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mermen


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Far rarer than mermaids in English tradition, but the Suffolk chronicler Ralph of Coggeshall, about c.1210, tells how some fishermen netted a naked, bearded, hairy-chested ‘wild man’ who looked human ‘in all his parts’—i.e. he had no tail. He could not speak; he ate most things, but liked raw fish best. He escaped into the sea once, but returned of his own accord; later he escaped again, this time for good. Ralph comments: ‘Whether he was a mortal man, or a kind of fish bearing a resemblance to humanity, or an evil spirit lurking in the body of a drowned man … it is difficult to decide.’


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