Legends of merfolk occur in almost every sea-faring culture, tales of alluring mermaids possessing deceptive beauty, mighty mermen summoning destructive storms, and diminutive merchildren holding their own amid the dangers of the ocean. Some accounts portray merfolk as hostile, some beguiling, some helpful to humans, some ready to kill. The term for these ocean dwellers comes from the Old English word mere, meaning sea, but the siyoykoy don’t make an appearance in any European culture–they come from the Asian-influenced Philippine Islands.
Name: Siyokoy or Syokoy
Appearance: With unattractive features, more fish-like than humanoid, the siyokoy might hold the dubious honor of being the most hideous mermen. The scales covering their entire bodies range in color from brown to green, and gill slits positioned in various places enable them to breathe underwater. Their upper bodies vaguely resemble the form of a man, tapering down to the tail of a fish or scale-encrusted legs with webbed feet. Various legends depict them with powerful green tentacles, fins, webbed hands, claws, or other unusual appendages.
Unique qualities and traits: Sharp teeth and (sometimes) clawed limbs made the siyokoy formidable predators. They swam the seas surrounded by dangerous ocean creatures such as rays, squid, and octopus–their own army of sorts. Nearly every account portrays siyokoy as hostile to humans, whom they drown and consume for nourishment. In addition, many accounts credit them with causing shipwrecks in order that they might prey on the unfortunate sailors. They’re aggressive and animalistic, but possess a rational intelligence that makes them a dangerous hunters.
- Siyokoy are always male.
- Their female counterparts are sirena, much more human-like and attractive creatures.
- They’re members of a larger group of Phillipine mer-people known as the Bantay Tubig.
Sources from myth and legend: Unlike many mythologies, the lore of the Philippines has primarily remained oral, with numerous stories passed down through the generations and varying greatly between ethnic groups. As a result, you won’t find the siyokoy described in the annals of history, as many creatures of Greek and Roman lore are, or even mentioned in English literature, though they make occasional appearances in folklore collections or books on mythic creatures.
Overview: Of all the merfolk, siyokoy are perhaps the most animal-like, retaining very few human characteristics. Like many of the the mythic creatures said to inhabit the sea, they’re described as threat to all seafarers–one of the many dangers faced by those who venture into unknown waters.
Your opinions: Do you have particular interest in any merman or mermaid lore? Are there any you would like to see explored further here? You’re welcome to share in the comments.