Mermaid Monday: German Water Spirit – Legend of Lorelei

blackwhitesketchMermaid Mondays continue with this cryptozoological tale about a beautiful woman changed into a legendary water spirit in the Rhine River. No monster here, just a whale of a tale. The question is: do you believe it?

In German legend, the Nixie is a female water spirit. The males are called Nix. Generally speaking they are mermen and mermaids who lure humans into the watery depths to drown them. It’s said the male Nixes can change shape into fish, snakes, and humans. The female Nixies are seen as beautiful young women with fish tails just like traditional mermaids. They are supposed to love music, song, and dance. Photos below show a male Nix and female Nixie:

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There are many tales of the Nix and Nixies in Germanic folklore, but today we’re going to talk about one named Lorelei.

Who Was Lorelei?

Back in days of old, a beautiful young woman was deeply in love with her beau, but for reasons unknown, he abandoned her. She was bereft, but her loss was an opportunity for the rest of the men in town to woo her. It was said the men couldn’t resist her or her charms and the ensuing mayhem was getting more than the townsfolk could bear.

LoreleiHerselfSo the local bishop ordered that she be locked away in a convent for the rest of her life. Enroute to the convent, Lorelei asked her captors if she could gaze at her beloved Rhine River just one more time. Unable to resist her request, they let her approach the river.

She climbed a cliff very high over the river then threw herself off. As she hit the water she transformed into a Nixie, or water spirit.

The tale continues by saying Lorelei lives in a rock in the Rhine River. Locals say the rock sometimes produces an echo, a sound attributed to Lorelei and said to be her singing.

Tourists can view the rock from ferry boats and wonder about the beautiful woman turned Nixie that now sings in her rock in the Rhine River.

LoreleiNibelungFromOperaLong Standing Tradition

The Germans have a long standing belief in water spirits dating back to at least the medieval era and probably much further back. During the medieval era an epic poem was written, “Song of the Nibelungs,” all about water spirits. (Artwork right depicting one scene.)

Later in the 19th century, water spirits, or Nibelungs, were featured in a famous opera by Richard Wagner, Der Ring des Nibelungen. The opera tells the tale of three Nibelung maidens whose job it is to guard a vast underwater treasure.

No matter what their name, these underwater sirens are fascinating!

Do you believe this tale is true?

Photo below of an actual statue along the Rhine River, Germany, dedicated to Lorelei:

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