Siren takes audiences to the fictional town of Bristol Cove, the self-proclaimed "Mermaid Capital Of The World." This lineage is based on an Urban about sea captains falling in love with mermaids. While the Bristol Cove mermaid urban legend in Siren is not real (and neither is the town), after seeing what the mermaids of Siren are capable of, that might be for the best.
However, even within the fictional world of Siren, the Bristol Cove urban legend seems to be pretty far off from reality. At the beginning of Siren, a young child explains to the crowd of a Mermaid Festival that the urban legend of Bristol Cove started "more than 150 years ago when a local fishing captain, Charles H. Pownall fell in love with a mermaid in these very waters, enchanted by her beautiful siren song. But one day, he went to the bay and his mermaid was gone, back to her home in the sea never to return."
After getting a glimpse of what the mermaids in Bristol Cove are like, it seems like there may be some inaccuracies in that story. Sure enough, by the end of the first episode, it's revealed that the real story behind Bristol Cove's urban legend is a lot bloodier than the children's theatre performance implies. After 150 years of legend, some real mermaids are starting to pop up in Bristol Cove, and they have plenty of reasons to not be happy with humans.
As Bristol Cove storeowner and mermaid expert Helen Hawkins reveals to Ben Pownall — his ancestor, the locally famous Charles H. Pownall slaughtered a large number of mermaids. Helen compares it to a genocide, ridding Bristol Cove of nearly an entire race. For confirmation, Ben turns to a book entitled An Illustrated History Of The Mermaid which has an entire chapter dedicated to Bristol Cove. The illustrations from that section match up with what Ben learns from Helen about his family's history with mermaids — featuring images of men slaughtering and even torturing mermaids.
While there are no real mermaids in real life (that anyone is aware of), the myths that Siren pulls from to construct their mermaid tale has been around for millennia. The idea of a mermaid seducing a sailor with their siren song, as mentioned in the child-friendly version of Bristol Cove's history, is an ancient idea. One of the oldest mythological texts, Homer's The Odyssey, features a race known as Sirens using their voice to attempt to lure men to death. The mermaids of Siren seem to share more in common with these ancient creatures than The Little Mermaid's Ariel or the titular mermaid in Aquamarine.
Siren showcases its own unique spin on mermaids, which is appropriate to the mythical creature's storied life. Mermaid stories have grown throughout history, with different cultures all having slightly different spins on the myth. The Ningyo of Japanese Mythology, the Iara of Brazil, and the Suvannamaccha of Thai folklore all share similarities to the history of the mermaid. The idea of aquatic fish-like women in the ocean is as old as time itself, and Siren's interpretation of the Bristol Cove mermaids makes for a bold, vicious interpretation of the myth. Turning the old tale of the siren women on its head to make it about genocide and fear of the unknown is very interesting.
The myths of Bristol Cove may have been created for Siren, but they're a unique take on the tales as old as time — and make for a break from classic myth in the show as well. Ben must figure out how he feels about the truth of his ancestry and how that fits into his budding relationship with Ryn. In some ways, Siren is just the latest continuation of a story that's been told for thousands of years — but it tells it from a very different point of view.