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The Mermaid Meets the Dread

Memory and Resilience

By Geoffrey Philp Published about a year ago Updated about a year ago 3 min read
Created with Midjourney

I had a few vague ideas about the plot when I began writing “The Mermaid of Little London” as part of the Vocal Word Hunt Challenge. “Mermaid” was the first word I found, so I knew it would be some form of speculative fiction . I’ve written a few stories that use elements of magical realism, such as “Bob Marley and Bradford’s iPod” but every story is different. While I may create a recognizable world in the opening scenes, I want readers to be as surprised as I am when the story takes a sudden turn into the unpredictable.

The second word I found was “scallop,” so I knew it had to be a coastal town in my favorite place—Jamaica—and I wanted it to be on the island's south coast, which has always held a mysterious allure for me. I had to choose between Treasure Beach—home of the Calabash Literary Festival—or Little London. I chose Little London because I didn’t want to guzu* Treasure Beach.

Rastafari has always interested me, so when I googled common names of Jamaican men, two names popped up, Donovan and Patrick. I knew one of them would be Rastafari. But which one? My children and I have had a running joke for many years about my other “child,” living in Jamaica. Whenever they got in trouble, they always blamed Donovan, the eldest child in the family whom I had before I met their mother. Donovan, my favorite, had to be redeemed. Patrick is the name of my son’s best friend, and both designed the cover for my children’s book, “Marcus and the Amazons *” I decided to use Patrick as the name of Donovan’s childhood friend.

“The Mermaid of Little London” begins with Donovan, a devoted Rastafari, and his lifelong friend Patrick joining forces after a catastrophic tidal wave. As they engage in rescue and cleanup efforts, Donovan reflects on the warning from Tanya, a mermaid he had met before the disaster. Tanya, a survivor of the earthquake that destroyed Port Royal in 1692, had warned Donovan about the impending tidal wave, a message he struggled to convey to his skeptical neighbors. Deeply moved by their brief connection, Donovan hopes to meet Tanya again, cherishing the wisdom she imparted.

Although Donovan's Rastafari beliefs do not align with Tanya's, their encounter demonstrates mutual respect for each other's perspectives. Donovan's devotion to Rastafari and deep connection to nature shape his worldview and provide him with a spiritual framework for understanding the world. On the other hand, Tanya's existence as a mermaid and daughter of Oshun represents a different way of understanding the universe. Despite their differences, Donovan and Tanya approach their connection with an open mind and a willingness to learn from each other. This mutual respect allows them to appreciate the wisdom and insights they can share, bridging the gap between their divergent beliefs.

Moreover, the encounter between Donovan and Tanya holds metaphorical implications that reflect the importance of multiple perspectives within the Pan-African world. Although they have different beliefs, Donovan's unwavering Rastafari faith and Tanya's existence represent a cultural memory rooted in their identities. Their connection as Africans from opposite sides of the Atlantic is a testament to memory's power. This interplay of memory and resilience forms the foundation for their meeting, forging a deep bond that transcends individual experiences and speaks to a broader Pan-African identity. In this way, their encounter serves as a reminder of the strength and wisdom that can be gained by embracing diverse cultural narratives and celebrating the shared heritage of the African diaspora.

* Guzu," which is thought to have originated in the Yoruba language of West Africa, and brought to Jamaica by enslaved Africans is associated

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About the Creator

Geoffrey Philp

I am a Jamaican writer. I write poems (haiku & haibun), stories & essays about climate change, Marcus Garvey, music icons such as Bob Marley, and the craft of writing. For more info, visit my webpage:

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