Tag Archives: nature

A sailor does speed dating with a mermaid

3 Naughty Ladies of Fantasy Fiction

A manatee's smile lured love-starved sailors

A manatee’s smile lured love-starved sailors

A warning today for the gentlemen. In some Fantasy Worlds, you will find lascivious females. Guard your virtue!

While Lita was researching her next book, Old Bony Blue Eyes, she found several kinds of mer females in fantasy and folklore stories. An alarming pattern emerged. The mermaid tales combined two dangerous mysteries for menfolk–women and the ocean.

Could this all be mistaken identity? Lonely sailors long at sea might mistake sightings of manatees and dugongs for our aqua princesses. Perhaps the manatee’s seductive smile is an irresistible lure, and sailors will shipwreck in their haste to meet this lovely gal. But wait. These gentle, large water mammals look nothing like a shapely human woman. Must be water mirages.  Let’s stick with fantasy artistry for our sea girls and not spoil the mood.

Sea nymph and water birds

Sea nymph and water birds


A Greek water Nymph is a minor female deity, and she inhabits a specific water site. Nymphs are lovely maidens who enjoy amorous freedom, which separates them from the other chaste women of the Greeks. The nymph’s sexual forwardness is especially dangerous for male travelers far away from home.

There are many types of nymphs, classified by their preference of watery haunts.  Where exactly is the risk? Here are the places to find, er, avoid, these dangerous ladies:

  • Oceanids (any salty water)
  • Haliae (sea and seashores)
  • Nereids (more than 50 nymphs in the Mediterranean Sea)
  • Naiads/Limnades/Limnatides (fresh water ladies)
  • Eleionomae (wetlands)
  • Kathybates (hot tubs and whirlpools)
  • Pegaeae (springs)
  • Potameides (rivers and rills)
  • Crinaeae (fountains and wells)
Golden Mermaid

Golden Mermaid


Unlike the human form of the nymph, a Mermaid is a water creature with the upper body of a beautiful human woman and the lower body of a fish. She is a powerful swimmer, and loves to sun herself on rocky shores.

We usually see her long hair undulating in the ocean currents.  Fish scales begin at her shapely mid-torso and extend downward not into legs, but a glorious and glimmering tail. She can breathe underwater, but the gills are not visible.

Mermaids are associated with dangerous events like storms, shipwrecks and drownings. But in other legends, they are kindly and fall in love with humans. Problem is, a mermaid will pull her eager lover into the ocean depths for a romantic tryst, forget that he cannot breathe underwater, and drown him. So guys, take an extra scuba tank and stop fussing about how the air regulator in your mouth hampers your technique.

A sailor and a siren plan date night activities

A sailor and a siren plan date night activities


Greek myth brings us another water gal, the Siren. Fantasy stories are unclear as to her appearance.  Sometimes she is a human-bird hybrid (like a beautiful harpy), other times a mermaid with flowing tail and hair, or just a fetching human form. Whatever her appearance, the siren is a dangerous date.

Our siren is a femme fatale (another warning–we also find this loose lady in the Film Noir Fantasy World) who sings to sailors and lures them with her sweet propositions to run their ships aground on rocky shores. Once ashore, her dates are so beguiled by her appearance, they forget to eat.  The siren’s trophies are the heaps of decaying bodies of the men who starve to death while enjoying her womanly delights. Perhaps, guys, you might tie a string around a certain body part to remind you to eat something during your siren date (of course Lita means your finger–don’t blame the siren for your naughty thoughts).

Gentlemen, the risks are clear. When journeying in Fantasy Worlds, avoid travelling to the sea, inland lakes, and taking showers at the Bates Motel. Do not even go near the water, or these naughty ladies will sully your reputation.

A New Rocky Floating Island

Floating Rocks

This island has just broken off from its spire at the South Pole

We are in one of the Gear Rooms for Kadmeion’s airship. Step over here. I want to show you something.

Some of the automata have removed the hull’s inner wall boards so you can see the floating rocks that miners have cut into bricks. The mortar holds the bricks in place. The wall boards keep the bricks from wandering about the room if they work themselves free.

Why do some rocks float? It has to do with the South Pole at the spindle.

Volcanic activity at the pole heats rocks until they melt. This intense heat causes the latent magic to transform the liquid rock until it is lighter than air. The strings of rock flow upward, collect into top-heavy spires, and cool. Earthquakes break the islands free of their fragile spires. The islands hover close to the ground where plants, birds, and animals jump onto their new home. They finally float to the edge of the South Pole landmass and go out to sea.

Mathematicians can calculate a floating island’s age by its size, distance from the South Pole, and its height above the sea. Old islands lose their buoyancy and sink closer to the sea. Some of the oldest islands rest it the sea for a time before the Rim storms tear them apart.

Let’s go see the Crew Quarters next.

Dig Dog, and Die

A dog digging for mandrake roots, from Mandragora Tacinum Sanitatis (Wikipedia)

I wanted to talk today about a dog’s occupation you will find in Lita’s forthcoming (next month, in October) story, Forever Boy. I searched for a 15th or 16th century practice involving a hazardous, magic-related activity for dogs. Let me tell you what I found.

All in the (Nightshade) Family

The mandrake is a medicinal plant related to deadly nightshade, and causes a narcotic effect. Mandrake has a parsnip-like root 3 to 4 feet long. Large, dark-green leaves extend from the root crown like a tobacco plant. Mandrake leaves have a foul odor. The primrose-type flowers produce a fruit with a yellow-apple appearance.

Mandrake roots resemble a human torso. It purportedly has magical powers. Old texts depict the male root with a long beard, and the female with bushy hair.

Killer of a Job

The best mandrake plants grew under gallows trees, where the body fluids of hanged murders fell to the ground and quickened the root’s magical properties. The problem was that the roots shrieked when pulled out of the earth. These cries killed anyone within hearing distance. It was hard to find employees for this work. The position had high turnover.

Here is where a dog’s occupation came in.

Mandrake harvesters dug a trench to reach the roots, tied a dog to a root, ran out of earshot, and coaxed the dog to come to them (usually with a piece of meat). The tethered dog pulled the root out of the earth and died from the plant’s screams. The dog’s death placated the root and the men could then safely handle it.

No Dogs Were Harmed in the Writing of This Book

Fiction writing is all about answering “What if…?” So, what if a mandrake-digging dog did not die? Why didn’t it die? Why would Wizard Kadmeion and his assistant Bright be interested in this dog? And most important, what happened to the jerk of a mandrake harvester who let other dogs die?

We meet our Forever Boy while he is digging for mandrake roots. He doesn’t die. There’s a minor demon involved. Kadmeion and Bright are nearby. And of course, things go horribly wrong.

I’ll tell you all about it in October.