Word of the Day – Jenny Haniver
October 12, 2015 Leave a Comment
One suggestion for the origin of the term was theÂ FrenchÂ phraseÂ jeune d’AnversÂ (‘young [person] ofÂ Antwerp‘). British sailors “cockneyed” this description into the personal name “Jenny Hanvers”. They are also widely known as “Jenny Haviers”.
For centuries, sailors sat on the Antwerp piers and carved these “mermaids” out of dried skates. They then preserved them further with a coat of varnish. They supported themselves by selling their artistic creations to working sailors as well as to tourists visiting the docks.
The earliest known picture of Jenny Haniver appeared inÂ Konrad Gesner‘sÂ Historia Animalium vol. IVÂ in 1558. Gesner warned that these were merely disfigured rays and should not be believed to be miniature dragons or monsters, which was a popular misconception at the time.
The most common misconception was that Jenny Hanivers wereÂ Basilisks. As Basilisks were creatures that killed with merely a glance, no one could claim to know what one looks like. For this reason it was easy to pass off Jenny Hanivers as these creatures which were still widely feared in the 16th century.
InÂ Veracruz, Jenny Hanivers are considered to have magical powers and are employed byÂ curanderosÂ in their rituals.Â This tradition may have originated inÂ Japan, where fakeÂ ningyoÂ similar to theÂ Fiji mermaidÂ that were produced by using rogueÂ taxidermyÂ are kept in temples.
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