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In the Sirens or Seirenes were Naiad (sea nymphs) approaching sailors were drawn to them by their enchanting singing, causing them to sail on the cliffs and drown.

Odysseus and the Sirens. A painting by Herbert James Draper

Contents

Origin

Sirens were said to live on an island called Sirenum scopuli, or in some different traditions, some place them on cape Pelorum, others in the island of Anthemusa, and others again in the Sirenusian islands near Paestum, or in Capreae, which was surrounded by cliffs and rocks.

They were considered the daughters of Achelous (by Terpsichore, Melpomene or Sterope) or Phorcys (Virgil. V. 846; Ovid XIV, 88). Homer says nothing of their number, but later writers mention both their names and number ; some state that they were two, Aglaopheme and Thelxiepeia (Eustath. ad Horn. p. 1709) ; and others, that there were three, Peisinoe, Aglaope, and Thelxiepeia (Tzetz. ad LycopL7l2)> or Parthenope, Ligeia, and Leucosia (Eustath. /. c.; Strab. v. pp. 246, 252 ; Serv. ad Virg. Georg. iv. 562). Their number is variously reported as between two and five, and their individual names as Thelxiepia/Thelxiope/Thelxinoe, Molpe, Aglaophonos/Aglaope, Pisinoe/PeisinoĆ«, Parthenope, Ligeia, Leucosia, Raidne, and Teles. According to some versions, they were playmates of young Persephone and were changed into the monsters of lore by Demeter for failing to intervene when Persephone was abducted (Ovid V, 551). The term "siren song" refers to an appeal that is hard to resist but that, if heeded, will lead to a bad result.

Appearance

In early Greek art the Sirens were represented as birds with the heads, and sometimes chests, of women. Later, they were represented as female figures with the legs of birds, with or without wings playing a variety of musical instruments. The 10th century encyclopedia Suda [1] says that from their chests up Sirens had the form of sparrows, below they were women, or, alternatively, that they were little birds with women's faces. Birds were chosen because of their characteristic beautiful voice. However, later in history Sirens were sometimes also depicted as beautiful women (whose bodies, not only their voices, are seductive), or even as mermaids (half woman, half fish).

Etymology

In some languages (such as Spanish, French, Italian, Polish and Portuguese) the word for mermaid is Siren, Sirena, Syrena or Sereia; this adds confusion to the differences between sirens and mermaids. In English (Anonymous 1989) "Siren" can be used as synonym for "mermaid".

Behaviour: encounters with the Sirens

Odysseus escaped the Sirens by having all his sailors plug their ears with beeswax and tie him to the mast. He was curious as to what the Sirens sounded like. When he heard their beautiful song, he ordered the sailors to untie him but they ignored him. When they had passed out of earshot, Odysseus stopped thrashing about and calmed down, and was released (Odyssey XII, 39).

Jason had been warned by Chiron that Orpheus would be necessary in his journey. When Orpheus heard their voices, he drew his lyre and played his music more beautifully than they, drowning out their voices. One of the crew, however, the sharp-eared hero Butes, heard the song and leapt into the sea, but he was caught up and carried safely away by the goddess Aphrodite. It is said that after a ship successfully sailed by the Sirens, they threw themselves into the water to show protest. Varying traditions associate this event with their encounters with Jason or Odysseus, though the incident appears in neither Homer's Odyssey nor Apollonios Rhodios's Argonautika. It is also said that Hera, queen of the gods, persuaded the Sirens to enter a singing contest with the Muses. The Muses won the competition and then plucked out all of the Sirens' feathers and made crowns out of them.


See also

Popular culture

Games

  • A Siren can be summoned by characters in many games of the Final Fantasy series; she can usually inflict silence upon the player's opponents. She is often the fourth summon made available to the player, following the fire-, cold-, and lightning-based summons.
  • In the video game series Star Control, one alien species is a race of beautiful blue women named "Syreens". Also, their ships can use mind control to beckon crew from enemy ships to work on theirs.
  • The characters Elle, Flameshe and Monique in the console role-playing game Legend of Mana are sirens. Flameshe is a mermaid, while Elle and Monique are bird-like from the waist down and have wings (though Monique's are decidedly more plant-like than bird-like). Elle (the only playable siren) suffered grief when she realised that her singing had caused the ship to crash and vowed to never sing again, until her friends convinced her that she should not be ashamed of the fact she is a siren. Monique is known for singing to unseen fairies to have them magically light the lamps she crafts.
  • In God of War, the protagonist Kratos has to find and defeat three sirens and their minotaur minions in the desert.
  • Sirens also feature (although only rarely) in the video game Castlevania. On the occasions that they do appear, their physical appearance is never the same. As a character, the Siren is merely a stronger version of a harpy, a "spellcastress", and takes its original mythological form.
  • "Siren" is a class in the video game Tactics Ogre: Knights of Lodis. Instead of being an enchantress (a position taken by the "witch"), the Siren is a magical powerhouse, capable of using the strongest of offensive spells with devastating results.
  • In the video game Sudki there a boss monster that is a siren.
  • Siren is a controllable unit in Warcraft III: The Frozen Throne

Literature/Comics

  • In Terry Brooks' Shannara series there is a species of carnivorous plant called 'Sirens' that grows on the Battlemounds in the Eastlands. The plants have poison thorns which they are capable of launching at prey. They lure their prey within reach with an illusion of a beautiful woman singing.
  • In the comic strip FoxTrot, Paige Fox is represented as a Siren in Peter Fox's dream of the Odyssey.
  • A Marvel Comics superhero named Siryn, whose mutant power has the ability to use a 'sonic scream,' much like Banshee, her father. Both characters' names come from mythological characters best known for their vocal abilities.
  • In the Phantom of the Opera book, Phantom, by Susan Kay, Erik (The Phantom) guards his house by singing underwater, and luring people to their deaths, under the persona of 'The Siren.'
  • In Laurell K Hamilton's Danse Macabre book, Anita Blake runs into a family of sirens who can arouse people through their beauty and their ancient magic. The mother, and her three half-vampire sons hope that Anita can awaken the ability for lust in the siren-mother's eldest son through the medium of her own magic.
  • Siren is Monster in My Pocket #79. She appears to be allied with the evil monsters, as she as shown near Warlock in the first issue. The evil monsters are generally shown in crowds and indistinguishable in most panels, however.

TV

  • In the final season of Sailor Moon, one of the Sailor Animamates (Sailor Galaxia's cronies) mentioned is Sailor Aluminum Siren. In the anime, she doesn't sing, but just as her name suggests, she lures victims to their doom, by disguising herself in human form and when she has the opportunity tries to extract their starseeds but fails, turning them into phages. In Materials Collection, it mentions that she has the power to manipulate songs and that her hobby is ballads.
  • An episode of the BBC comedy Red Dwarf entitled Psirens featured repulsive creatures who could create the illusion they were beautiful women. They did this hoping to lure unwary travellers to them so they could suck out their brains with a straw.
  • In the 2003 Pax Network made-for-cable movie Mermaids, the mermaid character Venus played by actress Nikita Ager had a siren ability that allowed her to enchant and hypnotize male characters.
  • In The Simpsons episode "Tales from the Public Domain", Odysseus (Homer Simpson) and his crew are sailing by and hear an enchanting song. They imagine that the women singing would be gorgeous nymphs. Unfortunately, it turns out that the "gorgeous maidens" are Homer's very unattractive twin sisters-in-law. When the crew sees them, they gasp out of shock and disgust and |sail away as quickly as possible.
  • Melinda Clarke plays a siren on an episode of Charmed titled "Siren Song".
  • In an episode of Stargate: Atlantis, the character Dr. Rodney McKay is trapped in a puddle jumped under several[fathoms of [[Oceans|water His subconscious creates the hallucination of Lt. Col. Samantha Carter. She discourages him from going with his plan to use the ship's engines to ascend because it won't work and will only drain power. She tries to distract him by seducing him and kissing him, he quickly realises what she's trying to do and ignores her declaring: "I see what you're doing. Lt. Col. Siren!"
  • From April 21st, 2006 on, the NBC soap opera Passions featured the character of Siren, a mermaid in love with Miguel Lopez-Fitzgerald.
  • In the Batman TV series, a villain named Lorelei Circe (a.k.a.-The Siren), played by Joan Collins, appears in episode 97 titled "The Wail of The Siren". The episode aired on September 28th, 1967.
  • In the Disney Channel's own show So Weird the character Carey Bell was entranced by a siren he met in a performing bar who wanted to run away with him.

Movies

  • Elle MacPherson, Portia di Rossi and Kate Fischer starred as sirens alongside Hugh Grant, Tara Fitzgerald and Sam Neill in John Duigan's Sirens (1994), a mildly erotic comedy. The basic fictional plotline being that a young English clergyman and his wife are drawn into an enticing world of lascivious art while attempting to persuade the genuine Australian artist Norman Lindsay to withdraw a controversial work of art from an upcoming exhibition. Once on the artist's estate, however, the couple find themselves increasingly drawn into a more sexually liberated world by Lindsay's family and his three beautiful models
  • Three "Sirens" were featured in the 2000 fil] O Brother, Where Art Thou?

Music

  • Tim Buckley wrote and performed a song called "Song to the Siren" which has been covered by many artists including, perhaps most famously, the Cocteau Twins.
  • The Chemical Brothers released a separate song also called "Song to the Siren" on their 1995 debut album Exit Planet Dust.
  • A Siren is featured in Radiohead's first single, "There There", from their sixth album, Hail to the Thief.
  • The British synthpop band Erasure has a song entitled Siren Song on their 1991 album Chorus:
  • The song "Siren" by Tori Amos is featured on the Great Expectations soundtrack.
  • The Finnish heavy metal band Nightwish also has a song called "The Siren", which describes a man tying himself to the wheel of his ship to resist the beautiful siren of the sea:
  • Heavy Metal band Savatage has a song called "Sirens" on their debut album of the same name, Sirens, released in 1983.
  • The band Steely Dan released a song entitled "Home at Last" that makes reference to Odysseus's adventure with the Sirens.
  • Angels & Airwaves have a song called "Sirens" on their second album, which is a concept album. The song is supposedly about a man who who's in love with a woman, and breaks into her house to take her away.

Theatre

  • The Siren]was a Broadway musical in the style of an operetta, which played at the Knickerbocker Theatre on Broadway in 1911.

Trivia

  • The Starbucks logo features a two-tailed mermaid.
  • The Siren is the mascot of The Buffalo Seminary, a non-sectarian school for girls in Buffalo, NY

External links

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