Supernatural women-folk don’t get the best rep, and honestly, I think we should embrace that. It backs up our street cred – we are badasses, magical or not, not fragile daises easily crushed under the heel of a boot. Sirens bring the magical wrath!
Back before 5BC, Sirens used to be women and men, but before long, Sirens were portrayed only as women. In my urban fantasy world of The Witch’s Touch and Vox Saeth, Sirens are both men and women – let’s have some diversity up in here, amirite?
Sirens are thought to pre-date Greek mythology, though it was in these myths that the stories of the Sirens were developed. A story in Greek mythology discusses the goddess Hera who challenged the Sirens to compete in a singing contest with the Muses. After the Muses win this contest, they take the Sirens’ feathers and craft them into crowns. In their shame, the Sirens descend into the oceans and become the sinister maidens of the sea who lure sailors to their deaths with their alluring songs.
How Sirens are depicted has varied a lot thanks to this Greek myth. Sometimes they are portrayed as their pre-myth half-bird, half-woman creature, and sometimes as the alluring mermaids that doom sea-faring vessels. Although if you’ve ever seen the old Greek sculptures of sirens, they look more like ladies with baby legs. (Do I just not have an artistic eye? Probably.)
While they get pretty overlooked in literature and media, Sirens actually have their own TV show, aptly named Sirens that is running up to its second season. Check it out if you’re a Siren fan!
Mermaids and Sirens overlap a lot but I feel like there is a distinct difference between the two. As far as I’m concerned, mermaids are the pleasant, helpful creatures that might bring you your keys if you accidentally dropped them in the ocean. Sirens, on the other hand will pull you under and cackle as you drown. Big difference, but maybe I’ve just been watching too much Disney.
I haven’t read nearly enough mermaid/Siren books, and there must be some out there. But I can recommend an author who does fairytale re-tellings really well: Emma Hamm wrote the book Heart of the Fae (which we reviewed here on The Secret Library earlier this year), in which fairy-Sirens were featured – this is an awesome book and I highly recommend it.
BUT Emma Hamm also released a fairytale re-telling of The Little Mermaid called Bride of the Sea which I have been dying to put in my TBR for ages and haven’t gotten round to it yet. Christmas is coming!
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