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Mini Reviews: The Mermaid Handbook by Carolyn Turgeon, Mermaids by Skye Alexander, and Hans Christian Andersen's The Little Mermaid by Christopher Bo Bramsen

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Today I'm sharing mini reviews of Mermaid related books. Because of discovering Sea Witchcraft, my fascination with mermaids has been reignighted. These books aren't quite the same, but you'll see why I'm reviewing them together as you read.

The Mermaid Handbook by Carolyn Turgeon Harper Design
Published: 15th May 2018 | Publisher:
Source: Bought
Carolyn Turgeon's Website

A rich compendium of literature, lore, art, recipes, and projects to delight modern mermaids.

This seductive collection plumbs the depths of a mermaid's realm, a world rich with myth, mystery, history, romance, and abounding natural beauty.

Gorgeous art and photography, fascinating stories and essays, do-it-yourself projects, and delicious recipes provide hours of reading and viewing pleasure for aspiring mermaids, and those captivated by these exotic inhabitants of the sea.
From the blurb.

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I should state that I didn't buy The Mermaid Handbook by Carolyn Turgeon because of my interest in Sea Witchcraft. I bought this book two years ago, a few months after it was published, and a year before I became interested in witchcraft. It's not a spiritual book, and I didn't buy it thinking it was. I've just always loved mermaids, and this sounded like a really interesting and fascinating book! However, it was incredibly disappointing.

This book was absolutely not what I was expecting. I need to point out that the description above came from the blurb, but if you go to Goodreads or any online bookstore and read the description there, it's very different. I bought this book in a physical bookshop, and only had the blurb on the back to go on. It was also sealed in plastic, so I couldn't look inside, though I don't know if I would have felt like I necessarily needed to as it sounds just like my thing. But I'm not sure a quick look through would have made much of a difference, anyway, as it's only in the reading that you can really tell what it's about. It was sealed though, so I only had the blurb to go on, and it does sound right up my street! Had I read a description from a website instead, I would not have bought The Mermaid Handbook, because I would have known it's not the kind of book I'd be interested in.

Because this isn't a book for those interested in mermaids and the folklore and myths surrounding them, or their depictions in art and literature. This is a book for those who want to get as close to being mermaids as they possibly can, and interested in swimming with fake tails as a hobby, and mermaid performers. There is one chapter on mermaids in myths and other cultures, with the very briefest descriptions of them. There is one chapter on art and literature, but it simply has an introduction, and then shows various paintings with quotes from books and poetry printed on top of them, with no explaination, no discussion of inspiration or symbolism in the art, or anything. They are not discussed, just shown. Now the description above, to me, implies that these two parts of the book were going to be a major focus. They're not.

The focus of this book is on humans. Those pretending to be mermaids, whether for a hobby, as a career as a mermaid performer, and the various attractions they performed at. The Mermaid Handbook gives an indepth look at various businesses that make mermaid tails, specific mermaid performers in history and those working now, various different attractions, and movies featuring mermaid performers, with a particularly long look at the making of the movie Splash. It talks about mermaids inspiring fashion, and various ways the reader can make themselves look and feel like a mermaid, with DIY projects for decorative hair combs, mermaid crowns, and others, and various bath salts to feel like a mermaid in the bath. There's a really long chapter on throwing your own mermaid inspired outdoor party, with so much about the decor and various recipes for food and drinks you can include. This is simply not a book about the mythological creatures themselves, and because of this, I was hugely disappointed.

I'm sure this is an incredibly fascinating book for those who are interested in such things. It is a gorgeously presented book, with lots of fantastic photos, a ribbon bookmark, gold foiled edges, and a big chunky hardback. It is gorgeous. But the blurb is completely misleading, and considering this is a very expensive book at £25, I was just so bloody angry that this wasn't what I expected. But I left it far too long to read, and so obviously I've lost that money. I will be trying some of the DIY projects and the bath salts, because they actually look quite cool, but this doesn't make up for the fact that the blurb completely misleads the reader as to what kind of book they're getting. It's really not what it says it is at all.

Mermaids by Skye Alexander
Published: 18th May 2012 | Publisher: Adams Media
Source: Bought
Skye Alexander's Website

The allure and mystery of mermaids has taken hold of our psyche for ages. From the Irish merrows who come on land to search for human husbands to the fake Fiji Mermaid made popular by P.T Barnum, these sea maidens (and sometimes men) can be found in folklore and mythology from every tradition in the world.

Inside this captivating collection, complete with beautiful illustrations throughout, you'll discover the myths surrounding these enigmatic beings, explore the common symbols associated with them, and learn tales of merfolk from around the world. Dive into Mermaids and get swept away!
From Goodreads.

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Mermaids by Skye Alexander is a (second hand, hence the discolouration) book I bought quite recently, after discovering Sea Witchcraft, and it was actually a really fascinating book!

I must say the first couple of chapters felt like they were badly editied; Alexander goes through different traits of mermaids, or different aspects of their appearance, in a kind of slipshod manner. It didn't really flow; she'd be talking about their singing, about how they sometimes helped sailors at sea, but how they also killed people, or she'd discuss a mermaid's human torso and her tail, then her hair, then the appearance of mermen in myths - bam, bam, bam. It felt like a load of notes put together, rather than something that was quite seamless and flowed into each different topic. They kind of felt like introductory chapters to the rest of the book that were written at the end very quickly. But the rest of the book is brilliant!

It does exactly what The Mermaid Hanbook doesn't: it goes into the various different myths and folklore surrounding mermaids. There is a different chapter for different parts of the world, with an indepth look at the stories, folklore and myths from those countries/continents, and from the cultures there. While it's primarily about mermaids, it also looks at other water creatures and spirits from mythology, including half-human, half-serpent water spirits/deities, and their similarities with mermaids. It's absolutely fascinating! There are so many! Some various myths are quite similar, but there are also a number of differences. It's really interesting to see the kind of evolution of the mermaid throughout history, and throughout the world. It's just a really brilliant look at all these different stories, and I really loved it.

I would have prefered that it had gone into a little more detail about the myths, though. If it had been longer, and really told us the stories rather than an overview (though quite a thorough overview, it has to be said), I think it would have been amazing! I say this just because there are particular stories discussed in this book that I've read about in another book in much more detail, so I knew there was more to them - which makes me think there's probably more to all the other myths in this one. But of course, there is the issue of the fact that it's probably not Alexander's place to write too much about other cultures' and religions' myths, so it's actually not really a bad thing. She's given us enough to look further into these myths and the folklore if we want to.

A short while before buying this, I had bought one of Alexander's other books, Fairies, as a gift for someone. I had a brief flick through Fairies when I bought it, and as they're from a similar series, I expected them to be similar. However, while Fairies covers myths and lore like Mermaids, it also talks about how people can work with fairies. It's a book for those who believe fairies exist, written by a witch. While I am very secular, and don't believe in fairies or mermaids personally, I am interested about learning about the beliefs of others of similar spiritual paths. So I thought Mermaids might also talk about working with mermaids, too - as I know that some Sea Witches believe in mermaids - but this isn't that kind of book. She does discuss deities from various religions, and how they're worshipped, but she doesn't discuss the idea that some people believe mermaids to be real.

But overall, this is such a great book! There is so much information here, and it's just so fascinating, you'll fly through it. If you can overlook how the first few chapters don't seem to flow quite well, I'd really recommend it to anyone interested in mermaids!

Hans Christian Andersen's The Little Mermaid: From Fairy-tale to National Monument by Christopher Bo Bramsen
Published: 2010 | Publisher: Gad Publishers
Source: Bought

A criticism and interpretation of Hans Christian Andersen's The Little Mermaid.

Throughout his life, Hans Christian Andersen was enthralled by imaginative creatures, which he wrote about in many of his fairy-tales. His fascination with the supernatural also included mermaids and mermen who, according to the old legends and popular traditions, lived at the bottom of the sea and the lakes. Andersen's fairy-tale "The Little Mermaid" from 1836 has become one of his best known stories.

This book reproduces the much loved fair-tale, but also recounts how it came about, and how it has since inspired artists around the world, thus making its mark on art, music, ballet, opera, and cartoons alike. The most familiar reproductions of Andersen's principal character include Edvard Eriksen's world-famous bronze sculpture, which has stood off Langelinie in the Port of Copenhagen since 1913 and will be involved in representing Denmark abroad for the first time at EXPO 2010 in Shanghai.
From Goodreads.


Now Hans Christian Andersen's The Little Mermaid by Christopher Bo Bramsen is pretty different from the other two books, in that it's specifically about the story The Little Mermaid by Hans Christian Andersen, and the sculpture commissioned based on it that can now be found in Copenhagen, Denmark. It's an absolutely enthralling read, and I absolutely love it.

As regular readers will know, I'm a massive fan of Hans Christian Anderson's tragic story of the mermaid who fell in love with a human prince. When I was in Copenhagen two years ago, visiting family, I saw Hans Christian Andersen's The Little Mermaid in the giftshop of a museum, and had to have it. I've treated it like a coffee table type book, in that I've dipped in and out of it over the past two years. Including the original story itself, Hans Christian Andersen's The Little Mermaid is an indepth look at the influences and inspiration for Anderson's story, and so it's also part biography. It touches on an opera he saw as a child, the mentors and friends he had as he grew up, the people he met in various parts of the world - and the stories of these people, of these places, as well as the art, that would lead to the writing of The Little Mermaid. It talks about the stories and poems Anderson wrote before and after of other mermaids and sea creatures, and takes an indepth look at the stories that he would have known because of the time he lived in. In this regard, Hans Christian Andersen's The Little Mermaid mentions various mermaid and water spirit myths and folklore, and goes into depth about the stories Agnete and the Merman, Melusine, Undine, and Lorelei. It's just absolutely compelling!

It's because of how much depth it goes into these stories that I'm reviewing this book alongside these other two. I just find it kind of amazing that a book that's about a specific story goes into more detail about other stories (and retellings of those stories) than books that are on mermaids and water spirits more generally. And to be honest, it's these stories, and wanting to learn more, that had me interested in both The Mermaid Handbook and Mermaids - I expected to find out more about these stories, and similar depths about other stories.

It's intriguing to read how The Little Mermaid is actually fairly similar to other stories of mermaids; Andersen wasn't the first to write about merfolk needing to marry humans to gain an immortal soul, or of a mermaid who's heart was broken by the human she loves loving another. There are even similar stories where humans go to live in the sea to be with the merperson they love, in a reversal of The Little Mermaid story. I just love it all! Reading about all these different stories, and the various influences Andersen had, just filled me with such joy!

The book also goes on to look at the various artforms Andersen's tragic story inspired, including ballet, opera, sculpture, even the Disney movie. There's an indepth look at how a ballet of The Little Mermaid so entanced brewer Carl Jacobson (son of the founder of Carlsberg), that he commissioned sculptor Edvard Eriksen to create the sculpture we see today in Copenhagen, and it's making, vandalism, and it travelling to Shanghai for Expo 2010.

This is such an incredible, incredible book. It's heartbreaking reading about Andersen's life and the ultimate inspiration for this tragic story, but so inspiring to read about how it came about, and how the story grew and became so much more beyong what he would ever have expected. This book is an absolutely must-read for those who are big fans of the original story - though it doesn't look like it's widely available, so be on the lookout for it if you're ever visiting museums in Copenhagen, Denmark!

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Are you fascinated by mermaids? Have you read any of these books? What did you think? Read any others that you would recommend? Let me know in the comments!

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This post first appeared on Once Upon A Bookcase, please read the originial post: here

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Mini Reviews: The Mermaid Handbook by Carolyn Turgeon, Mermaids by Skye Alexander, and Hans Christian Andersen's The Little Mermaid by Christopher Bo Bramsen


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