Siren Legend

Genre: Folk Narrative – Legend


“When I was younger, I heard this legend about a warrior who lived in Scotland during the height of the medieval wars. Despite his skill in battle, the warrior was lonely and wanted a woman to love.

“One day, in the midst of a battle, this beautiful woman appeared at the crest of a hill and began walking across the field, somehow making it through unscathed. The warrior was immediately entranced by her and felt like he was hallucinating. Even though it was foggy and cold, the woman wore no clothing, and the warrior longed to discover what was hidden beneath her long, dark hair.

“When the woman finally made it to him, the warrior no longer cared about the battle happening around him: he only had eyes for this beautiful, mysterious woman. Her eyes were as blue as the sea, and when she opened her lips to speak, inviting him to follow her down to the beach, he found himself powerless and unable to resist. She led the way out of the battlefield and down to the ocean, where each step into the water seemed to make her even more beautiful.

“But by the time the warrior realized that there was something dangerous to her beauty, it was too late: the water transformed the irresistible woman into a creature of the sea. She dragged the warrior into the ocean, and despite his strength, he was unable to fight back. The woman, who in her true form was a siren, drowned the warrior and feasted on his remains before disappearing back into the sea to wait for the next man she would make her meal.”


“My great-uncle was a big storyteller, and he was really into mythology about all sorts of creatures and stuff from different cultures. He spent a year living in Scotland after college, and while he was there, he heard this story from a local tour guide. I’m sure the story I ended up hearing was different from the one he originally heard because he likes to embellish things and give stories his own flair. But I think this was kind of his way of warning me not to be stupid and leave everything behind for a girl just because I think she’s beautiful.”


I agree with the informant’s interpretation of the legend – that it is a warning to not become entranced by a woman just because of her attractiveness. There is also an undertone of a warning to not leave behind your life when something suddenly appears to be better – similar to the idea that “the grass is greener on the other side.”

I also think that it is interesting to consider the dilution of this legend from an original Scottish form to what seems to likely be Americanized. In Scottish mythology, the “equivalent” of what here is called a siren is really a selkie. The main difference between the two is sirens are sometimes considered synonymous with mermaids and are known to entrance men through magical song, while selkies are shapeshifters with a human and seal form. Both are typically depicted as seductive in their human forms, though selkies are considered to have more of a dual nature, while sirens primarily lean toward violence.