Legend of the Mermaid by Kelly Hashway

We’ve all heard of mermaids. They are the beautiful half-human, half-fish creatures that live in the sea. They have the head and torso of a human and the tail of a fish. We also know that mermaids only exist in fairy tales. But where did all the stories about these creatures come from? If you have ever seen a manatee, then you might have an idea. 

Manatees, which are also called sea cows, are mammals that live in the ocean. Since they are mammals, they have to swim up to the surface to breathe air. Many people believe that the legend of the mermaid began with sailors who witnessed the manatees popping their heads out of the water to breathe. Because manatees are upright when they do this, it can look like they are standing. If a sailor saw a manatee doing this from far away across the ocean, it is possible that the sailor would mistake the manatee for a creature that is half-human, half-fish. 

Mermaids are described as having long flowing hair. This is probably because manatees like to swim up to the surface of the water in areas where there is seaweed. Manatees eat all kinds of vegetation, including sea grass. The seaweed surrounding the manatee’s head when they eat could give the impression of long hair. 

Manatees also have powerful tails that are very similar to the fish-like tail of a mermaid. Sailors probably watched manatees come up for air and then swim back below the surface, using their paddle-shaped tails. This would explain why sailors thought mermaids had fish-like tails. 

Another similarity between the manatee and the mermaid is how they hold their young. Manatees cradle their babies in their flippers just like people hold their children in their arms. So it is easy to see human traits in manatees and how they just might have led to the legend of the mermaid.