The Greeks referred to them as Sirens. They were said to be dangerous creatures who lured sailors nearby with enchanting music and singing voices to shipwreck on their island. Other stories suggest the Nereids were friendly and helpful to sailors.
It is said that Nerida was one of the daughters of the Nereids though her name is not found on the list. Many say this is due to the fact she began her life on land rather than the sea. Little of her true origin is known.
Some suggest Captain Red had sought her out through an accord on a voyage to the Aegean Sea, in search of the Nereids, due to her wisdom, insight, and abilities, while others suggest Captain Turner had captured her and transported her to Legend Cove, where he struck a deal to help her return to human form if she would assist him for ten years. However, Captain Turner did not survive the ten-year agreement and therefore Nerida spent her time seeking ways in which to become human again.
Hans Christian Andersen is said to have modeled his character from The Little Mermaid after Nerida. The working title was “Daughters of the Air,” spirits who as Andersen conceived them could earn immortal souls by doing three hundred years’ worth of good deeds. One of Andersen’s “Daughters of the Air” explains to the mermaid that:
"A mermaid has not an immortal soul, nor can she obtain one unless she wins the love of a human being. On the power of another hangs her eternal destiny. But the daughters of the air, although they do not possess an immortal soul, can, by their good deeds, procure one for themselves. We fly to warm countries, and cool the sultry air that destroys mankind with the pestilence. We carry the perfume of the flowers to spread health and restoration. After we have striven for three hundred years to all the good in our power, we receive an immortal soul and take part in the happiness of mankind. You, poor little mermaid, have tried with your whole heart to do as we are doing; you have suffered and endured and raised yourself to the spirit-world by your good deeds; and now, by striving for three hundred years in the same way, you may obtain an immortal soul."
The concept of acquiring an immortal soul, and how it was attained, was critical to Andersen, as he noted in writing to a friend in 1837:
"I have not, like de la Motte Fouqué in Undine, allowed the mermaid's acquiring of an immortal soul to depend upon an alien creature, upon the love of a human being. I'm sure that's wrong! It would depend rather much on chance, wouldn't it? I won't accept that sort of thing in this world. I have permitted my mermaid to follow a more natural, more divine path."
But what of Nerida? It appears Andersen may have taken inspiration from this story and added his own influence and direction of the “good deeds” by which the mermaids could acquire their immortal soul.
While stories persist of Captain Turner, other tales say it was Captain Red who had struck the bargain, and true to his word, had helped Nerida find her way back to land upon the end of their ten-year arrangement. This lends itself well to the stories that exist of a mermaid with striking orange and red hair that could be seen just in front of Captain Red’s ship, La Jueza. It may also explain the differing accounts of the La Jueza -- in the latter years it was said the figurehead of the La Jueza was of a “mermaid with bright, crimson hair.” Many years prior the sightings described the figurehead as “dark and gray.”
What those deeds were, as undertaken by Nerida, are for another day, with more tales to come. However, records exist of a woman appearing in St. Augustine in the early 1700s “from out of nowhere and who spoke with a native tongue unusual to the locale.” Some suggested it was Greek.