More about non-human characters in fantasy, because it's my current fixation.
I've been thinking a lot about mammalian mermaids, especially since finding these two
pieces of art of manatee mermaids. You cannot google for this sort of thing easily, because it turns up results about the theory that manatees breastfeeding their young were the source for the myth of the mermaid, and every single one
has the same joke about how the sailors must have been mighty drunk.
Given this line of thought, I've been wondering, with which marine mammal is it best to cross a human to get an interesting mermaid? Seals? Spotted-skin, predatory mermaids with puppy-dog eyes. Dolphin? Curved-spine, greyish mermaids who frolick in the seas, do tricks for fun, and apparently bludgeon other animals to death for fun
(disclaimer: Cracked.com hates dolphins with fervor).
Whale mermaid? I'm having difficulty picturing this one, actually. Manatee mermaid? As seen above, an herbivorous mermaid who flourishes in fresh water, has a healthy layer of blubber, and whose hands might be hidden beneath paddling flippers. Not exactly the Little Mermaid. Walrus mermaid? That might be pretty awesome. Otter mermaid? Hey, it's still technically a marine mammal, but then, so is a polar bear.
In non-mammal mermaids, this artist
has a whole gallery full of mermaids based on the fish in her fish tank. Very detailed and intriguing, and highly recommended. I've also seen octopus mermaids, which are sometimes called sea-witches, or cecaelia