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"The oldest recorded merpeople were known as sirens (Greece) and it is in warmer waters that we find the beautiful mermaids more frequently depicted in Muggle literature and painting. The Selkies of Scotland and the Merrows of Ireland are less beautiful, but they share that love of music which is common to all merpeople."
Newton Scamander, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them[src]

A merperson[5] (plural merpeople[6]) was a sentient magical beast that lived underwater. They were found all over the world. Their customs and habits were mysterious, and, like the centaurs, were offered the being status but refused in favour of beast, as they did not want to be placed in a status with hags and vampires. Merpeople could breathe above the water for a time, but it was unclear if they could ever truly leave their habitat.[1]

Description[]

Physical appearance[]

"Here and there at the dark windows, Harry saw faces...faces that bore no resemblance at all to the painting of the mermaid in the prefects' bathroom... The merpeople had greyish skin and long, wild, dark green hair. Their eyes were yellow, as were their broken teeth, and they wore thick ropes of pebbles around their necks."
— Harry Potter compares the Selkies of Black Lake to a their warmer watered cousins[src]
One of the Merpeople of Hogwarts Lake (Concept Artwork)

A Selkie Mermaid found in the Black Lake

Merpeople were creatures resembling half-human, half-fish hybrids (though they were not, in actuality, half-breeds). Like humans, merpeople came in a variety of appearances.[1] For instance, the majority of the Great Lake Selkie colony had green hair, yellow eyes, and grey skin. Purplish hair was also noted.[7] They also had mainly silver tails. It is very unlikely a human, or even other types of merpeople, would resemble that,[6] proving that mermaids had individuality in their looks and races and subspecies, just like humans.

Merpeople also seemed to be taller than humans, with seven feet appearing to not be an unusual height, at least for a Selkie.[6] Harry encountered one in the lake near Hogwarts who was seven feet tall with a long green beard and a choker of shark fangs, carrying a spear.

Merpeople were divided up into various sub-species or races, depending on where they live. The earliest merpeople lived in Greece, and were known as sirens. In modern times, merpeople living in warmer waters took on a more beautiful appearance, while those in colder waters, such as the Selkies of Scotland and the Merrows of Ireland, were less attractive.[1]

Society and culture[]

Merpeople were a sapient species, and would qualify for full being status if they did not, as a race, reject the classification. Although their exact level of intelligence as compared to humans was unknown, they possessed many traits beyond those of mere animals, as they had a developed language, Mermish, and had even created music (which they were known, as a whole, to be fond of).[1]

Merpeople were famous for their warlike tendencies and their tendency to drag people underwater to their deaths. As a result, encountering a colony of Merpeople can be intimidating if not life-threatening. All subspecies of Merpeople, including Merrows, Selkies, and sirens, were responsible for the deaths of many hypnotized sailors.[8]

Evidence that the merpeople had a thriving culture was that they lived in highly organised communities, some containing elaborate dwellings made of stone, and had been known to domesticate creatures such as the Grindylow, Hippocampus, and Lobalug (the latter being used as makeshift weaponry).[1] Other signs of their intelligence included jewellery and weapon making, production of art (both paintings and statues), and an ability to understand basic human communication via gestures.[6]

History[]

The merpeople dated back to ancient Greece, where they were first known as sirens. By the modern era, however, merpeople had spread worldwide.[1]

Merpeople PM

The merpeople colony who lived in the Black Lake

The history of merpeople's relations with wizardkind, or at least the wizarding British government, were somewhat rocky. Chief Elfrida Clagg refused to accept merpeople as beings under her definition of the term as those who could "speak the human tongue". She thought Mermish to be inadequate as it could not be understood by creatures above water. Her decision upset both the merpeople and their allies the centaurs.[1]

Though they were allowed being status under Minister Grogan Stump's revised 1811 definition of the term, they would eventually request to be classified as beasts once more, objecting to the fact that dark creatures such as Hags and Vampires also claimed that status.[1]

Despite being considered beasts at the time, a delegation of merpeople were persuaded to attend the 1692 summit of the International Confederation of Wizards, where they would help decide what to do on the matter of hiding the existence of various magical creatures from Muggle comprehension.[1]

At some point in the 1800s, Mirabella Plunkett, a witch, fell in love with a |merman living in Loch Lomond. When her family disapproved of their marriage, she Transfigured herself into a haddock and vanished.[3][4]

During Dolores Umbridge's career in the Ministry, she suggested that merpeople to be rounded up and tagged, as her irrational revulsion to anything that have a part-human appearance. However, the ludicrousness of such an act caused it to never be put into effect.[9]

Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry[]

MerpeopleGIF

Merpeople enforcing the rules of the Second Task to Harry Potter

A colony of merpeople lived in the Black Lake on the grounds of Hogwarts Castle.

They played a role in the Second Task of the 1994 Triwizard Tournament. They agreed to keep four people in an enchanted sleep in their village for an hour, and protect them until the champion sent to save them arrived. They watched the champions swim around, with spears clutched in their hands, and tried to stop Harry Potter when he tried to save more than one person.[6]

A portrait of a mermaid could also be found in the Hogwarts Prefects' Bathroom.[2]

Wizarding relations[]

Oddly enough, merpeople were not represented in the Fountain of Magical Brethren at the Ministry of Magic. This could not be simply because they have declined formal "being" status with the Ministry of Magic, because centaurs made a similar decision and were represented in the Fountain.

Merpeople's relationship with wizardkind was said to be an unstable one.[10] This could have stemmed from a number of reasons, perhaps because certain people in the wizarding society looked down upon merpeople and saw them as inferior. That was a common occurrence in regards to sentient creatures that were not classified as human.

B6C30M1 funeral of Albus Dumbledore

Merpeople attending the funeral of Albus Dumbledore

Despite the rocky relationship that did exist, merpeople were shown to help humans sometimes, such as agreeing to be a part of the Second Task of the Triwizard Tournament.[6] They were also capable of showing respect to wizards who had earned it; during the funeral of Albus Dumbledore, merpeople were present from within the Black Lake.[7] There was even at least one known case of an African Merperson allowing a wandmaker to use one of their hairs as a wand core.[11]

Behind the scenes[]

Mermaid LEGO

A Mermaid as a LEGO Harry Potter mini-figure

  • Stories of mermaids and, less commonly, mermen exist in the folklore of various cultures worldwide. For sub-species of merpeople, J.K. Rowling was inspired by the various mermaids counterparts from ancient Greek myths and Celtic folk legends.
    • In Homer's myth, the sirens were creatures capable of luring sailors with their sweet songs to death. In early Greek art, sirens were generally depicted as birds with large female heads, bird feathers, and scaly feet. However, the partly fish (mermaid) form characteristic became iconic in the medieval period, but actually, there have survived examples from the Classical period where the siren is depicted as mermaid-like.
    • In the Orkney tradition, the Selkie is said to denote various seals larger than the grey seal; only these great seals are attributed the ability to change shape in humans and are called "Selkie folk". Something similar is stated in Shetland tradition, that the mermaids prefer to assume the shape of larger seals, referred to as Haaf-fish.
    • The merrow-maiden is like the commonly stereotypical mermaid: half-human, a gorgeous woman from waist up, and fish-like waist down, her lower extremity "covered with greenish-tinted scales". She has green hair which she fondly grooms with her comb. She exhibits slight webbing between her fingers, a white and delicate film resembling "the skin between egg and shell". Merrows wear a special hat called a cohuleen druith, which enables them to dive beneath the waves. If they lose this cap, it is said that they will lose their power to return beneath the water.
  • According to W.O.M.B.A.T., it is possible that freshwater merpeople are less warlike than saltwater merpeople.
  • In LEGO Harry Potter: Years 1-4, the merpeople actually attack, whereas in the film and book they only confronted Harry when he tried to take more than his own hostage, but even then they only threatened to attack.
  • In the handheld versions of LEGO Harry Potter: Years 5-7, there are merpeople living in the Forest of Dean lake.
  • In J. K. Rowling's original plan, the merpeople were to first appear in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, with Harry and Ron first meeting them when the Ford Anglia crashed into the Great Lake instead of the Whomping Willow. However, as the writing process continued, Rowling found it more satisfying and "less distracting" from the story for the Ford Anglia to crash into the Willow.
    • The same chapter confirms that J. K. Rowling already had in mind the idea that merpeople's appearance varied with water temperatures. This is confirmed by the last lines of Ron who mentions that perhaps in the warmer waters there could have been the pretty mermaids of the books, probably referring to the sirens.
  • In some languages, the terms "mermaid" and "siren" are indistinguishable. For this reason, in some translations of the Harry Potter books, there is confusion between the mermaids (the females of the merpeople) and the sirens (the most beautiful races of the merpeople).
  • African mermaid hair is a magical substance used as a wand core. In an interview with Jessica Williams (who portrays Eulalie Hicks, the one who owns one of these wands), this type of wand core is referred to as a seeming homage to Mami Wata, a mythological African water spirit.[12]
    • Mami Wata (Mammy Water), or La Sirene, is a water spirit venerated in West, Central, and Southern Africa and in the African diaspora in the Americas. Mami Wata spirits are usually female but are sometimes male. Mami Wata is often described as a mermaid-like figure, with a woman's upper body (often nude) and the hindquarters of a fish or serpent. In other tales, Mami Wata is fully human in appearance (though never human).
    • The African mermaid depicted in Eulalie Hicks' wand has a more humanoid appearance similar to that of sirens, compared to those of Selkies and Merrows which resemble more humanoid fish-like appearances. This may stem from the fact that warm water merpeople are generally more beautiful.
  • In Hogwarts Legacy, there are various representations of sirens and other mermaids: In the Central Hall fountain and in the entrance to the Slytherin common room, there are statues of sirens that are extremely similar to the Selkie from the film adaptation, however, these sirens look slightly more humanoid with longer hair and larger eyes. In the Slytherin common room, there is a little stuffed mermaid (possibly a Selkie) and on Professor Bai Howin's blackboard is a merperson with horns and an animal face.

Appearances[]

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Notes and references[]

Magical creatures by classification
X Flobberworm · Horklump
XX Augurey · Bowtruckle · Chizpurfle · Clabbert · Diricawl · Fairy · Ghoul · Gnome · Grindylow · Imp · Jobberknoll · Mooncalf · Porlock · Puffskein · Ramora · Winged horse
XXX Ashwinder · Billywig · Bundimun · Crup · Doxy · Dugbog · Fire crab · Fwooper · Glumbumble · Hippocampus · Hippogriff · Hodag · Jarvey · Knarl · Kneazle · Leprechaun · Lobalug · Mackled Malaclaw · Moke · Murtlap · Niffler · Nogtail · Pixie · Plimpy · Pogrebin · Red Cap · Salamander · Sea serpent · Shrake · Streeler · Winged horse
XXXX Centaur · Demiguise · Erkling · Erumpent · Golden Snidget · Graphorn · Griffin · Hidebehind · Kappa · Kelpie · Merperson · Occamy · Phoenix · Re'em · Runespoor · Snallygaster · Sphinx · Tebo · Thestral · Thunderbird · Troll · Unicorn · Winged horse · Yeti
XXXXX Acromantula · Basilisk · Chimaera · Dragon · Horned Serpent · Lethifold · Manticore · Nundu · Quintaped · Wampus cat · Werewolf
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