Members of the Irish fairy world, the Merrows are extremely beautiful females.  Their counterparts, the Mermen or males, are quite ugly with scales, long pointed teeth, and features that are quite pig like.  However, Mermen have rarely been seen, perhaps because of their ugly appearance.

The word merrow or its Irish counterpart, moruadh, probably comes from the Irish word for the sea or muir and the Irish word for maid or oigh.  The physical characteristics of merrows are similar to humans in many respects.  However, they do have flatter feet and their hands have a fine webbing in between the fingers.

People in some parts of Ireland have thought the merrows to be harbingers of death and doom.  Indeed, they live beneath the land in the Tir fo Thoinn or the Land beneath the waves.  Therefore, it is thought that they have a natural dislike or even antipathy for humans.

Merrows can travel through the ocean currents because of special clothing that they wear.  What they wear depends on which part of the country they live near.  In Cork, Wexford, and Kerry, the merrows wear small caps upon their heads.  The caps are red and made from feathers.  The Irish words for this cap are cohullen druith. 

In the northern waters, the merrows wear cloaks of sealskin to travel in.  Once they have donned their sealskin cloaks, they take on the appearance of seals.  Indeed, they take on the attributes of seals as well. 

Although merrows have been called promiscuous in their dealings with human males, their behavior cannot all be blamed on them entirely.  Once the merrows come ashore, they must remove their cloaks or caps.  This removal of their special clothing makes them vulnerable.  If their cloak or cap is discovered, taken, and hidden from them by a human, they are at his mercy. 

The human who has stolen her cloak or cap now has power over the merrow for she cannot return to the sea without them.  Tales have been spun that suggest that a male, typically a fisherman who lives by the sea, will persuade the merrow to become his bride.  The tales continue that the fisherman keeps the clothing in hiding once they are married.  The two of them remain married and become rich from the vast treasures of gold they retrieve from the shipwrecks in the sea. 

Eventually, the merrow will retrieve her clothing whether in a moment of the fisherman’s weakness or through an act of her own.  Once she finds her cloak or cap, the yearning for the sea returns and so she dons her cap or cloak and returns to the sea, leaving behind her husband and children.  In defense of the merrows, they were meant to live in the Land beneath the Waves and the yearning is strong and deeply ingrained within their beings.