The Mermaid's Vengance

seagreen mermaids rockpool Perranporth
Perranporth Beach mermaid pool

In a valley near Perranporth lived Penna the Proud. Penna was a farm labourer but he wasn’t any farm labourer. Perranporth was surrounded with abundant valleys full of fruit trees and vegetables and Penna worked incredibly hard to make his tiny cottage clean as could be and his garden full of tasty things to eat. The Squire’s land which was particularly fertile for growing rather than grazing, and Penna grew flowers with a beautiful Cornish softness and perfect colour, they sold at every market alongside apples, and pears, carrots, and greens. Penna made the farm swing with a positive energy channelling his industrious nature into the land. In return for his hard work Penna was made manager of an outlying farm.

Penna’s wife was called Honour, she was very beautiful, as was their daughter, Selina. Selina was pretty as sunlit seas, but the Perranporth gossips had much to say about her.

Selina Penna has not always had her rosy cheeks and sparkling indigo-blue eyes, as an infant she was always plain as sand.’ There was much nodding.

Honour Penna gathered the morning dew to wash her little maid, and they dew fairies of the Towens gave Selina a passing beauty. That kind of beauty won’t last, that kind of beauty leads to betrayal,” they said, and there was much more nodding.

Could have washed her babe in May Day dew, good for the complexion that is,’ said one.

I saw Honour bathing her child in the pool among the rocks where the mermaids live. Maid slipped from her mother’s arms, went right under the water...but then, quick as could be she bobbed up again, splashing in the pool with a silver tail,’ said another.

Something has changed, her little face isn't dull as the beach no more, it’s sparkling with the beauty of the mermaids pool.’ More nodding.

That Selina is a changeling child,’ the gossips crowed, and they never forgot this as she grew into a startlingly beautiful maid.

When Selina was grown up she still loved to spend time with her father Penna, they often walked along the sands, breathing in the smell of the sea. Selina was drawn to the waves, she would run in and swim freely amongst them.

One day, Walter Trewoofe, the Squire’s young nephew, came to Cornwall. Selina was drawn to him and he enjoyed her devotion. The local lads had often proposed to her, but she had declined their advances. Walter was different, he was incredibly handsome and she liked his unfamiliar accent, he had something of the unknown about him. The local lads saw this, they didn’t like beautiful Selina walking out with an incomer. Walter took her by the arm and held her close.

Channels, a malicious man who had lost his job with the Squire and had been rejected by Honour, told Walter to encourage Selina and then discard her. This Walter did with a young man’s frivolity, never realising the deep hurt he had caused the heart of poor Selina.

Walter was soon sent back home, leaving a pining Selina behind. This was no ordinary love spurned sickness, beautiful Selina Penna faded with the summer light, and as early autumn sunsets spread over Perran Sands she died of a broken heart.

After some time, Water returned to Perranporth. As he walked home along the cliffs after an evening partying with Channels, he followed a path that twisted and twined down to the shore. In the moonlight, Walter saw he was on the rolling sands, and realized he had lost his way. He could hear a woman singing sadly. A being of ethereal beauty sat singing on the rocks, her long hair flickering in the sea breeze, her arms shone with a green hue. He stood and watched her and listened to her song. As he approached her she cried out in surprise at seeing him so close, he took her arm and tried to draw her to him as he had with Selina.

As she turned to face him, Walter recoiled in shock, it was Selina’s beautiful eyes that looked into his, Selina’s face and Selina’s smile. He knew the look of deep love in her eyes and felt locked in her gaze. As he dropped her arm she turned away to the sea, and he walked along the shore confused until the icy waves tickled his feet and he was knocked out of the trance.

As Walter waded back through the waves and up a path, he heard laughter coming from between the rocks, but there was no one to be seen. Walter was lost in thoughts of Selina, he felt a deep regret for the way he had treated her and spent many moments reliving his time with her. If only he had been just a little kinder.

One night, he felt so wretched he visited Selina’s grave and sat on the sands and cried. He thought he heard the song of the sea rippling all about him and, following it he reached the eastern side of the rocks, and heard the song again lilting on the wind.

Our sweet child died this day, died this day.’

Walter realised it must be the anniversary of Selina’s death, as the song echoed.

Died this day, died this day.’

Before him was a truly radiant being. She had Selina’s face framed in a shimmering waterfall of green and blue, she had the form of a mermaid slick from the sea.

Come sit beside me, Walter. Let us talk of love,’ she sang.

He sat beside her, and let her place her hand on his heart. Smiling she put her arms around his neck and drew him in. The mermaid had Walter in her clasp, and as he looked back into her indigo eyes, he saw Selina looking back at him and felt the stab of his betrayal. She kissed him on the forehead and sang,

You are mine now Walter, mine.’

He’d heard the Perranporth gossips talking about Selina and her origins in the mermaid pool but hadn’t believed a word. Now it was clear as sea glass, Selina would take him with her like the tide takes the sea,

Come away, come away,’ she sang, as she slipped with Walter into the waves.

For a mermaid’s vengeance is constant as time.


retold by Anna Chorlton

source     Robert Hunt ' PopularRomances of the West of England'

  • The Surf Coast