Christian mythology, girl with the glowing hair, greek mythology, investigation, Margaret Atwood, mermaid, Russian mythology, siren, sirin, snark olympics, The Robber Bride
I’ve just finished reading my initial draft of GIRL WITH THE GLOWING HAIR, and those sarcastic characters could seriously win the snark Olympics. Still absolutely in love with them.
Today, I wanted to focus on the siren.
According to Lily’s ethology book:
Sirens are nocturnal, prone to water, and travel in groups of three. They’re characterized by their smooth talk and pride—often challenging muses to musical competitions without much success. Most importantly, they’re dangerously tempting in a way that denies reason, allowing them to be dealers of destruction and death.
Lily experiences their power early on as one quiets her first class and subdues their teacher. His eventual disappearance sparks her investigation. Later in the novel, she also meets Thorn, another siren who’s flirty and smooth demeanor puts Lily off. Still, he’s more than willing to verbally spar with my protagonist as a member of the debate team.
My sirens come in the form of regular teens, but most mythology shows them as chimera, typically associated with the mermaid, or further back as a half-woman, half-bird. However, all mythology shows them as using hypnotic music to lure others to danger and death.
Older depictions of the siren come from Greek mythology, like Homer, the Ovid, and the Odyssey. Typically shown as three women who enchanted men with their beauty, one using her voice, a second using a flute, and the last with her lyre, and they lured these men to watery graves.
In Christianity, they’re symbolic of dangerous temptations and some Jesuit writers asserted their actual existence, who described such a woman as having the glance of a basilisk, an enchanting voice, and beauty that defies reason—a “voice and sight alike deal destruction and death.” Some argue that they were built aboard Noah’s Ark.
In Russian mythology, the Sirin were portrayed as wearing a crown or with a halo. She sang to the saints of future fortune but was dangerous to humans. Often, men fought their hypnotic spells by shooting cannons, ringing bells, and making other loud noises to make them fly off. However, the Sirin was seen as positive, symbolizing eternal joy and divine happiness—only happy people could hear the Sirin.
In modern literature, Margaret Atwood depicts a contemporary siren in her The Robber Bride as “the alluring and evil from both [traditional mermaid and mythical siren] into one devastatingly fearful and desirable woman. Judging by the marketing copy for The Robber Bride, Zenia, seems to be the modern exemplar of this mermaid siren/creature. She seduces and steals the men of her best friends, defrauds a substantial amount of money from one of them, blackmails another, and fakes her own death” (Trigg). She is also compared to a wolf, feral, fearsome, and brilliant, which furthers the connection to other half-animal creatures, like the mermaid. Trigg has compiled some nice references in her publicly-posted thesis, here.
It seems that as a whole, sirens depict manipulation, danger, and death.
Stay tuned for more mini-ethology lessons from Lily Graves’s world and sign up for an ARC of the first in her series, GIRL WITH THE GLOWING HAIR.