|“|| The oldest recorded merpeople were known as sirens (Greece) and it is in warmer waters that we find the beautiful mermaids for frequently depicted in Muggle literature and painting. The selkies of Scotland and the Merrows of Ireland are less beautiful, but they share that love of music which is common to all merpeople.||”|
— Newton Scamander, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
|Average height||Over 200 cm|
|Place of origin||Greek seas (Mediterran and Black)|
|Habitat||Underwater in Greece, Ireland, Scotland and many other locations around the world|
|Locomotion||Body-caudal fin (BCF)|
|Behind the Scenes|
|Created by||Joanne Rowling|
|Designed by||Joanne Rowling|
|Performed by||Modified versions of whale and human sounds|
Merpeople are sapient beasts that live underwater, and are found all over the world. Their customs and habits are mysterious, and, like the centaurs, they refused the being status in favor of beast. Merpeople can breathe above the waves for a time, but it is unclear if they can ever truly leave their habitat.
|“|| Here and there at the dark windows, Harry saw faces...faces that bore no resemblance at all to the painting of the mermaid in the prefects’ bathroom... The merpeople had grayish skin and long, wild, dark green hair. Their eyes were yellow, as were their broken teeth, and they wore thick ropes of pebbles around their necks.||”|
— Narrator, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
Merpeople are creatures resembling half-human, half-fish hybrids (though they are not half-breeds). Like humans, merpeople come in a variety of appearances, though colors uncommon in humans appear to be widespread in the race's ethnic groups. For instance, the majority of the Black Lake colony had green hair, yellow eyes, and grey skin, all traits that would be very uncommon, if not impossible, for a human to naturally possess. Merpeople also seem to be taller than humans, with seven feet appearing to not be an unusual height, at least for a selkie. Merpeople are divided into various sub-species or races, depending on where they live.
Merpeople are a sapient species, and would qualify for full being status if they did not, as a race, reject the classification. Their exact level of intelligence as compared to humans is unknown, however, they possess many traits beyond those of mere animals. Merpeople have a developed language, Mermish, and have even created music (which they are known, as a whole, to be fond of). They live in highly organised communities, some containing elaborate dwellings, and have been known to domesticate creatures such as the grindylow, hippocampus, and lobalug (the latter being used as makeshift weaponry). Other signs of their intelligence include jewelry and weapon making, production of art (both paintings and statues), complex language and an ability to understand communicative gestures.
Mermish is a curious language that is specifically adapted for use underwater. When underwater it sounds much like English, or perhaps even like any other language (Harry Potter is the only one who is personally shown in the books to hear the merpeople); however, out of water the language sounds very screechy and harsh in a way it cannot be understood.
It is unknown whether non-merpeople who can speak mermish sound the same as merpeople underwater i.e. whether or not they retain an accent (though they probably do) though it is known that non-merpeople can speak it. Albus Dumbledore was a known non-merperson speaker, and Percy Weasley claimed that Barty Crouch Sr. could also speak it.
Mermish also has a written form, as it was one of the seventy-two languages that Miranda Goshawk's Book of Spells was published in (hinting a possible magical capacity of merpeople).
The merpeople date back to Ancient Greece, where they were first known as sirens. By the modern era, however, merpeople have spread worldwide. The history of merpeople's relations with wizardkind, or at least the wizarding British government, are somewhat rocky. Chief Elfrida Clagg refused to accept merpeople as beings under her definition of the term as those who could "speak the human tongue", with Mermish not being considered adequate as it could not be understood above water. This decision upset both the merpeople and their allies, the centaurs. Though they were allowed being status under Minister Grogan Stump revised 1811 definition of the term, they would, however, request to be treated as beasts once more, objecting to the fact that such dark creatures as hags and vampires also claimed such status.
Despite being considered beasts at the time, a delegation of merpeople was persuaded to attend the 1692 summit of the International Confederation of Wizards, where they would help decide what to do on the matter of hiding the existence of various magical creatures from muggle comprehension. At some point in the 1800s, Mirabella Plunkett, a witch, fell in love with a merman living in Loch Lomond. When her family disapproved of their marriage, she transfigured herself into a haddock and vanished.
The sirens were the earliest recorded race of merpeople. They lived in Greece. Like most merpeople that live in warm water, sirens were exceptionally beautiful in the human view when compared to colder water merpeople (like selkies and merrows) because of their human-like appearance.
A siren appeared in a portrait in the Prefects' bathroom on the Fifth Floor of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry inside Hogwarts Castle. It appeared to help the Triwizard Champions chosen to compete in the Triwizard Tournament in 1994, namely Cedric Diggory.
In the real world, the sirens were mythological island-dwelling maidens that sung beautiful songs to travelling mariners to lure them into sailing closer and crashing on the treacherous rocks around their island homes.
Selkies are Scottish merpeople, generally considered less beautiful than their warmer-water counterparts, and comparable to the merrows of Ireland.
A colony of selkies lived in the Black Lake on the grounds of Hogwarts Castle, and played a role in the school's history, most notably consenting to be the major obstacles of the Second Task of the 1994 Triwizard Tournament.
In the real world, selkies are creatures appearing in Faroese, Icelandic, Scottish, and Irish myths. They live in the seas as seals, but shed their skin to come on land and search for human lovers.
Merrows are Irish merpeople, generally considered less beautiful than their warmer-water counterparts, and comparable to the selkies of Scotland.
In the real world, merrows are the Gaelic equivalent of the mermaids found in the mythologies of other European cultures.
- According to W.O.M.B.A.T. (Wizards' Ordinary Magic and Basic Aptitude Test), it is possible that freshwater merpeople are less warlike than their saltwater counterparts.
- In LEGO Harry Potter: Years 1-4, the merpeople actually attack, whereas in the film and book they only confronted Harry when he tried to take more than his own hostage, but even then they only threatened to attack.
- In the handheld versions of LEGO Harry Potter: Years 5-7, there are merpeople living in the Forest of Dean lake.