Mermaid Short Films

MerMay might be over, but my interest in mermaids continues to thrive as we enter the summer months. As the next part of my “Mermaid-a-Month” series, I thought I’d cover ten of my favorite mermaid short films, music videos, and related cinematographic content. I’ll be giving actual movie recommendations in a later month, since I have many to suggest, but right now, I’m just focusing on short videos:

  1. Kiss of a Siren by NuMe, which earned Best Film at the 2014 International Fashion Film Awards.
  2. Psycho Princess: The Little Mermaid by the Vancouver Film School. It is one of their multiple renditions of popular fairy tales with dark twists.
  3. Mermaid: A Twist on the Classic Tale by Nicola Alexandra, a fan-made movie trailer for the Little Mermaid. 
  4. The Disappearance of a Girl by Phildel. This music video does not actually contain any mermaids but is more mermaid-themed, as many of Phildel’s music videos are.
  5. The Angry Mermaid by Friends of the Earth International, which seeks to raise awareness and promote action regarding climate change and ocean conservation.
  6. Compendium II: The Sirens also by the Vancouver Film School. It is part of a series that is a re-imagining of the classic tale of Odysseus.
  7. Kristen McMenamy: The Little Mermaid by Tim Walker, from his series “Far, Far From Land” for W Magazine, in which supermodel Kristen McMenamy gracefully floats in a human-size fish tank. Walker’s article and photography can be found here
  8. The Little Mermaid, the classic animated short film from 1975 which closely follows the original story by Hans Christian Anderson
  9. The Mermaid Short by Wizz, an CGI Animated short film

  10.  No Ordinary Love by Sade, an iconic music video from 2009 that tells the story of a mermaid in love

If anyone has any others to add, I would love to hear suggestions.

© Obliquity of the Ecliptic

A Review of Illuminae and a Word on Acknowledgments

With the arrival of summer comes more freedom and possibility, like exploration and discovery through the medium of literature. Book-reading has always been a great past time of mine, especially in the summer months when I’m not so busy. There’s just something so satisfying about returning from the library with a bag full of books, knowing you can read them at your leisure and not be forced to study them for an assignment.

My most recent conquest was the first installment of a sci-fi/action series by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff, The Illuminae Files. Book 1, Illuminae, is very uniquely formatted, with 599 pages of chat logs, emails, classified documents, data reports, video footage summaries, the stream of consciousness of a psychopathic AI, and more. In fact, because it is so unique, it can be very confusing at times, which is why for the first 200 pages I was generally very lost and just trying to enjoy the ride until things became clear.

(Thankfully, they did. I just had to be patient.)

This is not my first experience with one of these authors. In the past, I’ve read the first of Kristoff’s Lotus War trilogy, Stormdancer. A fantasy novel set in feudal steampunk Japan, it has historical elements combined with thrilling fantasy lore, like griffins and flying ships. Unfortunately, I was too busy at the time to continue the series, despite its good quality, but perhaps this summer I’ll start them again and finish.

Amie Kaufman has also co-authored a series before, the Starbound Trilogy. I cannot attest to its quality, having never read it, but I assume it’s good because it is a New York Times bestseller.

Anyway, to say that Illuminae was emotionally stirring is an understatement. This book was a wild ride from start to finish, even if I didn’t always understand what was happening. But the beauty of it is that I didn’t need to fully understand the sequence of events taking place to feel the love, excitement, terror,  panic, and hope of the characters. It’s a good quality to have in a novel, Young Adult and otherwise, because it’ll keep people engaged until the very end.

I won’t summarize the plot too much, because the less known about it, the better. But basically, it’s set in the year 2575 and features a pink-haired, headstrong heroine named Kady Grant, her smarmy ex-boyfriend Ezra Mason, and two megacorporations at war over the planet Kerenza, which—guess what?—happens to be the planet the two protagonists live on. I guess you could say it’s a story truly out of this world.

…anyway.

Wonderfully written, I highly recommend giving it a read. Yes, because of its length, it could take a good deal of time to finish, but I can assure you that once you really get into it, the end will come faster than you think.

And this brings me to my next point, which is the beauty of acknowledgements and the realizations they bring. Because at the end of this book, the two authors took the time to thank their editors, advisers, agents, artists, family, friends, and other contributors. The list of people involved, whether it be to proofread rough drafts, provide emotional support, or offer insight into the realm of astrophysics, is so lengthy that it spans multiple pages. Though some acknowledgements were fairly standard (“Our families . . . thank you for your constant support”), others were surely unique, praising specific doctors for giving medical knowledge and engineers for giving computer knowledge and even a certain Christopher Guethe for giving a tour around the NASA Jet Propulsion labs.

It reminds us, the readers and amateur writers of the world, to not only be humble and grateful for all the help given to us, but also that writing a book is not a one-man act. Of course, we don’t usually think this to be true. The reputation of a writer is that of a loner, one who sequesters his or herself from the world for months on end to pour their heart and soul into their latest work. Throughout history, the most famous writers are often characterized as social pariahs and tragic, lonely individuals, and this is certainly true.

For the most part. But not always.

You don’t have to be an expert in the field of thermonuclear astrophysics to write good science-fiction (even though it’d certainly help). What you need to have is a good team of friends, family, and experts who can help and support you until the very end. It’ll help produce a higher quality of work and will also help you finish (sometimes the hardest aspect of part of the writing process).

And remember: just like how reading is a form of exploration, writing is a form of escape. Even if fictitious stories have realistic aspects in them, they can still be used by the writer to escape reality, and this is a wonderful thing. So while the whole mentality of “writing what you know” is true to an extent, it doesn’t have to be true.

Those are my thoughts for now. I’ll be updating more frequently now because, as I mentioned before, it’s summer and I’m not so busy. I hope I’ll be able to continue to read and review great books like Illuminae in the future.

© 2017 Obliquity of the Ecliptic

Mermaid Art

We’re halfway through the lovely month of MerMay, and the mermaid art has been abundant. I’ve seen a great variety of styles, like Dylan Bonner‘s Disney-style digital painting:

#mermay day 2! I wanted to make this one totally different from day 1 in terms of feel and color pallet. #mermay2017 #digitalpainting
Salie Chelon‘s pastel glittering graphic:
And Nati‘s mixed-media aquamarine drawing:
These are just a few of the many beautiful pieces I’ve come across. I recommend checking out artists Daniel Kordek, Philia Lina, Lady Shalirin, Jessica Madorran, and Erika Schnellert for more. Searching the #MerMay tag on Instagram and Tumblr never fails either.

While all this new art is refreshing, I’d like to recall some old favorites of mine, which include both classic mermaid paintings and general digital designs worthy of recognition. Obviously, I can’t include all my favorite mermaid art, but I’ll certainly include some of the best.

Cabinet of Curiosities Mermaid by Alexandra V. Bach

fantasyartwatch:
“Cabinet of Curiosities Mermaid by Alexandra V Bach
”

the Siren Song series by Victor Nizovtsev

belaquadros:
“Victor Nizovtsev
”

The Five Sisters by Annie Stegg

megarah-moon:
“  “The Five Sisters” by Annie Stegg
From Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Little Mermaid” ”

Fate by bayardwu

somethingmoresubtle:
“ Fate by bayardwu
”

The Little Mermaid by Itsuko Azuma

c0225849_1572262.jpg

Ariel the mermaid by Andra Hancock

fish-tails-siren-scales:
“ by Andra Hancock
”

Out of Water by Saiful Haque

cinemagorgeous:
“ Out of Water by artist Saiful Haque.
”

La Petite Sirene and the Mermaid Project by Renee Nault

Image result for la petite sirene renee nault

Mermaid Drop by sakimichan

Image result for mermaid sakimichan

Atargatis by Annie Stegg

Image result for Atargatis” - Annie Stegg

Jeune naiade by Paul Émile Chabas

Image result for Paul Émile Chabas (1869-1937) - Jeune naiade

Ulysses and the Sirens by Herbert James Draper

"Ulysses and the Sirens" by Herbert James Draper (1909)

Water nymph by Christian Schloe

Image result for christian schloe art

Mermaid by Charles Murray Padday

Image result for charles murray padday

And finally, Little Mermaid by Mily Knight

Little mermaid by milyKnight

That’s all for now. I always love discovering new art, especially when it involves mermaids, so I’m open to suggestions. Next month, I’ll be giving recommendations for and describing my favorite mermaid short films, so be ready for that.

And I’d like to remind everyone that all the artwork above is not my own and I claim no ownership of it. All rights reserved for the respective artists.

© 2017 Obliquity of the Ecliptic

How To Breathe Underwater Like a Mermaid

In this installment of my “mermaid-a-month” series, I’d like to share an interesting piece of news I recently discovered. I know I promised to cover mermaid art this month, but I decided to save that for May (also known as MerMay—the month in which artists everywhere share their mermaid art online) because it would be more appropriate.

So. What is this bit of news? Well if the title is any indication, it’s how science is slowly but surely actualizing the possibility of being a mermaid.

In this article, it is stated: “Scientists have made a breakthrough that could save patient’s lives and open up the possibilities for underwater exploration.”

Essentially, a tiny micro-particle (roughly 3 micrometers) was created that can be injected into the bloodstream, oxygenating blood without any help from the lungs. These particles contains three to four times more oxygen than human red blood cells, and they can allow humans to live up to 30 minutes without breathing before respiratory failure occurs. Though originally created for medical purposes (to prevent brain damage or organ injury from oxygen deprivation), it also opens the door for military uses or solutions to air pollution.

Or, you know, being a mermaid. There’s also that. Imagine being able to swim in the ocean without breathing for three times as long as a dolphin could. Or sit at the bottom of a pool for half an hour, watching the light dance on the tiles.

And this discovery was several years ago. Recent reports indicate these micro-particles are continually being used to save lives in hospitals and prevent environmental pollution by letting a crew fix underwater damage to oil rigs without scuba equipment. I can only imagine how this will continue to progress as it becomes more well-known.

Also, there appear to be no known negative side effects from it. In this article, they are described as a minuscule capsules of small bubbles of oxygen surrounded by a layer of lipids. Meaning that as long as they are injected in regulated amounts, they are completely harmless.

Now this is much different from perfluorocarbon, a breathable liquid which holds just enough oxygen for us to breathe it in safely for short periods of time. While perfluorocarbon sounds cool, the transition from breathing it in to breathing in actual air can be painful, since your lungs have to push the liquid from them. Which is why it’s (apparently) been used as a torture device, similar to water boarding.

But to focus on the matter at hand…

Perhaps saying “breathing underwater” is misleading, since technically, this advancement in science allows you to simply hold your breath for extended periods of time. But either way, it certainly has a wide range of possibilities, and I would love to experience it myself one day.

© 2017 Obliquity of the Ecliptic

The History of Mermaids

Though it has been a few weeks since I last updated, I’ve returned to continue my “Mermaid-a-Month” series as promised. In January, I gave an introduction to mermaids by discussing their etymology and various translations of the word in other languages. In this edition, I will (begin to) cover the rich and complex history of the mermaid myth.

I say “begin to” because obviously, as with any aspect of myth and history, it is very multifaceted. Different cultures all have different stories regarding the origin of these mythological figures, and it would take hundreds of thousands of words to cover them all.

Which I will not be doing today. But I will be covering mermaids in other cultures in later months, so don’t be too disappointed.

Anyway, I hope to answer some basic questions about mermaids’ history and also give you a taste for more. I am not a historian or professional in any way, so my knowledge is gathered from various sources with the links provided below.

Where and when did the idea of the mermaid begin?

Well, we can never be completely sure, but according to Seathos, mermaids first appeared as deities in mythology between 700 b.c. to 1000 b.c.  The story of Atargatis, a myth which appeared in Assyria in 1000 b.c., is about a goddess that becomes a mermaid. She was in love with a human shepherd, but she accidentally killed him and then, overcome with despair, she flung herself into the ocean.  She wanted to become a fish, but since she was so beautiful, only her bottom half became fish-like.

Atargatis was worshiped in ancient Assyria first, but was said to be exalted in Rome and Greece. She is known as Derketo in Greek mythology and considered the inspiration for the Greek goddess Aphrodite (who, if you remember, was said to be born of the sea foam).  She is regarded as “Great Mother and Goddess of Fertility of the earth and water”.  The spread of civilization in the ancient East is also attributed to Atargatis, as she is believed to have taught the people social and religious practices. Her involvement with the conservation of fish and water fertility would explain why the ancient goddess was depicted as a mermaid.

Here’s a photo for reference:
Image result for atargatis
(Wow. What a beauty.)
Now technically speaking, the first mer-person wasn’t female. The Mesopotamian god Oannes predates the Syrian mermaid Atargatis by several thousand years. C.J.S. Thompson, a former English curator, said in his book The Mystery and Lore of Monsters, “Traditions concerning creatures half-human and half-fish in form have existed for thousands of years, and the Babylonian deity Era or Oannes, the Fish-god, is represented on seals and in sculpture, as being in this shape over 2,000 years B.C. He is usually depicted as having a bearded head with a crown and a body like a man, but from the waist downwards, he has the shape of a fish covered with scales and a tail.” And apparently, since his human form was beneath his fish form, he could live among men, as well as in the sea, and thus teach mankind about writing, science, and art. Here is a picture of him:
Image result for oannes
Is it true that some ancient civilizations believed humans were descendants of mermaids?

Indeed it is. In some of the Pacific Island legends, it is said that human beings are descended from both mermaids and mermen. Somewhere back in time, their tails somehow disappeared and replaced by legs, and people were magically able to walk on land. Also, the creator god Vatea from Polynesian mythology was usually illustrated as being half-human, half-porpoise, and Japanese folklore features a mermaid called Ningyo.

Were manatees mistaken for mermaids?
Unfortunately, yes. Back in 1493, Christopher Columbus, sailing near the Dominican Republic, was said to see 3 “mermaids” (manatees) and then describe them as “not half as beautiful as they are painted.”

Which would make sense, given that manatees are considered to be sea cows, not beautiful woman of the sea. But Columbus thought America was the Indies, so one shouldn’t always trust his discretion.

Anyway, it’s believed that most mermaid sightings by sailors were actually sightings of manatees, dugongs or Steller’s sea cows (which became extinct by the 1760s due to over-hunting). They look like this:

Image result for steller sea cows

(I guess if you squint, it looks like a really chubby mermaid with no hair and stubby arms)

Note: Let it be known that in European history, mermaids generally meant trouble, especially to fishermen and sailors. Seeing them could mean a terrible storm or ill-fortune was coming, or that you were about to be drowned. This would also explain why mermaids are sometimes believed to be sea witches.

What about sirens?

Sirens deserve a whole month to themselves, so I won’t be going into too much detail now, but if you didn’t know, the original sirens weren’t half-fish at all. They were half-bird and not very appealing, I’m afraid to say. They used their melodious voices to seduce anyone who heard them. They were first mentioned in Homer’s Odyssey.

So there you have it. A brief overview of the history of mermaids. I hope you now feel better informed. Next month, I will be providing some evidence for why mermaids could be real and giving some cases for proof of their existence.

© 2017 Obliquity of the Ecliptic

Why do we believe in myths?

It’s a valid question, really. Why are we so fascinated by stories of Zeus, Thor, or Anubis? Why do these stories get retold over and over, in different forms and across different mediums, in different societies across the world?

These questions are ones I want to answer, but I didn’t feel qualified enough to do so without any research first. So like any curious soul seeking knowledge, I read a book.

Well actually I googled it first, but the results were so less than satisfactory, so then I read a book.

Found at the local library, it was called The Universal Myths: Heroes, Gods, Tricksters and Others by Alexander Eliot. Now this is not the author’s only work regarding mythology—his other books bear titles like The Timeless Myths and The Global Myths, which gives you an idea of this author’s expertise. It went into such great depth and detail that I highly suggest reading it for yourself, since the collection of quotes and explanations below are just the tip of the iceberg on this topic.

One of Eliot’s first points is that myths are very complex. He states: “No wonder myth eludes definition. It’s not something which we can isolate for a close look. The primal myths are built into our brains, our genes, and our blood. However distant they may seem, they still surround, embrace, imbue, and color human consciousness.” [1]

Poetic, no? Essentially, mythology cannot be so simply categorized. Myths are, in many ways, like history—a deeply ingrained part of humanity.

But what exactly does “myth” mean? According to Mircea Eliade (a Romanian historian and professor who helped write the book), the exact definition of the word doesn’t adhere to our expectations of it. For those living in the nineteenth century, “‘myth’ was anything that was opposed to ‘reality.’ . . . the word mythos in Greek meant ‘fable,’ ‘tale,’ ‘talk,’ or simply ‘speech,’ but it came be used in contrast with logos and historia, thus coming to denote ‘that which cannot really exist.’” [2]

So really, in the past a myth meant any type of story told, but then over time it became a contradiction to fact. Interesting indeed.

So how do myths come about? Now that question has a very long, complicated answer, but to use the words of Andrew Lang (a Scottish poet and anthropologist who also co-wrote this book): “myths reflect actions, ideas, and institutions which actually existed at some time in the past.” [3]

And I believe this reason plays a huge part in why mythology is so fascinating to us. It reflects the different cultures across the globe, and by learning about different myths, we also have the opportunity to learn about the ideals and mentalities of diverse societies.

But to go even more in depth, Eliot brings up Swiss psychiatrist C. G. Jung, the founder of analytical psychology. He asserts:

“Another attempt at psychological understanding of myth is that of C. G. Jung, whose theory of myth is interdependent on his theory of the collective unconscious. Indeed, it was mainly the striking similarities between myths, dreams, and symbols of widely separated peoples and civilizations which led Jung to postulate the existence of a collective unconscious. He noticed that the images and structure of this collective unconscious manifest themselves in regularly repeating forms, which he called ‘archetypes.’ Like Freud, Jung considered myth, dream, and fantasy to be the indifferent products of the unconscious . . . these mythical images are structures of the collective unconscious and are an impersonal possession.” [4]

In other words, mythology is an extension of the “collective unconscious,” or the part of the mind that stems from ancestral memory and experience and is a shared quality by all humankind, which is different from an individual’s unconscious. How truly fascinating.

In the modern day, we tend to categorize those past stories of demigods and demons as just another slice of fantasy, yet we can see that they are much more ambiguous than expected. They are a shared experience, a crucial part of humanity, and should not be so easily defined or scorned.

Mythology is a very broad topic, and I hope to continue pursuing it with these little research and writing endeavors. In fact, with all this in mind, I plan on writing the next installment of my “mermaid-a-month” series, focusing on the history of the mermaid myth.

But after this discussion, are they really myths after all?

Bibliography

[1] Eliot, Alexander. The Universal Myths: Heroes, Gods, Tricksters and Others. New York: First
Meridian Printing, 1976. Print.

[2] The Universal Myths, 14

[3] Ibid, 17

[4] Ibid, 20

© 2017 Obliquity of the Ecliptic

Shen Yun: A Review

The lights are dim, the crimson curtains drawn.

It’s approximately 7:15 on the night of January 25th, and I sit in the balcony of the grand theater, waiting for a life-changing performance. I know it’s life-changing because the first time I saw it 2 years ago, I was moved, astounded, inspired, and so much more.

I came alone, wanting to fully submerge myself in the experience, but I am still surrounded by a crowd well over a thousand, all of different ages and appearances. The 74 dollars needed for the ticket and the treacherous teetering up the stairs in heels are just small prices to pay for two hours of the diverse and powerful music, dance, acting, culture, and history I am about to receive.

The title printed boldly on the blue pamphlet in my lap reads Shen Yun. According to the inside, “Shen Yun” loosely translates to “the beauty of divine beings dancing.” Shen Yun itself is a performing-arts and entertainment company formed in New York City. They perform a mixture of classical Chinese dance and ethnic/folk dance, usually in a narrative structure, with orchestral accompaniment and solo performers. So along with traditional Western instruments being played in the orchestra, like the violin or the trombone, there is also traditional Chinese instruments such as the pipa or the erhu. The dancers are also not just dancers, but acrobats, actors, and even comedians. It’s truly fine art in the highest form.

A man walks around several rows below, waving a sign that declares No photography permitted during the show! In this day and age, when I can spy at least 12 people on their smartphones at a time, I find it’s getting harder for them to enforce this. Since I lack a cell phone of my own, I worry not about breaking this rule. After all, to distract both the performers and the audience with the bright light from a phone screen would be sacrilege.

The orchestra begins to play, each musician joining in until they form one single swell of melodious noise. The show has begun.

Two hours later, I leave the theater in a daze, the crisp night air waking me from some sort of dream. The sound of chatter from surrounding strangers is background noise, the glowing headlights of vehicles blurred in my vision. I am at peace and yet also abuzz with excitement, wanting to share my experience.

Words cannot truly express how sensational it was, but I will try my best describing the performances that appealed to me the most. The first is titled “Mongolian Bowls”: an ethnic dance in which 16 women performed with bowls of simmering milk tea, precariously balanced on their heads or in their hands. I loved this dance the most not only because of the sheer skill involved, but also because of the costumes. They were made of jewel-adorned sapphire fabric which sparkled with every twirl, atop layers of flowing white skirts and puffy white sleeves. That, coupled with the fluidity of their movement, reminded me much of the ocean.

My second favorite dance was “Yellow Blossom”, in which the female dancers, dressed in mint-green and white gowns, used ruffled yellow fans to create the appearance of flowers in motion. At one point, they even came together to form one large flower shape, shaking the fans to make the “petals” of the flower rustle.

My third and final favorite piece was a narrative with a lot of acrobatics, named “Monkey King at Fire Mountain.” It takes a story for the 1592 novel, Journey to the West, which is about a monk and his companions who search for Buddhist scriptures. I won’t spoil the story, but it involves a humorous monkey king (of course), a princess, a goddess, and a lot of fire.

These were just three pieces, but there were close to 20 in all. My descriptions really don’t do Shen Yun justice; you must experience it for yourself to understand. It’s not just for lovers of drama or dance like me, but anyone willing to endure a few hours of sitting to undergo a transformative ordeal.

For those who have seen it, what are your thoughts? Let me know in the comment section below.

© 2017 Obliquity of the Ecliptic

“Words to your Past Self?”: a Social Experiment

If you could speak to your past self, what would you say? It’s a very weighted question. It’s also something I think many of us wish we could do regularly—to impart precious wisdom on our naive selves. Personally speaking, I’d tell younger me to focus on the more important things in life. Like cryptozoology.

However, unless time travel is invented in the foreseeable future (which is sadly improbable), my past is my past and I can’t change it. I can try my best to change my future though. So, as a miniature social experiment and as a quest to obtain wisdom for my own journey of self-understanding, I asked a multitude of people of all ages and walks of life for some words they would give to their past self. These are the results:

“Have more fun. Talk more. Be less sad.” ~Female, age 17, introverted

“It’s not worth it.” ~Female, 18, high school senior

“Beware June 5th, 2014” ~Boy, 17, computer expert

“Stop brushing your hair!” ~Female, 18, curly-haired

“Don’t go to school, pursue your real dreams”  ~Male, 18, traveler

“Don’t be so gullible” ~Female, 17, the life of the party

“Live for yourself”  ~Female, 24, teacher-in-training

“Relax. You will change and the world around you will change, and things will get better” ~Male, 65, Humanities teacher

“Buy stock in Microsoft, Amazon, and Yahoo” ~Male, 33, with a Ph.D in Chemistry

“Don’t slack off on final exams” ~Boy, 14, high school freshman

“Snape kills Dumbledore”  ~Female, 27, environmental science teacher

“Donald Trump becomes president and Biden cried”  ~Female, 17, artist

“You should do sports when you’re 6 years old”  ~Female, 18, future doctor

“Go to that football game”  ~Female, 17, socialite

“You do you, man”  ~Male, 18, hippie

“Don’t waste your life, and don’t take double-block chemistry”  ~Male, 18, procrastinator

“You don’t need to rely on anyone else for your happiness” ~Female, 22, college student

 

© 2017 Obliquity of the Ecliptic

Mermaids: An Introduction

Mermaids have captured humanity’s imagination since the beginning of our species. These mystical, quasi-fish humanoids known for their enchanting songs, ability to drown naive sailors, and exquisite (or in some cases, terrifying) beauty have sparked thousands of literary works, cinematic ventures, artistic creations, and world-wide debates on the proof of their existence.

Yet while many might recognize these iconic figures in fantasy, few actually realize the history and origins of these beauties, or the scientific speculation that might provide evidence for their being. The history of the mermaid myth spans far and wide, with various nations having assorted stories of different origin. Even in the modern day, each part of the world has a different view of these sea creatures.

First, let it be known that mermaids are an integral part of my character. In other words, I love them a lot. And it is this love, along with my wish to educate the general public (not that the general public reads my blog, but one can dream) about them. Which is why I have begun the “Mermaid-A-Month” series.

Each month, I hope to analyze a different aspect of mermaid mythology—their history, sightings, appearances in literature or art, and so much more.

To start this series, I begin with their etymology. The word “mermaid” comes from old English, with “mer” meaning “sea” and “maid” meaning “girl” or “young woman”. Essentially, “mermaid” just means a woman of the sea, not specifically being half-fish or whatnot. When they actually began to be mistaken for being beautiful women with fish tails will be saved for a later post…

Obviously, the word “mermaid” is not universal. It has many different translations (though you’d be surprised how many languages use the original form as their translation of it). I have given a short list below, taken from this site (obviously since I do not know all these languages, please correct me if you disagree with any of the translations)

Czech: mořská panna
Danish: havfrue
Dutch: zeemeermin
Finnish: merenneito
French: sirène
German: Meerjungfrau
Greek: γοργόνα
Hungarian: sellő
Icelandic: Mermaid
Italian: sirena
Norwegian: havfrue
Polish: syrena
Portuguese: sereia
Romanian: sirenă
Russian: Русалка
Spanish: sirena
Swedish: sjöjungfru
Welsh: môr-forwyn
Yiddish: יאַמ-מיידל
Bengali: মৎসকন্যা
Chinese (both Simplified and Traditional): 美人鱼
Japanese: 人魚
Korean: 인어
Thai: นางเงือก
Vietnamese: mỹ nhân ngư
Filipino: sirena
Indonesian: mermaid
Arabic: حورية البحر
Hebrew: בת ים
Persian: پري دريايي
Afrikaans: meermin
Igbo: mamiwota
Somali: gabareeymaanyo
Swahili: mermaid
Zulu: mermaid

© 2017 Obliquity of the Ecliptic

Holden the Golden or Holden the Foul?: The Issue of The Catcher in the Rye and Censorship

Language. Alcohol. Sex. Angst. Elements bound to cause controversy, yet they and so much more can be found in the pages of J.D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye, a 1951 literary classic. Narrated by the infamous pessimist Holden Caulfield, whose personality resembles that of a cynical stormcloud with a drinking problem, this work relates the coming-of-age story of a boy wandering the streets of New York having flunked out of prep school. With its excessive profanities, sexual references, underage drinking, and melancholy narrator, The Catcher in the Rye poses the question of whether or not it should be censored in schools, an issue teachers and scholars alike debate thoroughly.

Personally speaking, the novel should undoubtedly take part of higher-level school curriculum (taught with careful analysis, of course) because it is a realistic story with which teenagers can relate. However, personal opinion aside, its blatant obscene content often causes controversy, making it one of the most banned literary works in America.

Such content includes swearing (237 “goddams,” 58 “bastards,” and 32 “chrissakes” to be exact¹), sex, deceit, alcohol abuse, secular ideologies, and even homosexuality. It is therefore perceived as an unholy machination by the education system to destroy the ethics of a nation’s students.

However…

Holden Caulfield is an antihero, a character who believes himself to be a martyr of the world and who lacks typical heroic qualities such as optimism or virtue. And though he may have many warped views and bad habits, his actions are very understandable. His speech is excessively pessimistic and vulgar and his actions immoral because he’s a teenager. He agrees to meet with a prostitute partially because he’s lonely, and this loneliness might also explain his alcohol consumption prevalent in the novel.

The Catcher in the Rye as a whole treats juveniles with a special kind of respect and recognition, speaking to teens’ morality. It addresses isolation and a struggle to make sense of the world. Ergo, it should be taught in schools, but with guidance. Teachers should prompt their class on what they, the students, interpret Holden’s various statements or actions to mean and then offer their own professional insight on the deeper meaning.

Classic literature should not be censored for young adults in general, because the act of banning books is a slippery slope which can lead to the removal of classic, beloved works just for some peace of mind. To shield teenagers from negativity and criticism of society is to teach them that pessimistic views are not allowed. And by doing so, it isolates the youth consumed by their troubles, causing the very thing that the censors are trying to prevent.

Furthermore, it makes modern-day readers better understand the past. On the surface, it merely tells the story of its protagonist, but it also subtly describes the change in philosophy and thought in society post-World-War II, providing criticism of middle-class America. After all, a better understanding of past societal views and values helps current society adjust accordingly.

But above all, it is relatable. It does not romanticize the teenage years as much as it makes them more understandable.  Adolescence is undoubtedly stressful, and reading a book where the narrator reacts to this stress with a less-than-positive attitude mirrors the pessimism many teenagers themselves feel. And like many argue, Holden’s actions and feelings should not be praised but instead pitied.

Censorship is a well-debated issue and often evokes controversy, but it is something to consider when dealing with literature that has so much to offer. Even with his crude words and inappropriate behavior, Holden has profound thoughts that resonate within the minds of equally troubled teenagers. In any case, The Catcher in the Rye is more than just a trite tale of adolescent angst, and Holden’s dream of being the catcher in the rye just might be fulfilled when teens read this book and learn from his mistakes.


¹  Steinle, Pamela. “‘If a Body Catch a Body’: The Catcher in the Rye Censorship Debate as Expression of Nuclear Culture.” Popular Culture and Political Change in Modern America. Ed. Ronald Edsforth and Larry Bennett. State University of New York Press, 1991. 127-136. Rpt. in Contemporary Literary Criticism. Ed. Jeffrey W. Hunter. Vol. 138. Gale, 2001. Literature Resource Center. Web. 4 Feb. 2016.

© 2017 Obliquity of the Ecliptic