Monday, August 5, 2013

Inspiration Week: Sirens

Hello, internet!

This week, The Larkin Lair is going to present you with a special treat*. Every day, leading up to Saturday, I am going to put up a post discussing the things that most inspired me as I began writing my series, Lorelei, Once. Then, on Saturday--which I think we can all agree is the best day of the week--I will post the first chapter from Book 1: Siren.

It seems fitting that we start with the title creature, don't you think?

"I love -*glub glub glub*"
The siren, in one form or another, has always been woven into the fabric of human imagination.

That may seem like an overly bold statement to make ("Try Siren Cereal! Nothing compares! Ever!") but think about it: every culture has that creature in the dark--the one that calls out, luring innocent (or not so innocent!) people to their demise. Sometimes the lure is a familiar voice. Sometimes it is a smell, or a light.

In the case of the Ancient Greek sirens (and a few others that I know of), the siren's call was a song.

Particularly, it was the song of Persephone.

See, one of the origin stories for the Greek sirens (being the Greeks, what with their communal authorships and all, there are several different versions) told that the sirens were once the handmaids to Demeter's daughter, Persephone. When Persephone went missing (either kidnapped or seduced or just boot-knocking with Hades), Demeter gave the sirens wings, and commanded them to find her daughter. When they failed (boots be a'knockin'), Demeter cursed them.

Of course, everything turned out okay for Persephone, Hades and Demeter, but the sirens were still cursed. Greek Goddesses don't play.

"I'm home! And with no consequences!"

Of course, some authors ignore this story entirely, and the sirens just happen to be monsters who like tormenting humans. The song THESE sirens sing is all prophet-y, the better to torture sailors with the lives they are missing in exchange for duty or adventure.
"La-La-La! This will make a few terrible movies someday!"

Beyond the Greek stories, sirens exist in many forms. Sometimes they are still called sirens--sometimes they are Rusalka, the sexy Russian water sprites, or the Huldra, who could be kind but would kill a man right up if he didn't satisfy her during their coupling, or Mermaids, who think drowning horny things is hilarious.

"Get your ass. In this water. Right now."
Of course, the noisy water sprites aren't always malicious--or, at least, they aren't always evil by nature. In "The Ring" (best known for operatic music stings regarding Valkyries) there are the Rhinemaidens: three sisters who make casual mentions of an unseen 'Father,' but who mainly exist to guard a powerful golden ring. Which is stolen by a...jilted leprechaun, I guess.

Don't sexually frustrate little men. They may steal your life's purpose.
The Rhinemaidens are probably my favorite part of the play--and it includes Valkyries. Come on. They're just these random ethereal creatures, doin' what they do, and they seem so removed from the drama that unfolds around them. And why wouldn't they be? Humans come and go, flicker in and out of life, but the Rhinemaidens' world never changes. Except for that bit with the ring. But even then, they just trust that it will come back to where it belongs.

And full circle, back to the Greeks, we have the Nymphs.

Seen here, having a friendly chat with Hercules' boyfriend.
These are the original bathing beauties: sprites who not only live in but are so attached to nature that, should their area be damaged, they just...die. They freaking die if they are removed from their home by any means!

But they existed in a time when such a thing was incredibly rare. Humans had their areas--cities and cathedrals and whatever--and nature was its own thing. You didn't touch it. You avoided it if you could. Because it was full of territorial monsters.

Except the nymphs--and in many cases, other cultural 'sirens'--weren't actually monsters. They just didn't comprehend humans as anything to be bothered with or protected or even taken notice of. Very rarely, a human would enter the domain of the magical creatures, and then they were fair game. It wasn't a matter of doing evil, or an instance of malice. It was just the natural order of things.

Look at those happy faces. The baby is the only one that looks capable of violence.
I took bits and pieces from all of these in the creation of my sirens--as well as adding bits and pieces of my own touch. There are rules for these sirens--rules they aren't even fully aware of, but which they obey simply because that's what they do. I gave my water babies a sort of silly innocence--yes, they seduce humans into their watery graves, but they don't see it as anything even remotely wrong. It's a game. They're basically kittens playing with crickets--except that they glow, love the water, and the crickets are unwitting humans.

Final note: I have seen some people get rather huffy over the fact that sirens, mermaids, and harpies have been blended together over the last few centuries. Mythology nerd that I am, this doesn't bother me. I think it's worth noting the distinction, but do you know what else is worth noting? Science accepted the link between mermaids and a certain living sea creature, to the point that 'Sirenia' is an actual animal classification.

"La-La-La! Give me a carrot!"

*Okay, it may not seem incredibly special now, but when I'm rich and famous and have tattoos this will be neat to look back on.

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