The Lives of Merpeople

Starling 12
Dreams & Schemes
Published in
2 min readApr 24, 2021

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Idea: Society

Genre: Fantasy

Pitch: To expand on my last post about Selkies, let’s look at other underwater societies. Merpeople are a classic fantasy trope. Their legends have existed for hundreds of years and can easily be integrated into any fantasy world. But often in modern writings, merpeople are simply humans who live in the sea — they have fish tails, coral-like homes, tridents for weapons, and other sea-themed aspects, but more often than not, the ocean is merely a theme to their culture.

If you watch a few ocean nature documentaries, you can see that the ocean’s culture isn’t merely an aesthetic. Sea otters have friendship bonds and hold paws while they sleep. Dolphins and whales have their own complex form of language, with questioning clucking sounds and playful chips. Some dolphins are even known for playing games by blowing air bubble-rings underwater and then playing with them. These kinds of creatures teach and communicate with each other in surprisingly advanced ways — a merperson would be like them, but with the intelligence of a human.

How might this express itself? Merpeople would likely live in pods with set roles of who hunts and who protects the young ones. They would have a specific territory or migratory pattern. If another pod trespassed on this area, the two would clash. And though each child of the pod would know their mother and be primarily taken care of by her, the entire pod would contribute to protecting and raising them. And of course, sonic communication wouldn’t be only through words — there would be sounds that expressed curiosity, anger, threats, and other common general topics. If there were differences between verbal languages of the different pods, these sounds would probably remain the same even among them. Nonetheless, the culture of the merpeople would be very, very different from humans, in more ways than just their location and appearance.

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