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The “Grief” of Huldbrand

“Leave her, Huldbrand!  Leave him, Bertalda!  He yet belongs to another; and do you not see grief for his lost wife still written on his pale cheek?  No bridegroom looks thus, and a voice tells me that if you do not leave him, you will never be happy.’ The three listeners felt in their innermost heart that Father Heilmann spoke the truth, but they would not believe it…”[1]

We all saw this coming: Huldbrand would take this opporuntity to marry Bertalda.  But, to be fair, at first Huldbrand “could do nothing but weep, and that as bitterly as the poor gentle Undine had wept when he had torn” the coral necklace from her hand.  Bertalda wept, too, “and they lived a long while quietly together at Castle Ringstetten, cherishing Undine’s memory, and almost wholly forgetful of their former attachment to each other.”[2]

Undine visited Huldbrand in his dreams, “caressing him tenderly and kindly, and then going away, weeping silently, so that when he awoke he often scarcely knew why his cheeks were so wet; whether they had been bathed with her tears, or merely his own?”[3]


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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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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?



God and the Mermaid

“You cannot realize our free and untrammelled existence” ~ the Mermaid to Old Man Lutey[1]

This series seems to be one of fluidity – it’s always changing, always surprising.  I had all sorts of disparate ideas about mermaid stories, and I’m beginning to see them all come together in a way only God can do.  

The Lessons

Last time, I talked about our “questions” and lessons, but I want to expound upon them further.   We are all trying to answer these two vital questions:  “Do I have what it takes?,” and, “Am I worthy of love?”  We talked last time of how mermaids answer our questions for us; however, only God can truly fulfill those questions.  He gives us the ability to “do what it takes” in any endeavor, and He gives us our worth.  

What we turn toward to answer our “questions” determines what type of “mermaid” we are.  Either we are “worldly mermaids” or “godly mermaids.”  And as such, everyone has a “mermaid tale.”  I think that’s why there are so many mermaid stories – they all resonate differently with each one of us, according to our life stories.  Or, some may say, testimonies.

“Worldly mermaids” turn to the world to answer their questions.  And sometimes the world answers in a positive way…at least it often does in our stories!  And so I found myself asking: how do you convince those who think they’re free that they are not free?  After all, we all know those people – the unbelievers who truly seem to be better people than we are, who embrace a “what will be, will be” attitude. Like the mermaid above, they tell us we “cannot realize their free and untrammelled existence.”  How do we show them that they do need Christ?  How – when Christianity looks like such a fetter to most people?