by Lisa-Marie Richter
Rewatching H20: Just Add Water a couple of weeks ago, I started to wonder whether it is in
some ways connected to the myth of mermaids living in Australia – considering that it is an Australian children’s show about mermaids!
Firstly, for those who have not seen the series, let me give you a brief summary. It is a series about school girls who turn to mermaids, immediately after having contact with water. Of course, nobody is supposed to know that they are mermaids, therefore life gets very difficult for them and is mainly about them trying to hide their real selves.
So let’s have a look at some Australian myths.
Yawkyawk literally means :”young woman spirit being”. (occultworld.com) The Yawkyawk is a creature with origins in Australian mythology, legend and folklore. The legend of the Yawkyawk states that women can get pregnant, just by visiting a Yawkyawk water hole. It is said that they provide water for plants and sweet water for people to drink. When they are angered, they supposedly start disruptive storms and disrupt marriages. Their true form is believed to be a woman, whose hair is made of algae with a fishtail from her waist downward. Furthermore, they are to be more active at night. There are also some Aboriginal language groups that believe that albino children born to aboriginal parents are a result of mermaid blood in their ancestry. (troublemeg.com)
It should be added, however, that these accounts should be treated with caution as they were most likely not uploaded to the internet by Aboriginal people themselves, but seem to be part of a general cryptozoology community online – perhaps a modern version of colonial collectors of Aboriginal tales and thus somewhat problematic.
Mermaids in H2O
Not only do mermaids in H2O turn into humans and have normal human hair, they also do not help provide water for plants and humans. They have a fishtail once they make contact with water which is a parallel. The mermaids in H20, have their own water hole on Mako Island, which they call the Moon Pool but humans do not get pregnant in that water, they turn into mermaids in that place. The series also features different types of mermaids. The ones that are born as mermaids in the sea, and the main characters of the series, who fall into the moon pool. In conclusion, there are not very many parallels between the myth of the Yawkyawk and H20. The fact that in both, the mermaids have a fishtail and that their own water holes play a big role, even though it is a different one, is in my opinion not enough to call the series based on tales about mermaids told by Aboriginal people; they seem to be conforming to the Eurocentric view on mermaids we know so well from European fairy tales or American films like Disney’s Ariel!