(CNN) — Mermaid folklore exists in cultures all all over the world, not simply Disney’s “The Little Mermaid.”

Because the announcement that Chloe x Halle singer Halle Bailey would play Ariel within the upcoming live-action movie, there’s been a heated dialogue about whether or not a black girl ought to play a personality who’s white in Disney’s original animated film.

Disney cable channel Freeform defended the casting on Instagram, reminding readers that the creator of the tailored fairy story, Hans Christian Andersen, was Danish and urged that the mermaid might have been, too.

“Danish mermaids may be black as a result of Danish *folks* may be black,” learn the assertion, titled, “An open letter to the Poor, Unlucky Souls,” a reference to one of many animated film’s songs.

Mermaid legends have been handed down between generations and have represented completely different races in addition to cultural and ethnic backgrounds from across the globe.

These are only a few:


The goddess Yemaya of the Yoruba religion in Havana during the celebrations for the day of Yemaya.

The goddess Yemaya of the Yoruba faith in Havana throughout the celebrations for the day of Yemaya.

STR/AFP/AFP/Getty Pictures

Originating within the Yoruba faith, Yemaya or Yemoja is a West African water spirit referred to as the goddess of the ocean, who’s related to constructive qualities to assist regulate social and religious practices.

Spelman Faculty English professor R. Nicole Smith mentioned some artists have depicted the African deity as a mermaid as her story is shared in Western tradition.

Smith mentioned it is essential for folks, particularly younger folks, to see themselves represented in tales — whether or not it is fantasy or mythology — as a result of it permits them the chance to think about what their futures may very well be.

“Most of us could not really consider in mermaids, however it’s what the mermaid represents,” mentioned Smith, who researches modern American literature and Afrofuturism.

And Bailey as Ariel represents a chance for African People to be seen in mainstream media.

Mami Wata

Mami Wata, sometimes represented as a snake charmer, is seen throughout Africa as a powerful water spirit.

Mami Wata, typically represented as a snake charmer, is seen all through Africa as a robust water spirit.

Franko Khoury/Nationwide Museum of African Artwork/Smithsonian Establishment

The picture of Mami Wata, additionally a water spirit, has taken on many kinds, together with a mermaid.

Mami Wata represents the finer issues in life, resembling luxurious items. Her story started lengthy earlier than Europeans crossed the ocean to Africa’s shores.

When folks noticed the European ships’ figureheads, Smithsonian National Museum of African Art Deputy Director and Chief Curator Christine Kreamer mentioned they noticed a robust, long-haired. The African folks linked her magnificence and her relation to the Europeans to powers that would deliver safety and wealth.

“These are depictions as imagery that got here throughout and set into an current set of beliefs,” she mentioned. “These pictures that we take a look at as mermaids match into to an current kind of broader perception of highly effective water spirits, after which how that is picked up within the visible arts modifications over time.”


Benton, also called Benzaiten, is one of the Seven Lucky Gods.

Benton, additionally referred to as Benzaiten, is likely one of the Seven Fortunate Gods.

ICHIRO/Photodisc/Getty Pictures

Benton, a water deity, presided over Japan’s geishas and educated lessons that later adopted her as a goddess of prosperity.

Typically referred to as Benzaiten, Benton originated from the Hindu goddess Saraswati. Based on Skye Alexander’s book “Mermaids: The Myths, Legends, and Lore,” Benton got here to Japan with Buddhism within the sixth century and may usually be seen driving a dragon or a snake whereas enjoying a lute.

Mermaids are greater than what some folks have grown up seeing in Disney’s animation, Alexander mentioned. They’re extra various and multidimensional.

“Mythology common tells the reality in a symbolic means,” she mentioned. “And to me, it reveals that if we — all all over the world far earlier than we had web or postal programs or another means of speaking with one another, all of us had comparable tales. And people tales, to me, signify that we’ve got extra in frequent than we’ve got by way of divisiveness.”


The cover art for Jason Porath's book "Rejected Princesses" features the mermaid Iara.

The duvet artwork for Jason Porath’s e-book “Rejected Princesses” options the mermaid Iara.

Courtesy Jason Porath

Iara, additionally spelled Uiara or Yara, is Brazil’s “Woman of the Lake” and is related to the traditional Tupi folks. Based on Jason Porath’s book “Rejected Princesses,” Iara was the brave daughter of an Amazon tribe’s religious chief.

Mythology says Iara’s two brothers had been jealous of her and plotted to kill her in her sleep. However as quickly as they acquired near their sister, Iara killed them in self-defense. She was hunted down for her actions and drowned.

Porath mentioned Andersen’s model of “The Little Mermaid” could not give younger readers one of the best classes for all times. In that fairy story, the mermaid mutilates herself with a potion from a witch so she may be with the prince with whom she has fallen in love.

“Iara’s story has much more company and offers a completely completely different message to people who find themselves studying,” Porath mentioned. “Iara is not essentially a task mannequin, however she’s a completely completely different course.”