The Mermaid of Zennor


The Mermaid of Zennor is one of the most known mermaid legends. It's a story about a beautiful and richly dress woman with astonishing voice, who occasionally

visited the church of Saint Senara. The locals knew something was wrong with her. They didn't know who is she or wher is she from or when she will appear. They

only knew she has an enchanting voice complimeting her amazing beauty, and she never seemed older despite the fact she visited the church for years.

Many men would like to be her suitors, but none of them had enough courage. On one occasion she made a move - here versions of the legend differ - she smiled to Mathey Trewella (also Matthew Trewella or Trewhella), son of the churchwarden and youngster, who was not only good-looking, but also had the most beautiful voice in the village. It was he, who sang in solo the closing hymn at the church every evening. He followed her out of the church and nobody have ever seen him again.


There is also another version by which everthing started with him, whos voice attracted her, she came to listen, untel they felt in love and he followed her in the sea ...


Much later a ship cast an anchor at the coast near Zennor and soon a mermaid appeared. Here we have different versions of the legend again - in one she said she would like to take her kids out, in one she would like to bring them in her underwater home, but the anchor blocked the door. Sailors moved the anchor and the ship. When they told the story to people from Zennor, they concluded the mermaid was the mysterious lady who took away Mathey.

It's important to note in Cornish folklore mermaids posses the abilit of shapeshifting - they can take the shape of people and walk on the land. People of Zennor carved the mermaid in the chair where she sat in the church and this chair is now one of the most popular tourist attractions in Cornwall. They say, if you sit on the bench by the sea, you could her a beautiful song in the summer breeze.

Photo by Tom Oates, by Creative Commons 3.0

The Mermaid of Zennor is still among the most well-known mermaid legends, the St. Senara church, which is about fifteen centuries old, and the mermaid chair, with more than six centuries on its own are still there to amuse the imagination of the visitors, but it is not clear if the chair inspired the legend or vice versa.


Some also believe the story was actually created by the collector of Cornish legends William Bottrell (1816-1881) after several similar myths in Great Britain and France, who wrote it for the first time in 1880 in the book titled Stories and folk-lore of West Cornwall.


By the way. mermaids and mermen were often portrayed on benches in churches of Cornwall, but only few survived until 21st century. In last years many artists used the legend of the mermaid in Zennor as a starting point of their original projects, so we can find the echo of the Zennor mermaid in songs, books and movies as well.