We end our week of Shel Silverstein with his song, “The Mermaid,” off his album, I’m So Good That I Don’t Have to Brag. There is something about the man that allowed him to see the absurdity of everything. I’d never really given a lot of thought to mermaids, but it is indeed true that they are half fish and it really doesn’t matter how lovely one half of her is, the other half really is a fish. Of course, as I discussed in Fake Science and Fake Reality on Television, more recent fabulist would have us believe that mermaids were half human and half dolphin. But that doesn’t help a whole lot.
The lyrics were published in Playboy, and I suppose it is intended to be salacious. I have a hard time seeing any of Silverstein’s work as being salacious because he always seems like nothing so much as a naughty five year boy. Maybe I give him a pass on that because I feel kind of the same way. But I think it is a major mistake to read much into his work. I was thinking of “The Father of a Boy Named Sue,” and I don’t think there’s much there. You can even see it as a comment on a man so screwed up that he set the record straight about naming his son Sue only to relate that it’s all worked out great for him because he gets to rape his son.
There is a distinctly dark core to everything that Shel Silverstein wrote. But the same thing could be said of the Brothers Grimm. Not that I’m saying we should share the work he created for Playboy with our toddlers. So here is “The Mermaid,” which you can make up your own mind about.