Mystery surrounds the mermaid Syrena, even down to her true name, for "Syrena" is only what she's called by missionary Philip Swift during her captivity by Blackbeard. After her fellow mermaids attack Blackbeard's crew at Whitecap Bay, Syrena and Philip begin to recognize a quality in each other that draws them together, allowing them to become allies against a common enemy in Blackbeard. Each discover more of their true beings, but risk their lives when they listen to the sounds of their hearts.
Role in the film
During the jungle trek, young missionary Philip Swift notices that she can not breathe and he opens the glass tank a little to allow air to flow through. When the glass coffin Syrena is being carried in breaks, the mermaid changes to a human form. She is unable to walk because of Philip's attack and being used to it, causing Philip to remove his shirt and cover Syrena's naked body. Philip then carries her the rest of the journey due to her inability to walk, despite her refusing his help.
Philip later talks to her and compliments her beauty while she is silent at this before he calls her deadly because of what the other mermaids did. She speaks up by stating she is not deadly and reveals she actually saved him before he captured names her "Syrena" in an attempt to make Blackbeard realize she is a person and not a creature as he used to call her.
By the time Syrena was threatened to present a single mermaid's tear, Philip and Syrena develop a strong bond and eventually they fall in love. Blackbeard learns of Phillip's feelings for Syrena and soon confirms Syrena feels the same about him. Exploiting this, Blackbeard threatens him but Syrena doesn't give in and Phillip is apparently killed. Philip is later revealed to be alive, he tries to save Syrena but Blackbeard and his men used the opportunity to obtain Syrena's tears of joy since it's guaranteed to be more powerful. Having acquired the tear, Blackbeard's crew left Syrena staked out to die and take Phillip away.
Afterward, a mortally wounded Philip later returns to cut her loose. Now free, Syrena swims off into the pools, where she found the Chalices needed for the ritual at the Fountain of Youth. Syrena returned the Chalices to Jack Sparrow, firmly saying "Do not waste my tear" before swimming away.
As an injured Philip tries putting water on his wounds, Syrena returns and offers to save him. But the missionary only asks for her forgiveness because of what he unintentionally put her through with Blackbeard. Touched, Syrena has him ask for it and he does so as she gives Philip a mermaid kiss, which is said to prevent one from drowning and pulls him underwater with her to heal him as they swim off together through the pools to freedom.
- Syrena is inspired by Ariel, another mermaid from The Little Mermaid. Syrena and Ariel share a couple of similarities. Both save a human, fall in love with him, and have their tails turn into legs in order for them to walk on land.
- Àstrid Bergès-Frisbey did not speak any English when she was cast. She was tutored on-set by co-star Penélope Cruz.
- The character and abilities of Syrena were previously seen in another Disney film: Splash! Its mermaid protagonist Madison is also able to grant a human being the ability to breathe underwater, so long as this human remains with her. This power contrasts the traditional "undine's curse", which in folklore allowed a mermaid to cause an unfaithful human lover to drown in his sleep (which is a possible classical explanation for the condition known as sleep apnea). Additionally, both Madison and Syrena share the quality of their tail transforming into human legs, when dried (and vice-versa when wet).
- On days off, Syrena's portrayer Àstrid Bergès-Frisbey could not go swimming in order to stay pale for the role.
- While she has only appeared in one movie, Syrena was featured in Terry Rossio's original script for Dead Men Tell No Tales. After helping Philip, Syrena was ordered by her fellow mermaids to find the legendary Trident of Neptune and restore her people to the good will of the gods. Following that she would be allowed to reunite with Philip, but the magic of her nature caused her to forget him. She eventually came back to land, becoming a handmaiden of Queen Inez Luisa Gabriella di Savoia, Duchess of Burgundy and the wife of the King of Spain.
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