Brief Legends Merrow Legend


Male MerrowMermaid'Faeries' by Brian Froud and Alan Lee
“The Irish merpeople are called Merrows and they can be distinguished from other sea-dwelling faeries in that they wear red feather caps to propel themselves down to their homes in the depths. Should their caps be stolen, they can no longer return to their watery homes. The female Merrows are very beautiful and, like other mermaids, appear before storms as an omen, but they are gentle by nature and often fall in love with mortal fisherman. This can partly be explained by the extreme ugliness of the male Merrows. Despite their alarming aspect, the males too have their redeeming features, as they are generally amiable and jovial in character. Both males and females sometimes come ashore in the form of little hornless cattle.”

'The Vanishing People: Fairy Lore and Legends ' by Katharine Briggs
“Merrows: The Merrows are the Irish mer-people. Like the Roane they live in dry land under the sea and need an enchantment to make them able to pass through the water.  The female Merrows are beautiful, but the males are very ugly though friendly. See The Soul Cages, T. Crofton Crocker.”

'The Trooping Fairies' - W. B. Yeates [1888]
"The Merrow, or if you write it in the Irish, Moruadh or Murúghach, from muir, sea, and oigh, a maid, is not uncommon, they say, on the wilder coasts. The fishermen do not like to see them, for it always means coming gales. The male Merrows (if you can use such a phrase--I have never heard the masculine of Merrow) have green teeth, green hair, pig's eyes, and red noses; but their women are beautiful, for all their fish tails and the little duck-like scale between their fingers. Sometimes they prefer, small blame to them, good-looking fishermen to their sea lovers. Near Bantry in the last century, there is said to have been a woman covered all over with scales like a fish, who was descended from such a marriage. Sometimes they come out of the sea, and wander about the shore in the shape of little hornless cows. They have, when in their own shape, a red cap, called a cohullen druith, usually covered with feathers. If this is stolen, they cannot again go down under the waves.

Red is the colour of magic in every country, and has been so from the very earliest times. The caps of fairies and magicians are well-nigh always red."

Mermaid: A sea fairy, half women, half fish. Generally a sinister and murderous character, but occasionally wise and benevolent with great medical knowledge. They have been known to entice human lovers with their songs of enchantment. They can cause ship-wrecking storms and are most frequently seen combing their long hair whilst admiring themselves in mirrors.

Mermen: The male form of Mermaid. Often uglier and rougher in the British Isles, but a more sympathetic character in the Scandinavian tradition. Mermen have been rarely seen. They have been described as exceptionally ugly and scaled with pig-like features and long pointed teeth.