Janet Ellis heads to Cornwall, Preston and Macclesfield to speak to authors, storytellers and academics about the power of the mermaid image and its origins.
She hears from the man who came up with the Starbucks logo, perhaps the most prevalent mermaid in modern culture, and finds out the identity of the 'girl next door' on whom it was based. Janet also trawls through the myriad mermaid references in art and literature, from Robert Graves and Ts Eliot to the Pre-Raphaelites, who used the mermaid as a powerful image of voluptuous sexuality.
The legend of the mermaid is said to date back to the days when sailors far from home would mistake sea mammals like manatees and dugongs for semi-human creatures. Since the days of Homer, the image of the mysterious female luring sailors to their deaths has remained extremely powerful in the popular imagination, and has survived numerous reinventions over the centuries. With the help of the likes of Hans Christian Andersen and Walt Disney, mermaids have become as much a mainstay of modern childhood as pirates and princesses.
How mermaids have become such a persistent image in popular culture.