15 of the most interesting female monsters in fiction

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15. Mermaids

Oh, you thought mermaids were all about creature sidekicks and wistful songs about the world beyond their shores? Then you’re missing out on some of the creepier aspects of being an otherworldly sea creature.

For a new perspective, read Daniel Mallory Ortberg’s take on The Little Mermaid in the short story “The Daughter Cells.” There, our precious little mermaid is thoroughly alien to us humans. Her body doesn’t necessarily correspond with the Disney version. Why would it, when she lives in an underwater world very different from our own? Quite frankly, she is disgusted with our horrible, lonely society and the dry air of our land. Unlike in the Hans Christian Andersen version of the tale, Ortberg’s mermaid has a far darker bent and no desire for a soul.

There’s something similar going on with the mermaid sisters in Lure. They do indulge in some standard tropes, like falling in love with a feckless land-dweller. The film moves firmly into horror territory when one of the sisters, Golden, realizes that humans make a decent meal. She goes about this discovery in explicit, bloody fashion.

Vicious sea-dwellers

It’s clear that these mermaids are not sparkling fairy tale creatures. Golden and Silver have aquatic forms that are just a little too realistic, too much like a deep-sea creature with strong muscles and sharp teeth.

During their sojourn in the human world, the sisters join a cabaret and begin working as burlesque dancers. It’s an especially interesting twist on the sensuous mermaid theme — remember all of those images you have seen or mermaids sitting on rocks and giving sailors a very direct “come hither” look. The horror of these monsters, if you want to see them as such, is often tied up in their alien sexuality. Those sailors typically can’t resist the winsome mermaid, but their advances are quickly met by a strong embrace and deep dive into the ocean, never to return.

Poor Silver can’t help but ruin herself over the love of a man, however. She even goes so far as to give up her tail and her voice for a musician who ultimately abandons her. Good thing that Golden is there to provide some necessary revenge by the end of the film.