Mermaids are legendary aquatic creatures with the heads and torsos of beautiful women and the tails of fish. These enchanting beings are minor goddesses of the sea.
The legend of the mermaid was created by the myths of the nereids and sea nymphs. While the nereids where usually depicted with legs, they were linked with mermaids. Also, as shapeshifters, the sea nymphs could assume the tails of fish. Ione, one of the fifty nereids was described as a mermaid with a fish tail. Due to these facts, the nereids may be the mermaids of legend and lore. While nereids are usually depicted as good and mermaids are described as moody, both have the same personality. Mermaids could be helpful to others and would repay those who helped them. When they were in a good mood, they would rescue humans. The nereids were the guardians of sailors and the sea, but they had a darker side. When Queen Cassiopa claimed she and her daughter Andromada were fairer than the nereids, the sea nymphs unleashed a sea monster to destroy the kingdom unless Andromada was sacrificed to the sea beast. This further proves that nereids and mermaids may be one and the same.
The nereids weren't the only mermaids in Greek mythology. The nereids were said to be members of a nymph species called the haliades. These were marine nymphs and the daughters of the many gods who inhabited the depths of the sea. Like mermaids, they were beautiful maidens.
Eurynome was depicted as a mermaid and was said to be a member of the oceanids. They were the nymphs of the ocean. This indicates that the oceanids were also mermaids. In later myths, the winged sirens were depicted with the tails of fish.
Mermaids are famous for their incredible beauty which humans believed surpassed all mortal beings. Legends claim that the beauty of a mermaid is so great that it could mesmerize men and lure them into the sea. Myths claim that the mermaid's gorgeous appearance could lure entire ships onto the rocks. Orkney folklore claims that as well as a mesmerizing appearance, mermaids possessed haunting but gorgeous voices like the voices of sirens. This myth may have been started by the sirens' transformation from harpy-like creatures mermaids. Like the sirens and the lamia, a mermaid's song possessed such beauty that it could hypnotize any man who heard it. The mermaids' melody could bewitch men, gods and mortals alike, distract them from their work and lure them into the sea.
Mermaids also possessed other powers. Legends claim that their emotions could influence the weather and manipulate the sea. Sailors feared angering mermaids as they could summon terrible storms and hurricanes capable of destroying entire ships and even coastal towns.