Your browser version is outdated. We recommend that you update your browser to the latest version.

The Mermaid of Meiringspoort

 

In days long gone

when the San walked the Swartberg 

and passed through the place we now call Meiringspoort

there dwelt in the bottomless pool at the foot of the waterfall

a water nymph, 

a mermaid called Eporia

 

the San knew her well

they painted her image on rock faces in the Kamminassieberge 

and above Herold’s Bay

where she frolics with three of her friends 

and a merman keeps them company

 

at times Eporia sulked in her pool…

the rain dried up and the waterfall stopped flowing

there was drought and anguish in the land

and the San had to walk far away from the kloof to find water

 

at other times she was happy…

the rains came, the streams rushed down the crags 

and the river joined her in song

then the San spent months at a time at Boesmansdrif

where they rested beside the stream and enjoyed Eporia’s gift of water

 

sometimes she raged…

then the rain came in great billowing clouds and flashes of electric light

the crags echoed the roaring of the skies 

and the San made for high land, because they knew what would follow

 

the waters tumbled through the kloof

great boulders were cast aside 

trees were ripped from the ground and the San feared Eporia’s anger

 

the centuries passed

the San disappeared from the land

and new faces came to take their place

 

Eporia sang her songs:

she lured a smous to the pool’s edge and drowned him there

his ghost walks the road near Klaarstroom

 

Eporia sulked:

there were two terrible droughts

 

and then Eporia raged:

 

in 1998 great floods descended through Meiringspoort

the road was swept away

and as the boulders rolled and trees were swept out to sea

memories of water nymphs and mermaids were evoked…

 

and stories were told…

 

a fisherman at the coast had caught a mermaid in his net

her name was Eporia he said

Nature had grown angry with her sulking 

and had sent the rains to sweep her from her pool

she had been tossed and turned in the swirling foam and thrust far out to sea

far from her deep dark pool and the sunlight and shadows of the poort

 

he took her to the CP Nel Museum in Oudtshoorn

for he had read in the newspapers that there was a lady there who knew about mermaids 

and the Kunstefees was on the go

there would be lots for Eporia to see…

 

the stories grew …

 

people started phoning

where was the mermaid

could they come and see her?

 

people arrived at the Museum

where was the mermaid?

they had come to see her

 

people contacted the press

where was the mermaid

had they got photographs?

 

Anita saw an opportunity to spread the word about meerminne

she got a mannequin from a shop

draped it with chiffon  

and hung it in the clock tower

 

the mermaid could be seen through the windows

“there she is, in her aquarium…”

 

“that’s a doll”

said the mense - the angry mense

“we want to see the meermin you have hidden in some secret room…”

 

Perhaps Eporia does sulk and sing and rage in her pool

the San saw something 

their paintings show delicate shapes with fishy tails, lithe bodies and short curly hair

 

the legend continues…

 

Information for this story was provided by Anita Holthauzen, former curator of the CP Nel Museum in Oudtshoorn.