A popular Cornish folklore is the Mermaid of Zennor. The mermaid is beautiful, but there is one detail about this legend that is distinct from other mermaid legends. The human is the one with the enthralling singing voice, not the mermaid.
The small town of Zennor in St. Ives, is known for two things: The Mermaid of Zennor and the Mermaid chair (located inside St. Senara’s Church).
The legend is about a beautiful, young woman, dressed in fine clothes, who attended mass occasionally at St. Senara’s Church, located in the small coastal village of Zennor. The mermaid named Morveren never aged, which baffled the parishioners, who had seen her attend mass for years, and would watch her from Tregarthen Hill. Morveren was the daughter of the sea king Llyr and resided in Pendour Cove, which wasn’t that far from St. Senara’s Church.
After many years, Morveren became smitten with Matthew Trewella, who was “the best singer in the parish”. Matthew was known for having the most beautiful singing voice and was incredibly handsome. She was so infatuated with him, that she only attended mass to see him sing.
Matthew, eventually figured out that the beautiful woman, was a mermaid disguised as a human. It didn’t take long for Matthew and Morveren to fall in the love. Yet, one thing ached Morveren. She desperately wanted to tell Matthew, that she was a mermaid, since she couldn’t be with him on land, knowng that she had to return to the sea.
When Morveren told Matthew that she had to leave, he told her that he couldn’t live without her in his life. So, Matthew followed Morveren to Pendour Cove, where she jumped into the water and he did the same. It is said, that they lived happily in the sea.
Locals wondered what had happened to the happy couple, since they had simply disappeared.
Years later, when a mermaid appeared to sailors, asking for the anchor to be raised, since she couldn’t reach her children. The sailors kindly obliged and raised the anchor for her. It’s speculated that the mermaid they had seen was none other than Morveren, the mermaid who had lured Matthew to live with her in the sea.
Pendour Cove locals say on calm nights, Matthew’s sweet voice can be heard over the waves. That if his voice is high, the waters will be calm, but if it his voice is low, it will be rough waters. Even in the ocean’s depths, Matthew still sings his love and devotion to the Mermaid of Zennor, Morveren.
But our story, doesn’t end there.
Inside, St. Senara’s Church at Zennor, there is a 15th century, medieval seat carved with a mermaid. The Mermaid Chair as it’s called, depicts a mermaid holding a mirror and comb. It is said, that the mermaid in the carving is the Mermaid of Zennor and that this was the very seat, that she would listen to Matthew sing at the parish.