One of my first blogs on here was a monster comparison that highlighted the differences between Vampires vs. Werewolves. That exercise was a fun way to experiment with blogging. Now (for kicks and giggles), I want to revisit that theme and compare mermaids vs. centaurs.
It seems fair to compare these mythical creatures because both are well-known hybrids. I think both also represent each end of gender spectrum. The mighty centaurs are pictured as fearsome warriors, while the mermaids majestic and yet mysterious.
Last time, we looked at what monster would win in combat. I don’t think it’s very likely mermaids and centaurs would have the chance to come in conflict, since they each have separate environments. As such, this post won’t explore who is better equip in battle. Rather we’re going to examine what creature would meet your personal tastes in life.
Last year, I created a Reddit post “Who is the better hybrid monster, mermaids or Centaurs?”. The title was a bit too long, I admit. I hope to continue active community research in my posts – ‘cause it’s fun to involve the readers!
Yet… it’s quite sad it’s taken me that long to apply that forum and start writing. Work is killer. Writing is freedom.
Anyway, let’s start with the (half) ladies, first:
Mermaids: Majestic Sea Witches
Most ancient cultures have some myth related to mermaids. They are aquatic creatures with a large fish tail from the waist down and a woman upper half. They are beautiful, crafty, and (sometimes) deadly.
Before diving into pros and cons, let’s to explore some history.
The earliest reference to a mermaid being comes from the Assyrian goddess Atargatis, who oversaw fertility and the protection of Hierapolis. Legends say she fell in love with a mortal that she accidentally killed. She then transformed into part fish to hide in a nearby lake. Some variations go on that another large fish saved her, thus explaining the constellation Pisces.
Sailors throughout history, superstitious as they were, often saw mermaids as omens of coming storms. Navigators of bygone ages generally saw women as bad luck on voyages. Their presence could anger the sea gods or distract an unruly crew of ill-mannered men.
Columbus, Blackbeard, and Henry Hudson reportedly witnessed mermaids on the high seas. Probably, they all were confused by manatees (or sea cows) at a distance. The marine mammals have smooth faces and beady eyes that do resemble a Fernando Botero figure.
The idea of the killer mermaid is similar to the Sirens. Found in the Greek myths of Jason and the Argonauts and the Odyssey, these creatures would sing enchanting songs to lure victims to the edge of their boats before dragging them below the depths of the Aegean! However, Sirens are more like harpies, half bird and half woman. Mermaids carried this same theme into Medieval times.
One of the more well-known mermaid myths is immortalized in the legend of Thessalonike, the sister of Alexander the Great. The story, a variation from the Romance of Alexander, goes that the king sought some magical water to grant him eternal life. After he finally acquires it, his sister-in-law bathes with it (intentionally or not?). Thus, Alexander dies.
In her grief, the Thessalonike drowns herself in the sea. Instead of dying, she transforms into a mermaid and is haunted by the memory of her brother. She would stop passing ships and ask the sailors, “Does king Alexander live?” The correct answer should always be “He is alive and reigns and conquers the world”. Any other response would anger to fish lady into a frenzy, destroying to vessel and drowning its crew.
The Little Mermaid short story by Hans Christian Andersen is a notable exception to the trend. In the narrative version, the Little Mermaid is one of 5 daughters living in the mer kingdom with their grandmother. Each daughter get a chance to visit the surface world at age 15. When the Little Mermaid comes of age, she watches from a distance a birthday celebration of the local prince held on a ship. Later, the vessel suffers from a deadly shipwreck. The Little Mermaid saves him, but he was unconscious and never realizes who she was or how he woke up safe on shore. She becomes obsessed with meeting him again and learning more about humans. The grandmother explains about human souls, which mermaids don’t have. Humans will one day live forever in their soul in Heaven, while mermaids only fade away into sea foam after 300 years.
Desperately lovesick for the prince and to have an eternal soul herself, the Little Mermaid meets the Sea Witch. The enchantress gifts her a magic potion. The liquid grants her human feet and the chance for a human soul if she married her love. She loses her voice in exchange for the deal. The only catch is if the prince married someone else, the Little Mermaid would fade into sea foam.
After meeting and enjoying their time (despite her being mute), the prince does intend to marry the Little Mermaid. Yet, his parents promise him away in an arranged marriage to another girl. The Little Mermaid is heartbroken. Her sisters give her a chance to reverse her fate. If she murders the prince with a knife and lets the blood drip on her feet, the spell from the Sea Witch could be undone.
In the end, the Little Mermaid refuses to kill her love. Instead of fading away, she is surrounding by light, rises into the sky, and becomes a Daughter of the Air. As a reward for her selflessness, the angel-like creatures promise her an eternal soul if she does good deeds for the next 300 years.
Male merfolk are known as mermen, the most famous being Triton, son of Poseidon and messenger god of the sea.
So now we understand mermaids throughout history, why would anyone want to be one? Here are some of the defining traits of mermaids:
(1) – Fish Bits
First of all, mermaids have a fish bottom half. How does that work exactly? It’s up to the fantasy writers and DMs to determine how the fishy parts operate. Do they lay eggs or have live births like whales? Do they shed their scales like snakes? Do they have gills? What happens if you dash salt on a mermaid?
It’s hard to classify the fish bottom as an advantage or disadvantage without qualifying all the “what ifs” involved.
However, I am sure that it’s the best possible body designed for open waters. In fact, the research shows monofin diving (real life “mermaiding”) is a healthier workout and allows you to move faster in the water than normal swimming. One solid fin allows for very efficient movements that uses nearly the whole of your core muscle groups.
The mermaid lore always picture them as beautiful, so that must include their scaly undersides. Their fins might be multicolored and dazzle in moonlight. If you’re hoping for something graceful, the mer people have the ideal body.
And that amazing fin half doesn’t require pants! Feel free to pee anywhere! The ocean is your toilet.
Unfortunately, your body won’t allow you to leave the water. You’ll have plenty of space to roam about in the ocean, but if you’re a lake or river mermaid, you’re limited. Maybe you can sunbathe on some island rocks and flop your way back to the shores.
But that leads us to the next point.
(2) – Aquatic Freedom
Water gives you lots of room to yourself. The ocean is a huge place. I’ve often heard that we’ve explored more of the Moon’s surface than the bottom of the ocean. The ocean to moon comparison is much more complicated that a simple meme, but the general premise is certainly in the benefit of mermaids. Considering that over 70% of the Earth is ocean, the mers have freedom live a secret life.
While I suppose a river or lake mermaid is possible, I personally feel a mermaid would live in remote depths of the ocean. That’s why they haven’t been discovered yet. The hidden kingdom of Atlantis probably doesn’t want to be found either.
Since the mermaids are isolated, they are unaffected by the stupidity of humans, except for perhaps a passing submarine.
If there’s some kind of conflict in the mer kingdom, then there’s more than enough space for them to split and live peacefully at a distance. Meanwhile, millions of humans cram themselves in relatively small metropolitan areas.
One negative to the ocean environment is pollution. Oil and chemical wastes would be huge concerns to the mermaids of the ocean deep. The destruction of their ecosystem by humans they rarely see will certain make a great story. Every narrative needs interesting conflict. Perhaps vile nuclear waste creates mutant super sharks that rise up against the ambitious Atlanteans.
(3) – Seducing Sailors
Finally, a defining trait of mermaids is, undoubtedly, captivating sailors. Their elusive charm steals the hearts of seaman everywhere.
To many, casual hookups in the waters is exciting. If you’re always sought for your charm, you can use this to your advantage and get what you want! In exchange for brief sailor sexy time, you can have all the gadgets and gizmos aplenty.
Then, in line with tradition, you can kill them! Maybe that sounds cruel, but humans aren’t your people. Given how they pollute the ocean, they are more your enemies. Using beauty as a guise for a romance murder plot is a sound strategy. Humans are the invaders trying to master the oceans. You might have fish friends, but mankind’s technology and numbers require trickery to overcome.
Beauty is also a curse in a way for mermaids. The reality is you’d be hunted more than other mythical creatures because of your physical appeal. Sailors will probably see you as just another catch, like any other fish. It would turn out like that terrible movie Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides.
And if you did fall in love with a human, it just wouldn’t work out at all. Land and sea are separate worlds that don’t mix. One of you would have to transform to match the other.
Remember: dark magic always has consequences.
Centaurs: Riders of Barbarism
Centaurs have a horse body with a man’s upper half, arms, and head. They come from Greek mythology, but also make appearances in CS Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia and Harry Potter.
Here’s a brief origin of their origins in mythology:
Greek tales describe centaurs as savage, lustful beasts who live in the wilderness of Thessaly.
One set of stories makes the mischief of Zeus responsible for their origin.
According to Pindar, King Ixion killed his wife’s father because he refused or delayed in giving bridal gifts. This murder angered the pantheon of gods.
On the other hand, Zeus pitied the mortal and invited him up to Mt. Olympus for a banquet. He soon discovered that the man had intentioned to lie with Hera. To test the king, Zeus created a cloud phantom in the shape of Hera.
Ixion, blinded by desire, slept with the image and it gave birth to a deformed man named Centaurus, the first centaur. This lonesome creature found no company from humans or the gods. He become isolated on the mountain of Pelion and eventually resorted to sex with mares. The unnatural union created the centaur race. The beasts lived out their days stealing women and harassing travellers with sticks.
The moral of the story: our animal passions destroy our nature. Were they civilized man? Or savages? What are we?
The most popular story with centaurs involves the marriage feast of Pirithous. The king of the Lapiths, native hunters of Thessaly, married the beautiful Hippodamia. Once the bride was revealed, the drunken centaur Eurytion tried to abduct her, prompting a terrible war between the party guests. The battle ended with the exile of the centaurs from the land.
Artist have taken up the theme of the wedding conflict throughout history, known as the Centauromachy. It became a symbol for the Greek triumph (the “civilized world”) over eastern barbarians. Early Greeks would have been unfamiliar and even shocked seeing armored cavalry. Thus, it’s not hard to see why they would tell stories of literal horse men.
The centaur Chiron is an exception to their rule. He’s mentioned in the Iliad, the Achilleid, and other epics as the wise teacher of Greek heroes, like Heracles and Jason.
In later antiquity, the centaurs are identified as servants and chariot bearers of the wine god Dionysus.
Centaurs are pretty wild! There are plenty of things to love about them. Here are the main traits of a centaur:
(1) – Half Beasts
First of all, they have half a horse body. If you think about it, that’s super rad.
Your power to transverse land gives you an advantage over steep hillsides and rocky terrain. If you’re an outdoorsy person and like exploring, then you should be a centaur.
Next, we have the speed! You probably won’t fit on a urban subway, but you can cross the country normally with much greater ease as a centaur. That’s my opinion. Kinda hard to test centaur speed compared to a car. We have to consider that cars must obey stoplights and breakdown if they aren’t maintained. Half-horse-half-man keeps going. And, they don’t even have to strictly use roads.
You can also take your friends for a ride on your back.
Horses also eat a ton! So, I am betting centaurs would require just as large a diet. If you live out in the wild like the centaurs of mythology, that requires hunting. And hunting means tiresome work. If you’re city dwelling centaur, then you’ll be spending a huge part of your time and money on food.
But – you do get to eat constantly! I love food.
And… we cannot fail to mention… the magnificent horse body is blessed with luscious fur, dominant muscles, and an enormous dong. As a centaur, you’ll be the mostly fabulously masculine creature imaginable.
(2) – Lawless Clans
If you don’t like politics or generally following rules, centaurs might feel like a dream come true.
According to the legends, they all lived in packs in the forests of Thessaly. While there’s no mention of a centaur king or organized leader in their myths, we can assume they live like animals. Perhaps there’s an alpha male that leads hunts. Otherwise, you’re free to live out your wild side.
Laws? Those are for schmucks! Centaurs are very independent and do whatever feels right in the moment.
Anarchy is great for some, but it’s also dangerous. Just because the bride looks hot at the wedding, doesn’t mean centaurs should jump up and steal her away. Moral relativism doesn’t seem to work in practice.
You should be careful you’re not blamed for the actions of others. True independence means you’re not responsible for anyone but yourself. You don’t want to feel dragged into a senseless war.
(3) – Party Animals
Centaurs love to party, drink, and do all things fun. It’s like a college spring break every day.
Again, they have giant, hefty bodies. Centaurs can indulge in far more junk food and booze than normal humans.
If you don’t have self control, too much partying can end badly. Always remember to have a designated sober centaur to prevent any mischief.
However, if you’re an introvert, centaur festivities may actually be annoying.
So… that’s a nice overview of both mermaids and centaurs with my opinions.
I feel I would rather be a merman because I have the whole ocean mostly to myself and it seems nice being a symbol of mystery sought after by sailors everywhere.
But which creature would you rather be?