Book of Treasures

Book of Treasures f. 47r, The mermaids
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f. 47r, The mermaids

According to the ancient authors, there were three mermaids. These mermaids were pictured with a body half maiden (from the waist up) and half fish, with wings and nails, and they were extraordinarily skilled to sing. One of them sang with her own voice, another one with a flute, and the third one did it with a lyre. With their song, they attracted the sailors that, fascinated, were led to shipwreck. However, the truth is that mermaids were meretrices that destructed the life those who passed by, and, as a result, these men felt forced to simulate their shipwreck. Old stories say that they had wings and nails because love flies and hurts; and that they lived in the waves, precisely because waves created Venus and lust was born out from humidity.
 
Nonetheless, in Arabia there are snakes with wings that are called mermaids. These snakes are faster than horses and, according to what is said of them, they also fly. In addition, their poison is as powerful that death suddenly follows even before feeling their bite.

Translation of the original text by Brunetto Lattini in the Bestiary of the Book of Treasures (ca.1230-1294)
Preserved in the National Library of Russia, Saint Petersburg
 

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