The word ‘merrow’ comes from combining the Irish word for ‘sea’ and ‘maid’ together ‘seamaid’ or ‘muir-oigh’. Originally it referred specifically to the female of the species but these days it refers to both. Irish mermen (the male of the species) are considered to be exceptionally repulsive to human eyes. They are scaly with flat-faced, pig-like features and very long, sharp, shark-like teeth. However, the female of the species is said to be very beautiful, appearing as a fair maiden from the waist up but with a fish tail from the waist down.
Because the male of the species is so ugly female female merrows prefer to take human lovers. This preference is so strong that often human males are taken against their wishes to the underwater homes of the merrows and kept there with magic and enchantments. It’s also not a good idea for these hostages to try too hard to get away as merrows have tempers and can be thrown into a rage, drowning their hostages or other innocent sailors, raising storms to kill as many humans as possible – they have even been known to eat their hostages.
Unfortunately, young Luty from the coast of Kerry did not know this about merrows. When he came across a beautiful woman with a fish tail who had been stranded on the beach by the outgoing tide his immediate thought was to help the beautiful young lady. Luty was a good old-fasioned gentleman and after having asked the merrow’s name and if she needed help, he picked her up and brought her down to the edge of the water in his arms. He waded into the ocean with her and when he was waist deep, he let her go. This was enough water for her to be able to escape back into the ocean, but not too much water that he risked drowning. The merrow, named Marina, put her hands to his face in gratitude and told him that she would grant him three wishes because of his selfless act that day. Luty pondered on the wishes for a few minutes and then asked for three things. Firstly, the ability to break the spells of witchcraft, secondly, to compel spirits to do good things, and thirdly to have these powers passed down his bloodline. Marina was very impressed with Luty’s wishes as he had wished for nothing selfish, rather the ability to bring good things to the world. As an extra reward she granted his family the gift of prosperity. Luty was thrilled and held her hand to shake it and wished her all the best of luck in life. But when he turned to go, Marina had other plans. She would not let go of Luty’s hand. She had realised that she may never find another man with as beautiful a soul as Luty’s and so she wanted to posses him. She quickly started uttering an enchantment to seduce Luty and force him to come to her underwater realm willingly as her lover. However Luty realised what was happening and quickly, albeit reluctantly drew his iron knife from his pocket. Iron was well known in Ireland at the time as being something that terrified the fairy folk. It worked, Marina was shocked and quickly released Luty and dove beneath the waves before the iron could hurt her. Before she disappeared however, she told Luty she would return in exactly nine years time to claim him.
Soon enough Luty had forgotten about her promise. He married a beautiful human woman and had two sons. Nine years later he was out fishing with his son on the rocks off a beach when Marina popped her head up above the waves. Before Luty even had time to understand what was happening Marina had enchanted him. Luty lost all his willpower and in front of his son, stood up and dove beneath the waves. Everything had happened too quickly for Luty or his son to act to break the enchantment with their new powers and so Luty was never seen or heard of again.
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