She’s pretty hideous. I’ve never understood the stories of Mermaids being buxom, husky seductresses, they would clearly look a hell of a lot more like a human-shaped seal. Mammals require blubber and a fine layer of hair if they live in the sea… not that I was an irritating child to tell stories to or anything.
I do love folklore, the more freakish the better, all of us have our monsters and beasts that skulk in the recesses of our memories. Creatures and stories that struck some terrifying chord in our childhoods and continue to do so in our adulthood at inopportune times.
Zennor always brings me right back to this, the moorland around here in particular; the small ancient field patterns demarcated by crumbled granite, stirs my childhood fears to a pleasing degree.
I remember staying down here, at the Eagle’s Nest (just once, it was an artist/hippy co-op holiday I think), when I was a boy and my Father told me horrifying stories the whole way down. It was the first time I had set foot on this landscape and it seared itself into my mind.
I was actually most afraid of the then aged, hermit-like figure who lived in the house adjacent, whom I was assured hated children. This was, I understood later, the mildly famous St. Ives set artist Patrick Heron.
I later learned, in my teens, that Aleister Crowley occupied some accursed granite farmhouse down here for a time and terrifyed the local populace with his occult ways. That only added to the mystique.
Although Zennor is linked to Art, the occult, neolithic and Bronze/Iron Age landmarks I would say it’s most pervasive claim to fame is that of the legend of the mermaid. Think of your standard ‘local-boy-seduced-by-beautiful mermaid-then-both-die’ story with various embellishments and you’ll be near the mark. Mermaid folklore is one of the few types that does not interest me.
There have been numerous adaptations, from mind meltingly awful BBC radio plays to Charles Causley’s efforts.
Zennor is one of the most lovely villages (with one of the best names) in Cornwall to my mind. It has some excellent, jagged coastal walks to the Gurnard’s Head and beyond and, along with St. Just, a really remote feel. It is also on the best roads in Cornwall – St. ives to St. Just. I do wonder how many people who flock to St. Ives know that the wildest of moors lie just 2 miles to the west.
We didn’t stay too long, I just wanted to snap the Mermaid. There are many more walks here to be done. I hope I will get to them over the next few months.
One of my fellow Cornish bloggers has written of a walk around this area in much finer weather however. Take a look.