Merpeople – in particular mermaids such as Disney’s Little Mermaid – have been part of myth and legend for centuries. Recently they have become incorporated into popular modern folklore through their appearance in J.K.Rowling’s Harry Potter novels.

What Are Merpeople?

Merpeople are usually depicted with the upper body of a human and the lower half of a fish. They spend most of their time in the sea but are able to survive on dry land for short periods of time. Perhaps the most famous mermaid sighting was that of Christopher Columbus who reported that a member of his crew had seen three of them.

The legends of mermaids began with sailors who often reported seeing them in the distance. For a sailor who has been at sea many months this could in part be wishful thinking! It has been suggested that many mermaid sightings were actually creatures such as seals.

It’s interesting to note that there is a known medical condition – sironomelia – that results in the lower limbs being fused together. The condition is rare and those afflicted rarely live long after birth, however it is possible that sironomelia could have given credence to stories of mermaids at sea.

Merpeople in Harry Potter

In the Harry Potter universe, merpeople are found in many places including the lake outside Hogwarts. They are tall with grey skin and long, green hair. The merpeople speak a language called mermish which out of the water sounds like a high pitched screech.

Merchieftainess Murcus leads the Hogwarts lake merpeople who have a village at the centre of the lake. Some of them keep pet grindylows.

In the HP universe, Merpeople are also said to live in other places such as Loch Lomond. In many ways they are similar to the Scottish legend of the selkie.