A Fishy Tale


Kellerman played a mermaid in a number of early silent movies including Neptune’s Daughter (still from film above). The mermaid narrative created a fictional layer that glamorised her body and ensured her celebrity.  Kellerman’s legs were imprisoned in heavy iron braces as a little girl due to rickets and she escaped the pain of her crippled body in an imaginary world of fairy tale characters. She learnt to swim in the late 1800s to strengthen her weakened legs and found a freedom in the water that she had never had on land. There are similarities between Kellerman and the Little Mermaid – both amphibian beauties from distant worlds longing for the bright lights of the metropolis. Whereas the Little Mermaid sought an immortal soul, Kellerman sought immortality through a stellar career as a swimmer and actress. Kellerman was referred to as a’half woman half fish’ and the Little Mermaid was a mythical sea creature who metamorphosed into a human. They both transcended the boundaries between human and non-human and represent the exotic ‘other’; individuals from different worlds who did not conform to conventional notions of feminine beauty. Mermaids have not lost their lustre or glamour in the 21st century and Hannah Fraser has created a successful career as a ‘professional mermaid’.



One response to “A Fishy Tale

  1. oh my, i never knew that about her legs

    bit of an effort she put in

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