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The Changes in Undine

“My father, who is a powerful water-prince in the Mediterranean Sea, desired that his only daughter should become possessed of a soul, even though she must then endure many of the sufferings of those thus endowed….I am now possessed of a soul, and my soul thanks you. ”[1]

After Undine’s strange outburst, Father Heilmann, full of wise compassion, prays over her.  He then turns to Huldbrand, saying “‘So far as I can discover there is nothing of evil in her, but much indeed that is mysterious.’”[2]

But he needn’t have worried about Undine.  For indeed, she was completely changed…


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Undine’s Soul

‘There must be something beautiful, but at the same time extremely awful, about a soul….The soul must be a heavy burden…’”[1]

Last week we left Undine wild and lovely, and Huldbrand smitten.  Cut off from the rest of the world, the two soon fall in love, and the fisherman and his wife see them “as already united in marriage.”[2] And yet, they need a priest to make it official.  A priest showing up on their island seems impossible…and yet a priest unexpectedly knocks at their door one evening.[3]

Father Heilmann had set out toward the bishop to tell him of the “distress” of his monastery and surrounding villages because of the floods.  However, when trying to cross the raging river, the boat was capsized and he wound up on their newly formed island.[4]

Huldbrand doesn’t wait.  He suggests the priest marry himself and Undine.  And since everyone agrees, there’s no reason to delay!


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The Lovely (and Wild) Undine – Part 2

“She threw her arms round his neck, and drew him down beside her.”  Huldbrand let her, “embracing the beautiful girl and kissing her fervently.”[1]

“I will celebrate before the Lord.  I will become even more undignified than this” ~ 2 Samuel 6:21b-22a

Huldbrand rushes out to find Undine in the midst of the storm.  Undine calls out to him, and coyly reveals herself on “a little island formed by the flood.”  Huldbrand makes his way to her…and the quote above says it all.  

But the fisherman finds them, rebukes them, and begs them to come to the “mainland” – which is now an island itself, cut off from the world.[3]  Undine refuses, and sings of the stream going to the ocean. The old fisherman “wept bitterly at her song, but this did not seem to affect her.”  It touches Huldbrand’s heart though, and he carries her back.[4]


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The Lovely (and Wild) Undine – Part 1

She “knew she was created for God’s praise and glory….She was therefore baptized ‘Undine,’ and during the sacred ceremony she behaved with great propriety and sweetness, wild and restless as she invariably was at other times.”[1] 

This is my favorite “mermaid” story!  It was written in 1811 by Friedrich de la Motte Fouqué, a French ex-patriot who lived in Germany.  Interestingly, it came before many other mermaid tales, including Hans Christian Anderson’s famous Little Mermaid.

Even though I’ll give a thorough outline, I highly encourage you to read it yourself – it is lovely…and wild.  Just like Undine…


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Caught in Transition: Liban the Mermaid

I love the story of Liban, for it reflects God’s heart so beautifully!  God longs for all to be saved, and He’ll stop at nothing to make Himself known.  Liban is unique: she was a mermaid who became a saint.  Rather than be reviled and judged, she was accepted and hallowed.

And despite all odds, it shows how some sea priestesses felt the tug of the Gospel on their hearts…

Liban of Lough Neagh

Liban was a lovely young woman whose family died when Lough Neagh overflowed.  She, however, “lived for a whole year with her lap-dog, in her chamber beneath the lake, and God protected her from the water.”[1]  Sounds like Noah, which makes sense – many water deities echo the truths of Noah,[2] having been corrupted over time.


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Historical Mermaids: Priestesses

For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God ~ 1 Corinthians 3:19a

The story of Svané got wrapped up in something bigger than her: an ancient religion.  It’s unclear what this religion was, and frankly it doesn’t matter for our purposes.  What does matter is how it shaped the women we know today as “mermaids.”

I originally got the idea of these mermaids – or sea maidens – being priestesses from an offhand comment in Norma Lorre Goodrich’s King Arthur.  While speaking of the Lady of the Lake, she describes her as a queen, “or, as the Irish say about their ancient kings, she was a priestess.”[1] I don’t know for certain that my supposition is correct; however, I’m fairly confident that it is a viable theory.  How else can we explain the traits of our mermaids?


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“Turkish Gudda”

 “Guðríður’s remarkable story—of a common woman who survived nine years of slavery and returned home, becoming a respected pastor’s wife—is considered to bear witness to a woman of stronger character than most.”[1]

“She is considered to have travelled the road of suffering and the cross, but prevailed to gain a new lease on life and love.”[2]

Mermaids in our stories always return home, unblemished from their time on land.  The real kidnapped women do not.  Most of them never return; the ones who do are not considered “unblemished,” as Turkish Gudda’s story shows.

I don’t know how God will redeem all of her story, but it is a powerful testimony.  Or should I call it a “mermaid tale”?


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The Mermaid’s Vengeance

“‘Kisses,’ she said, ‘are as true at sea as they are false on land.  You men kiss the earth-born maidens to betray them.  The kiss of a sea-child is the seal of constancy.  You are mine till death.’”[1] ~the mermaid to Walter

“Walter vehemently implored forgiveness.  He confessed his deep iniquity.  He promised a life of penitence.  ‘Give me back the dead,’ said the maiden bitterly, and planted another kiss, which seemed to pierce his brain by its coldness, upon his forehead.”[2]

Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it. ~ Proverbs 4:23 NIV

On Tuesday, we covered Selina’s “mermaid tale.”  A broken heart and a child out of wedlock caused her to realize the fleeting freedom of this world.  Her need for God was awakened, and she traded worldly freedom for freedom in Christ.

But what about Walter?  He, too, was a worldly type of free.  Did he repent?

According the story, no…not until it was far too late and justice was about to be done…


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Selina’s “Mermaid Tale”

It was rumored that Selina’s mother bathed her in a pool “which was a favourite resort of mermaids.”  One day, the child “leapt from her arms into the water, and disappeared” for a moment before reappearing.  “The mother knew no difference in the child whom she pressed lovingly to her bosom, but all the aged crones in the parish declared it to be a changeling.”[1]

“See, today I have set before you life and prosperity, death and adversity.” ~ Deuteronomy 30:15

Last week I talked about “meaningful mermaids,” which are mermaids who are used to explain occurrences.  But what does the meaningful mermaid have to do with the lessons we talked about?  Sometimes nothing.  But today I want to show you just how beautifully they can come together…


Once there was a lovely maiden named Selina who lived with her father and mother.  Selina was beautiful – so beautiful, the gossips whispered that she was a mermaid changeling (see the snippet above).  However, since Selina “showed none of the special qualifications belonging…[to] mermaids, it was almost forgotten” by the time she grew up.[2]

Almost, but not quite. (more…)


My “Mermaid Tale”

Before we get started on the “real” tales, I thought it important to share my own “mermaid tale.”  As I said previously, everyone has a “mermaid tale” – or, as Christians say, testimony.  We all have struggled with answering our “questions” of worth and love-ability, and we all struggle with the pull of the world on our souls. 

I didn’t have that theory before this blog, though.  All I knew was that mermaids were often seen as sex objects, or creatures who lured innocent men into sin and death; as such, I was hesitant to delve into these stories.  I was convinced that God would condemn the mermaids. 

I couldn’t have that.  Mermaids were too near and dear to my heart.  They were too much a part of my own journey for me to consider that possibility…