didn’t know how. Rape? Seriously. If you get someone pregnant without their consent and they don’t even know what you do to them to get them pregnant, then I think that’s kind of rape. Not that some marriages weren’t begun by sexual assaults, because it’s certainly happened. There have been plenty of times where a girl has been raped and then just pretty much handed over to her rapist because she wasn’t “pure” anymore.

Themes

This is a bit of a love story and it’s a bit of an origin story. It’s a story about why people shoot arrows at sea monsters.

There’s a bit of a longing in this story. The sister becomes something else. She ends up belonging to another world. Don’t we all when we marry? Our lives change when we develop serious relationships. We meld our practices with that person’s practices and we’re not exactly the same person anymore. It may seem as if we are, in some aspects, but we’ve changed. People always change in situations like that. This woman pretty much turned into a sea serpent because she married a merman. The whole point is that relationships can change us.

Overall

Makes you second guess going swimming.

Weigh In

Would you want to go swimming after this?

Do you think marrying a merman would be awesome?

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