ancient depiction of god dagon
Some are debating the historic accuracy of mermaids, arguing the image on the right is less accurate than the one to the left.

A new version of The Little Mermaid debuts in theaters this weekend, amid ongoing controversy over the choice to cast a black actress as Ariel.

Halle Bailey stars in Disney’s live-action remake of their animated 1989 classic of the same name. After a teaser trailer was released in September 2022, many fans expressed excitement over a new version of the popular film.

However, the reaction from some fans was extremely negative. The trailer alone received over a million "dislikes" on YouTube.

What Color Should a Mermaid Be?

Many critics seemed upset about Bailey's casting, calling it a sort of “blackwashing” of the original film, which featured a white Ariel. 

"Disney should of (sic) just left the little mermaid alone. Stop being lazy and come up with new characters instead of messing with beloved original movies. There was no need to change Ariel’s identity," wrote one online reviewer.

Other reviewers took a different approach, calling it an illogical depiction of mermaids.

Radio host Matt Walsh argued that it’s simply not scientifically possible for a mermaid who lives under the sea to have black skin. Realistically, he said, the creature should be completely translucent. 

(Fans of the movie note that this is a musical about singing sea creatures performing choreographed song and dance routines, which, by most accounts, is also not based strongly in scientific reality).

Other critics point out that a black mermaid is simply not accurate to the original 1837 fairy tale penned by Danish author Hans Christian Andersen.

In the original story, the young mermaid is described by Andersen as having “skin as soft and tender as a rose petal, and her eyes were as blue as the deep sea,” which most have interpreted as white.

So that's where the story originates. But what about mermaids themselves? Where do they come from?

It turns out the legend of mermaids goes back much further.

All Greek To Us

Many experts say mermaids can be traced back to ancient Greek mythology. The ancient Greeks wrote of figures called sirens – seductive but dangerous creatures who lured unwitting sailors to their doom.

Sirens first appeared in Homer’s Odyssey as mysterious island figures who sing beautiful songs intended to bring sailors off their chosen course and into their trap. In The Odyssey, Odysseus has his crew plug their ears with beeswax in order to resist their siren song.

Although their physical appearance went undescribed in The Odyssey, ancient Greeks later depicted them as creatures having the body of a bird and the head (and sometimes torso) of a beautiful woman. These enticing figures, it was said, perched upon rocks offshore, and sang their song to lure sailors into fatally smashing their ships on the crags.

Over time, the sirens slowly transformed in myth from birdlike creatures into beautiful women with the tail of a fish in place of legs.

Mermaids Around the World

So did ancient Greeks create the mermaid? Not so fast – some historians say the origins of mermaids can be traced back even further than the Greeks.

They point to an ancient Assyrian myth where a goddess named Atargatis flings herself into a lake over her shame over an illicit love, only to emerge with her face and head unchanged but now with the body of a fish. 

But that's not all. Similar tales of mermaids can be found in various cultures and religions around the world. 


West, Central and Southern African peoples recognized a water spirit known as Mami Wata (Water Mother). Mami Wata is often depicted as a mermaid-like figure with a woman's upper body, and the lower body of a fish or a snake. 

East Asia

Legends in some Japanese and Chinese cultures tell of sea-dragons and their dragon-wives, which are sometimes depicted as a figure similar to a mermaid. Meanwhile, in Polynesian mythology there exists a god named Vatea who was believed to be half human and half porpoise. 


Meanwhile, Hindu and Buddhist cultures in India worshiped a group of water-gods called the Asparas – commonly described as water-nymphs that played musical instruments. 

A Mermaid in the Bible?

ancient depiction of god dagon
Dagon is depicted as half-man and half-fish.

You may be wondering if mermaids ever made their way into the Bible. The answer is... well, sorta. The word "mermaid" appears zero times in the Bible's text. However, if you look to the story of Samson in the book of Judges, you'll find reference to Dagon, the chief god of the Philistines.

The Philistine leaders bring Samson to a temple to sacrifice him to Dagon, only for Samson to regain his strength through prayer and destroys the temple, killing himself and the thousands of Philistines inside.

Interestingly, Dagon, a fertility god who is oft-described as a provider of both wheat and fish was regularly depicted in art as half-man and half-fish... a veritable merman! 

Whale of a Tale

Whatever their true origins, mermaids have remained an enduring myth into the modern era, showing up time and again in historical writings and entertainment.

Christopher Columbus himself reported sighting mermaids on his sailing journeys in the Caribbean.

Later, 19th century hoaxter P.T. Barnum prominently featured the "Fiji mermaid" in his sideshows across America. It was totally a real mermaid, he reassured audiences, and definitely not a dried out monkey carcass hastily sewn to a salmon’s torso (spoiler: it was the latter).

Many historical mermaid sightings were likely manatees or seals, experts say. But even into the present day, sailors around the world continue to report mermaid sightings on the open ocean. 

Do you believe mermaids (in some form) ever could have really existed? What do you make of the controversy over the new film?


  1. Pastor Jim's Avatar Pastor Jim

    Mermaids are mythical creatures born of fanciful imaginings of old world seafarers.

    I believe that recreating the original version of the film based on the color of the skin of the actors is purely racist. Why not create original characters of people of color? Besides, are we not human beings first.

    "If you want to stop racism, stop taking about it." - Morgan Freeman

    1. Carl Bernard Elfstrom's Avatar Carl Bernard Elfstrom

      I don't think it's racist for men to be attracted to women (or mermaids) of their same color. I'm all for interracial marriage, but still most people aren't engaged in such relationships. I wouldn't even mind having a purple mermaid living in my swimming pool. I'm sure I'd worship her like a goddess! I don't even care if she tasted fishy. I've eaten plenty of fish in my life, and it's only kinky the first time.

    2. Roosevelt Alexander Anderson's Avatar Roosevelt Alexander Anderson

      .....racism is due to on-going ignorance and demonic evil entities that reside here on the planet earth.

      1. Pastor Jim's Avatar Pastor Jim

        Lol. Ok. Lol

      2. Carl Bernard Elfstrom's Avatar Carl Bernard Elfstrom

        Roosevelt, it might be a good to talk to a psychiatrist about those evil demons. And if the first one doesn't put you on meds, try another one.

  1. Najah P Tamargo's Avatar Najah P Tamargo

    Minster Najah Tamargo USA

    Mermaids?????? Seriously????? A "cartoon movie"????? The world is on the brink of collapsing and we are worried about a "black mermaid cartoon movie?????

    I don't' have time for this nonsense!!!!

  1. Douglas Robert Spindler's Avatar Douglas Robert Spindler

    It’s Disney trying to make a buck…. It’s not about race, it’s about money.

    Matt Walsh is as always WRONG. Fish do not have translucent skins, and yes Matt some fish and sea creatures ARE black.

    Racism like religion just gets people angry and makes a few people a lot of money.

    And for those of you who think or were taught there is no such thing as race. We know there is. So far we have found races of Orcas, seals and Argentine ants. I’m sure as time goes on we will find more.

  1. Rev. Dr. Father JJ's Avatar Rev. Dr. Father JJ

    google the name matt walsh, he's a far-right goper, he's homophobic, transphobic and an idiot. is 'scientific' argument is as informed as a third graders view of science. he confuses benthic with pelagic and mermaids, were they to exist would be pelagic creatures. when he talks about translucent organisms he's talking about those benthic creatures that live at the deepest depths of the ocean where no sunlight ever reaches.

    fact he is so wrong that if mermaids were real they would almost certainly be black or dark brown, like manatees, seals, walruses etc. in other words matt walsh has no clue other than his mermaid went from being white, which in his mind is proper and normal to being black, which is horrible and abnormal. of course he's been accused of being a racist before so no surprise here.

    but consider the argument, changing the skin color of a made-up creature simply because the new color is offensive to a significant portion of america.

    also, a Note to ULC: Please upgrade this site, a day or more for comments to be posted? this is not 1999. other than drive-by commenting it;s impossible to have a running conversation here. and I'm assuming that is what you want since you keep coming up with rather silly news items.

    1. ServantOfJudgement's Avatar ServantOfJudgement

      I believe the argument is: If the character is gay the actor has to be gay. If the character is black, the actor has to be black. If the character is white the actor can be any color. If the character is straight the actor can be any sexual preference. I don't care, it's a show, just a show.

  1. ServantOfJudgement's Avatar ServantOfJudgement

    The whole planet is on the brink of anarchy and people are worried about the color of an actor of a Disney tale?

    1. Douglas Robert Spindler's Avatar Douglas Robert Spindler

      @ ServantOfJudgement When you say the “whole planet is on the brink of anarchy” can you explain? If we are in the brink of anarchy now, what would you call World War I? And World War II? There’s no war in Western Europe, Australia and very little in China, Korea and Africa. The world being on the brink of anarchy is just a scare tactic used by Christians.

      1. ServantOfJudgement's Avatar ServantOfJudgement

        Najah P Tamargo said the same thing I said, I don't believe hes a Christian.

        Look around. Even our own political climate is on a razor edge. USA has committed to Ukraine, nearing the point of our troops going over. We all know China will invade Taiwan, we promised to support. Africa is being plundered as always. Most of south America already is in anarchy. Mexico is controlled by drug lords that dismember and eat their enemies and those guys are pouring through our doorstep unhindered. Nuke free countries are desperately developing nuclear warheads. North Korea has a death wish with their constant missile testing in japans back yard. The money. Nations are all dropping the dollar. Our political environment has turned toxic. If either side wins, the other claims election fraud and want action. If one side wins the people will burn their own cities down.

        If you think my angle is "Turn to Jea-zousa and be reborn" you'd be mistaken. Prepare yourself, at least prepare a little. Prepare for a 'bigger than covid' event where you can't get stuff for a while.

        At the minimum, to stay on topic, with all this, who cares what color an actress is to play a role in a fantasy movie? Not me.

        1. Douglas Robert Spindler's Avatar Douglas Robert Spindler

          @ServantOfJudgement What you are describing is nothing new. Similar things were happening around the word during the Vietnam war. World War II, World War I, Spanish-American war, Civil war. This is just history repeating itself with a slightly different actors.

    2. Carl Bernard Elfstrom's Avatar Carl Bernard Elfstrom

      I wonder how many people complained about Cleopatra being played by a white woman. Mermaids can be any color, since they don't really exist, but Egyptians are definitely black, since Egypt is a country in Africa. And even though I look like an old, white skin head I'll be wearing my African Dashiki shawl everyplace I go throughout the Emancipation month of June, as well as a Gay Pride bracelet to help them celebrate that as well. And ofcourse, I'll also be wearing my ULC Minister's cap, so I can help promote the fact that we are all children of the same universe.

      1. Pastor Jim's Avatar Pastor Jim

        "If you want to stop racism, stop taking about it." - Morgan Freeman

  1. Daniel Todd Kamm's Avatar Daniel Todd Kamm

    Loved "Interestingly, Dagon, a fertility god who is oft-described as a provider of both wheat and fish was regularly depicted in art as half-man and half-fish... a veritable merman!"

    Wow, loaves and fishes... before there were "loaves and fishes...!" And maybe something more after dinner? Those old gods, they were always up to something!

    As for the movie, an actor is an actor, that's what they do. The judgment should be focused on the artist's craft and performance, not some arbitrary hashing out of obscure details like eye colour (people of all "colours" have blue eyes) and as for "luminescence," who ever said that white = glow in the dark?

    I've almost run over as many white people as people of colour after dark... my night vision is not so good anymore!

    A racial motive here, quite certainly, but you can also add a sexual one:

    Perhaps the critics were looking for some real life experience they were no longer (or shorter, as the case seems to be) getting from... a cartoon?

    The new "The Little Mermaid?" is a real live person and celebrated actress. She is there to act a role, do it well, not to cater to prurient interests. Get it?

    For g?d's sake's a movie. Get over it.

    Reb tk

    1. ServantOfJudgement's Avatar ServantOfJudgement

      There are actually plenty of fertility gods. They all have other stuff lumped in with the fertility bit, maybe wine, could be war, I suppose this one has fish and biscuits, watch out for a lawsuit by Long John Silvers, the original Fish and Biscuts fast food joint, not counting Arthur Treachers. Saying something first does not equate to doing it first. While the Greek are attributed to discovering electricity because they documented it first doesn't mean they discovered it first. We know now it was discovered long before the Greek documented it. Near finally, B Franklin took the prize with his crazy stunt and claimed the discovery of electricity was his. Tesla showed up Franklin by giving us Alternating Current to the dismay of Thomas Edison who claimed electricity as his.

      Anything that resembles the Son of Man is merely a cheap copy that hit the press one night before the arrival of Jesus, the real scoop. These gods are not a fore runner, not a headliner, just a cheap copy. Jesus is not the God of loaves and fishes, Jesus is the God of the universe in which the loaves and fishes may exist. As a bonus, they taste good.

  1. Nicholas J Page's Avatar Nicholas J Page

    Mermaids are pure myths always have been and always will be. End of

    1. Carl Bernard Elfstrom's Avatar Carl Bernard Elfstrom

      True Nicholas, but they can still be a lot of fun in our fantasies.

    2. Lionheart's Avatar Lionheart

      Yep, just like Unicorns, the world being flooded by a deity, Adam and Eve, God, and someone walking on water. 🤷🏼


  1. Lionheart's Avatar Lionheart

    Religionists like to believe in all things mythical with no supporting real evidence, so I'm sure they will believe in mermaids, fairies, and even unicorns. 🤷🏼


    1. Carl Bernard Elfstrom's Avatar Carl Bernard Elfstrom

      Lionheart, I wish you could see my gargoyles. Pick a time and location, and I'll have them fly over and meet you.

    2. ServantOfJudgement's Avatar ServantOfJudgement

      The Narwhal whale has a single horn in the shape of a unicorn horn. Obviously the unicorn evolved into the whale due to the Great Flood and kept the funky horn as a conversation starter.....

  1. Rev Mark D's Avatar Rev Mark D

    I wish to return a parrot. What seems to be the problem?
    It's dead.
    No it isn't.

    • John Cleese and Michael palin, dead parrot sketch.

    I'm looking for an argument. No you're not!

    Monty Python argument clinic.

    Now I've been looking around at these issues in general for very long time. And I certainly can tell you that Halle Berry is clearly not a mermaid. On the other hand, Whitney Houston is another matter.

    1. Carl Bernard Elfstrom's Avatar Carl Bernard Elfstrom

      I bet you'd agree that she makes a much better mermaid than Whoopi Goldberg.

      1. Rev Mark D's Avatar Rev Mark D

        "Mermaids are pure myth..."

        Thanks Nicholas for clearing that up.

        But now that I think about it, there are those for whom your remark actually is necessary.

  1. David Arthur Lewis's Avatar David Arthur Lewis

    Much ado about nothing. Another white nationalist snowflake whining about inconsequential trivia. Can't you folks at the monastery find any religion news to write about?

    1. Rev Mark D's Avatar Rev Mark D

      "...Can't you folks at the monastery find any religion news to write about?..."


      Well they got us to comment didn't they, so I guess it must have worked.

  1. Michael Holland's Avatar Michael Holland

    We should all be gray and then there would be no issues! (Sarcasm)

    1. Carl Bernard Elfstrom's Avatar Carl Bernard Elfstrom

      Gandolf was gray, and quite a wizard! However, I haven't yet fully awaken the wizard within me, so I smear collagen elastin firming creme on my face everyday, for a better and more youthful complexion.

  1. Paul Johnson's Avatar Paul Johnson

    As my wife’s grandfather told her some seventy years ago that the down fall of America would come through the Black People. I have no idea just repeating what he told her, and if I didn’t have anything else to support or to disagree; it sure looks like he had heard from the Lord.

    Just a thought not a fact.

    1. Lionheart's Avatar Lionheart

      Having common sense has nothing to do with hearing imaginary voices from a mythical Lord 🤭. It’s starting to look as though her grandfather was right. 🤷🏼


    2. Rev Mark D's Avatar Rev Mark D

      Paul...what's not a fact?

  1. Richard Albert Heyse's Avatar Richard Albert Heyse

    Mermaids are often mentioned in the Celtic nation of Kernow and across the western border in England. Though today they may be trapped in the body of tourism, for many ancient seafairers they were real enough. I believe there is no smoke without fire, and there is enough words spoken of sightings of these beautiful creatures. Yet they do not exist in the physical plain, but on a Spiritual one, a plain many of us only see at certain times. Those fortunate enough to see creatures from this plain are there to receive a message and awake their Spiritual selves. Most have failed to awaken this. So 'Yes' I do believe in Mermaids, but not on the physical plain.

    I care not for the movies, for it is entertainment, and providing its accepted in that context it is fine. It does not depict the true Mermaid and should not be taken seriously, whatever skin colour, beyond entertainment value.

  1. Ealdormon Piparskeggr Robinson's Avatar Ealdormon Piparskeggr Robinson

    Though I do believe in Mythical Beings, the gods and goddesses to whom I offer worship, I do not think merfolk existed in the physical reality in which I live.

    From the reviews I've read online, I think this Disney effort will, if the opinions are correct, sink under its own demerits, which are not about ethnicity. Ms. Bailey is getting favorable notice for her singing, but the "re-imagining" of the rest of the story is not.

  1. Matthew Mastrogiovanni's Avatar Matthew Mastrogiovanni

    The only issue with this is, Disney already did the Little Mermaid. How about something new Disney? Stop making live action versions of your cartoons and make something new.

    1. Carl Bernard Elfstrom's Avatar Carl Bernard Elfstrom

      I bet if they held a seance they could get some great new ideas from Walt Disney.

  1. Ellen B Wentzel's Avatar Ellen B Wentzel

    There should not even be a discussion of color. We are all the human race. I can't believe this is even being said on a religious/spiritual site.

    1. Carl Bernard Elfstrom's Avatar Carl Bernard Elfstrom

      Stick around, Ellen. You'll be reading a lot more stuff around here you won't believe, but tolerance is a spiritual virtue. It will only make us better ministers.

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