A mermaid found a swimming lad,
Picked him for her own,
Pressed her body to his body,
Laughed; and plunging down
Forgot in cruel happiness
That even lovers drown. – William Butler Yeats
Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides is imbued with a hoard of hideous horrors that make Jack Sparrow & co’s quest for the Fountain of Youth a nightmarish noose of deadly danger. But none is quite so terrifying as the mermaids of White Cape.
Seamen, both merchants and pirates alike, live in fear of being ensnared by the beguilement of a mermaid; a nautical femme fatal who lurks in the abyssal depths of the underwater, singing sailors into an enchanted stupor, distracting them from their work and causing them to lurch off deck or to run their ship aground. Other folk tales depict mermaids squeezing the life out of drowning men while attempting to rescue them. In Hans Christian Andersen’s The Little Mermaid, it is said that mermaids forget that humans cannot breathe underwater, while other stories say they drown men out of spite, while still other fables portray mermaids as benevolent in thought and mind. Drawing on the ambiguities of the aforementioned mythology, ‘Pirates 4’ embellishes the fear that mermaids as merciless monsters, veiled by beauty, who seduce sea farers with their irresistible charm and loveliness, and in so doing cajole them into a bond of unseverable desire that often leads them into compromising, dangerous, and deathly situations. Mermaids are portrayed as bestial creatures, which act on an instinct driven by bloodlust; to kill and consume.
Launching from the water with a primal thirst for man flesh, mermaids snare their prey with a ferocious set of vampiric fangs that sink into the sumptuous skin of their victims, before pulling them beneath the water for a repulsive repast of carnivorous carnage. They swim with stealth and attack without warning; pirates are no match for a mass-murdering multitude of masochistic mermaids.
And then there is Syrena (meaning “enchanter”).
As dangerous as mermaids are, they have a great propensity for love… apparently. Or perhaps ‘men of the cloth’ are just their Achilles heel? While princes and pirates fight to feast on the waters of eternal youth, Syrena and faith-filled Philip fall in love, and ultimately plunge headfirst into a the mysterious waters of chiasmic eternity. Shakespeare used the voice of Juliet to say it best “My only love sprung from my only hate!” Syrena is seduced a man who is not usual (but a man nonetheless) and Philip seduced by the desire for redemption and forgiveness, which is granted by Syrena’s unfathomable nature.
Through the film’s invocation of love, a sense of glorious mystique resonates through the brutal barbarism and exquisite elegance of one of legend’s most enigmatic and alluring creations.
If you looked down to the bottom of my soul, you would understand fully the source of my longing and – pity me. Even the open, transparent lake has its unknown depths, which no divers know. – The Little Mermaid, Hans Christian Anderson