“‘Have you a soul? Have you really a soul, Bertalda?’” ~ Undine to Bertalda
The three reach the imperial city, and all are overjoyed to see them. All except Bertalda, who “could feel nothing but grief.” She had truly loved Huldbrand. What’s more, it was evident to everyone (except Undine) that she had loved him…and he’d humiliated her by marrying another woman.
But Bertalda “[reconciled] herself to circumstances, and lived on the most friendly terms with Undine.” Interestingly, there is genuine affection between them. So great is their friendship that Undine suggests Bertalda come with them to Ringstetten, Huldbrand’s castle. As they discuss this one evening, Kuhleborn comes out of the courtyard fountain and speaks with Undine privately. This time, Undine does not spurn him.
Whatever he tells her makes her clap her hands with joy. But she refuses to tell anyone – she wishes to reveal it at Bertalda’s “name-day” party in several days time…
Undine prepares a lovely feast for Bertalda, her foster-parents (a duke and duchess), as well as many other nobles. At one point, the company urges Undine to sing.
She sings of a child who was lost, but found by a duke. She then sings of how the child’s real parents search for their beloved daughter, but cannot find her. This is clearly about Bertalda’s life, and so Bertalda bursts out, “‘Oh! for God’s sake, Undine, where are my parents?’”
In comes the fisherman and his wife – Undine’s own foster-parents! They are overjoyed at being reunited with their long-lost daughter!
Not so Bertalda. She “[tears] herself from their embrace,” and “reviles” Undine and her parents with slanderous names. For, you see, she had convinced herself she had highborn parents…she did not expect to be humiliated in front of everyone by being a common fisherman’s daughter.
“Have you a soul?”
Undine does not understand this behavior. The quote above says it all. How can someone with a soul act so cruelly? Undine cannot fathom it.
She then “proves” her story by saying she “received the information from the very person who allured Bertalda into the water” and placed her in the duke’s path. It’s an odd statement…and Bertalda viciously seizes upon it.
“‘She is an enchantress’” Bertalda cries. “‘A witch, who has intercourse with evil spirits!’”
“‘I do not,’” Undine replies, “with a whole heaven [of] innocence and confidence.”
Finally, the old fisherman’s wife steps forward and says her lost daughter had two birthmarks. Sure enough, Bertalda has the marks! Undine is proved right. Bertalda and both sets of parents leave…and poor Undine sinks “weeping into Huldbrand’s arms.”
For his part, Huldbrand wished things had gone differently, but “he could scarcely regret them wholly, as they had exhibited his charming wife under such a good and sweet and kind aspect. ‘If I have given her a soul,’ he could not help saying to himself, ‘I have indeed given her a better one than my own.’”
Have you a soul? The question haunted me. Here was Bertalda, who had access to God from birth, as well as worldly goods (she was fostered by a duke and duchess!). And there was Undine, who so desperately wanted access to God that she gave up her rights as a mermaid princess and became a fisherman’s daughter!
But Bertalda acts as heartlessly as Undine did when Undine lacked a soul. Rather than weep with joy at finding her parents, she pushes them away in disgust. Bertalda doesn’t act like she has anything as glorious as salvation.
And then I wondered: Would Undine ask me the same question?
Have I a soul?
Do I act like I’ve been given the precious, glorious gift of salvation?
No, I focus on how people are snarky, or run things inefficiently, and how it would be “justice” for me to tell them off. I consistently look forward to the next big vacation before I’ve even gone on the one coming up, and then pine over how I’ll never get to all the places I want to go. I fret over how, when Andrew and I eventually have kids, they’ll ruin my body and change our lifestyle more drastically than I can possibly imagine (meaning I won’t be able to go on as many vacations). And right now, I’m worried about a tiny stye growing on my eye, and how upset I am about it.
“Have you I soul?” I can nearly hear Undine scream.
Undine, who gave up everything for salvation, and here I am, focusing on ridiculous things. It humbles me beyond words.
I should give grace to others, knowing they’re doing the best they can with what God’s given them, rather than complain about them. I should savor the moment God has given me, as well as thank Him for the resources to go on one vacation, let alone many! Since children are from the Lord (Ps. 127:3-5), I should be excited about the future opportunity to spread the Gospel – both to my children, and through them! And rather than worry about a silly stye, I should just go to the doctor and give thanks to God for modern medicine.
Yes, I have a soul dearest Undine…but I don’t act like it. I don’t act like I’m a child of God, saved through faith. Instead, I act like a spoiled, entitled brat. I act like Bertalda.
But God is forgiving and redeems all. If my focus is Him, my heart will follow (Matt. 6:33).
The Pure Soul of Undine
Undine is not like most. Despite being reviled by Bertalda, she extends forgiveness and helps her. When both sets of parents forsake Bertalda because of her behavior, Undine insists she come with them to Ringstetten. She says they will “share all things as sisters.”
Poor Undine! Her soul was so pure, so God-centered! She has no idea the callousness of those who are born with souls. For indeed, Huldbrand had “given her a better one” than his…
 Undine by Friedrich de la Motte Fouqué in Heidi Anne Heiner’s Mermaid and Other Water Spirit Tales from Around the World (Nashville, TN: SurLaLune Press, 2011) 572.
 Ibid., 567.
 Undine, 567.
 Ibid., 568.
 Undine, 570.
 Ibid., 571.
 Undine, 571.
 Undine, 572.
 Undine, 572-573.
 Ibid., 573.
 Undine, 574.