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  • Hello. This is 6 Minute English from BBC Learning English.

  • I'm Neil,

  • and I'm Georgina.

  • Do you believe in ghosts, Georgina?

  • Well, I've never actually seen one,

  • not even at Halloween.

  • How about dragons then?

  • Or fairies and elves?

  • Have you been reading fantasy books, Neil?

  • Lord of the Rings?

  • I have been reading a book, Georgina,

  • but not Lord of the Rings.

  • My book is about an amphibious creature,

  • a creature that lives both on land and in water.

  • Some kind of Frog-Man?

  • You've almost got the idea, Georgina,

  • but think, woman, not man,

  • and fish, not frog.

  • Half-woman, half-fish?

  • I've got it! A mermaid.

  • That's right! Mermaids are magical creatures,

  • half-woman, half-fish,

  • a feature in the myths and legends of many cultures around the world.

  • Like the Sirens,

  • whose seductive singing shipwrecked Odysseus and his sailors in ancient Greek mythology.

  • The Sirens are perhaps the most famous,

  • but certainly not the only mermaids we'll be hearing about.

  • But before we dive into the programme,

  • it's time for my quiz question.

  • The book I've been reading was, of course,

  • "The Little Mermaid."

  • Yes, I've seen the Disney movie.

  • The mermaid is called Ariel.

  • Right, but the movie was based on a fairy tale

  • written by Hans Christian Andersen.

  • It became so famous that a statue of the Little Mermaid was built in the harbor of Andersen's birthplace.

  • But where?

  • Was it: a) Amsterdam, b) Copenhagen, or c) Oslo?

  • I'm going to say b) Copenhagen.

  • OK, Georgina, I'll tell you the answer later.

  • Disney's defenseless mermaid, Ariel, seems the total opposite to the seductive, dangerous Sirens in the Odyssey.

  • In fact, descriptions and stories of mermaids have always changed from place to place.

  • One mermaid-like character found across Africa and the Americas is named Mami Wata.

  • Here's British writer, Marcelle Mateki, talking about the origins of this legend to BBC World Service programme, The Forum.

  • Even the name, Mami Wata, which is Pidgin English for "Mother Water."

  • So, it's loosely translated from Pidgin English as "the mother of water."

  • And the characteristics are commonly shared when speaking about Mami Wata across the West African coast is that this deity is the protector of the water kingdom.

  • The name "Mami Wata" comes from Nigerian Pidgin English, a language which has developed from a mixture of two languages and is used as a way of communicating by people who do not speak each other's languages.

  • Marcelle says that Mami Wata means "the mother of water" when loosely translated, translated in a way that carries over the basic ideas

  • but using words which may not be so accurate.

  • Mami Wata is also described as the protector of the water kingdom

  • and a deity, a god, goddess, or other divine being.

  • Another version of a mermaid-like creatures, called Selkies, are found in the remote Orkney Islands, north of the Scottish mainland.

  • The Selkies can take human form and marry men,

  • but every now and then, they return to their watery kingdom under the sea.

  • Cristina Bacchilega is co-editor of "The Penguin Book of Mermaids."

  • According to her, these different versions of mermaids share something in common.

  • They force us to question our relationship to water and other beings in the natural world,

  • and even to question how we see ourselves.

  • Here's Cristina explaining more in the BBC World Service's The Forum.

  • The beings, not just mermaids,

  • but Selkies and water deities and other water spirits are often shape-shifters, they have a certain kind of fluidity of being.

  • So do we approach this world with humility, or do we really uphold a kind of anthropocentric view, human-centred view of life?

  • Mythical creatures are often shape-shifters.

  • They have the power to change into a different shape or form.

  • Moving between the sea and the Earth, mermaids link two natural worlds.

  • Cristina thinks that as humans, we should approach them with humility.

  • Someone who has humility is not proud and doesn't think they are better than others.

  • Well, Neil, I don't think I'm better than a ghost, a water spirit or a mermaid, it's just that I've never seen one.

  • But then again, I've never seen electricity, and I believe in that!

  • Maybe it would help if you saw a statue of a mermaid, if not the real thing.

  • Maybe, but where would I find one?

  • In my quiz question, I asked you where you'd see the statue of Hans Christian Andersen's Little Mermaid.

  • What did you say, Georgina?

  • I guessed b) Copenhagen,

  • which was the correct answer!

  • The Little Mermaid statue is found in Andersen's birthplace of Copenhagen.

  • And it really is little, only one and a quarter meters high!

  • In this programme,

  • we've been talking about mermaids, mythical half-woman, half-fish creatures which are amphibious, live both on land and in water.

  • In some cultures, mermaids are deities or goddesses.

  • They can also be shape-shifters, imaginary creatures with the power to change into different shapes.

  • One African mermaid is called Mami Wata in Pidgin English, a mixture of English and local languages which enables people who do not share a common language to communicate.

  • Mami Wata means "Mother Water," but this is a loose translation, a translation which carries over the basic idea,

  • but using words which may not be so accurate.

  • That's all for this programme,

  • but the next time you're near the sea, keep an eye out for a splash in the waves.

  • You never know what you might see!

  • Join us again soon for more discussion and vocabulary here at 6 Minute English,

  • and follow us on social media. Bye for now! Bye!

Hello. This is 6 Minute English from BBC Learning English.

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Mermaids - 6 Minute English

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    林宜悉 posted on 2021/05/27
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