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Myths and Legends

Grimm’s Fairy Tale of The Nixie in the Mill-Pond

Illustration by Otto Ubbelohde to the fairy tale The Nixie of the Mill-Pond

The Nixie of the Mill-Pond was written by the Brothers Grimm and is included in their collection of the Grimm’s Fairy Tales that was published in 1857.

The Nixie of the Mill-Pond tells the story of a miller and his wife, who are on the brink of losing their mill farm. One day, a beautiful nixie ascends from the water and visits the farm, calling the miller by name. The miller confides in the nixie about the state of the mill farm and how he’s going to lose his livelihood and home. The nixie strikes a deal with the miller, that he will give him wealth, if he gives her whatever is born that morning. The miller assumes that the nixie is talking about a dog or farm animal, so he agrees to the hasty deal.

When the miller returned home, his wife had given birth to healthy baby boy. It doesn’t take long, for the miller to come to the realization that the nixie knew that his wife was giving birth to his son and that he owed the nixie his son. The miller and his wife are perplexed on what to do, since they don’t want to give the nixie their child.

Years pass, the miller”s wealth grows, as does his son. Yet, the miller is still concerned about the nixie returning to collect his son.

The son became a skilled hunter and marries a girl from a nearby village. One day, the son shoots a deer and washes the blood from the deer in the mill-pond. The nixie snatches the son, taking him underwater with her.

The Nixie of the Mill-Pond illustration by H.J. Ford

When he didn’t return home, his wife becomes worried, and suspects that the nixie is behind his disappearance. She goes to the pond and calls out her husbands name and the nixie, begging for his return. She falls asleep at the waters edge and has a vivid dream, that she is climbing up a cliff and meets an old woman, inside a cottage. She wakes up the next morning, and does exactly what her dream had told her to do, so she goes up the mountain and finds a cottage with an old woman inside. The old woman, gives her a gold comb and instructs her to comb her hair at the pond’s edge on a full moon and set the comb on the water’s edge, once she’s done. Her husband rises to the surface, briefly, sorrowfully, then a wave drags him back into the water.

The wife is unsatisfied with having only seen a glimpse of her husband, so she returns to the old lady in the cottage. The old woman hands the wife a golden flute. She instructs her to play it on a full moon at the pond’s edge, just as before. She does as she’s instructed and places the flute on the sand. ┬áHer husband partially ascends from the depths of the pond and is once again, dragged down from a wave.

The wife visits the old woman at the cottage for a third time. She is desperate to be reunited with her husband. The old woman gives her gold spinning wheel and instructs her to spin flax under the full moon, until she had a full spool to place on the bank of the pond. The wife does as she’s instructed, and this time, her husband breaks free from the water, enraging the nixie. The nixie conjures a large wave to pull the couple into the water, but they escape.

The couple goes to the old woman for help and she transforms the couple into frogs. A flood transports the couple to the pond, where they are transformed back into their human forms, but are separated from each other. The couple become shepherds as a way to support themselves and are lonely and depressed without one another.

Many years pass, and the couple are reunited tending to their flocks, but do not recognize each other. One night, the man plays on the same flute, the very same song that she had played years ago at the pond. The woman begins to cry, overwhelmed with emotion and tells him the story of how she lost her husband.

Moments pass, and they finally recognize each other. They kiss and lived happily ever after.