Just check out that beautiful illustration. Nice lines. Nice detail. I’m going to have to find out who did that because it’s just great.
Once upon a time there was a miller who was prosperous, but everything comes in cycles and soon he was not prosperous. He became so poor that he barely owned anything he had. One night he was out by his mill-pond lamenting his life when he saw a nixie in the form of a beautiful woman with pale skin and long hair. She asked him what was the matter and he told her all his woes. She told him not to worry that she would make him rich again, just as long as he promised her the thing that had just been born in his house. The miller could only conceive that a puppy or kitten had been born in his house and was contented to promise that.
He returned to the house, but found that his wife had just delivered a baby boy. He was crushed at the thought of giving up his son. Nobody knew what to tell him. He kept the boy away from the pond, but the nixie did not come to claim her prize. The miller grew very rich without even trying. Year after year the boy grew and grew into a fine huntsman working for the Lord of the area. He married a nice woman and they moved into a little house. They were happy.
One day the huntsman was hunting and killed a roe. He did not realize he was near the area of the dreaded mill-pond. He simply bent down to the pond to clean the blood off his hands, but when he did that, he was taken under the water by the nixie. The wife was distraught. She did not know what had happened to her husband, but he had told his wife of the nixie and her doings, so she suspected strongly what had happened. She went to the pond and there found his hunting pouch. She knew what had happened.
She called his name. She ran around and around the pond calling out to him, but nothing ever changed. Finally, she sat down on the ground and went to sleep, she had a strange dream. She dreamed that she journeyed into the mountains, there she found a meadow with a little house. Inside the little house was an little old woman. When she awoke, she followed her dream. She climbed the mountain, she came to the meadow, and she found the little house. When she went inside the little old woman asked her what was wrong.
The wife told the little old woman all that had happened with the nixie. The little old woman gave the wife a golden comb. She told her to sit by the mill-pond and comb her long black hair. Then she was to put the comb on the side of the shore and she would see what would happen next. The wife returned to the pond and combed her long black hair. When she was done, she laid the comb on the ground. When she had done this, a wave came up and took the comb. Another wave came and just the head of the huntsman was visible in the pond, but then it quickly sank back down again.
Yet again, the wife dreamed of the old woman and went back. The next day the little old woman gave her a golden flute with much the same directions. The wife played the golden flute by the mill-pond in the moonlight and laid it down on the shore. A wave came and took the flute away. The husband was seen again, but this time half his body was out of the water.
The wife yet again went to the old woman after prompting from a dream. This time the old woman gave her a golden spinning wheel. She told her to spin by the pond in the moonlight and take the spinning wheel and place it on the shore. The wife did this after spinning all the flax into thread. A wave came and carried the spinning wheel into the pond. After this, the entire husband was above the water. He leapt out and grabbed his wife and ran, but the nixie knew what was going on. She caused a great wave to come out of the mill-pond that was threatening to carry everything away.
The wife called out to the old woman and the man and his wife were turned into a frog and a toad. They were separated and swept many miles apart from each other. When they finally hit dry land, they were turned back into humans, but they didn’t know where they were. They had been carried so far away by the water that no one knew of their home land.
Each was obliged to keep sheep to earn their keep. They kept sheep for many years. One day they both drove their sheep into the same valley. They did not recognize each other, but were happy in each other’s presence, so they kept taking their sheep to the same place. For a while, they carried on like this. One day the husband took out a golden flute and played on it. He stopped to find the woman weeping. She explained that this was the same flute that had played when she saw her husband rise out of the mill-pond in the moonlight. They looked at each other and saw who the other was. They rejoiced and no one can say that they’re not happy.
In some stories, this nixie is a full-on mermaid. This is one of the more familiar stories in the Grimm’s anthology.
This was kind of a sweet love story. They were separated and then they found each other again. It actually reminds me of an episode of Doctor Who, Rory and Amy get separated by years, but Rory searches for Amy. Rory and Amy were always looking for each other. I miss them.
A word about the miller’s wife. Apparently, she didn’t know she was pregnant. It happens. People like to say that there is no possible way a woman could be pregnant for nine months and not know it. Seriously, it happens. There wouldn’t be an entire show about it if it didn’t happen. I’m talking about the show I didn’t know I was Pregnant. Most of the women on the show have a condition called PCOS or Stein Levanthal syndrome, we’ve talked about it before in relation to several books and the first part of my I hate Aldous Huxley series. PCOS is more of a modern-day affliction, but that doesn’t mean there weren’t occurrences of the disease back in the day. If the conditions are right, the syndrome will develop. This miller’s wife probably had something like that going on.
So we really can’t blame the miller for thinking there would only be a puppy or a kitten born in his house. He and the wife had probably tried for years to have a kid, but due to whatever condition his wife might have had, they didn’t have any kids. So they probably thought nothing of a few missed periods on the wife’s part because that was fairly normal, or maybe she was old enough to start menopause so they were like, “Well, that’s that,” but they never expected to end up with a baby.
This makes promising the new-born son away to a water nixie even more devastating because it’s the only kid and the long-awaited kid. This should have been a joyous, yet surprising, occasion for the miller and his wife, but instead it turned into an occasion of sadness.
This is a woman-rescue story much like several of the other stories in the Grimm’s anthology and much like The Polar Bear King. The woman rescues the man through several feats, usually three.
I find it interesting that the woman has to have objects. She is not rescuing the man with her own skill, but with objects given to her. It keeps popping up in the Grimm’s stories. The objects are almost always solely feminine objects. Here’s a comb. Here’s a spinning wheel. Here’s a flute. Here’s a walnut with a dress inside. No one ever gives the woman an axe and says, “Go rescue your husband.” Notice it’s always the husband; it’s never just the boyfriend. In the stories where the man is the rescuer instead of the rescuee, the man is rescuing his potential bride. How often does the man rescue his wife? Think about it. Have we read a story about a man rescuing his wife? The closest thing I can think of is the story in which the wife was really not a good person and the man actually worked to get rid of his wife. The Grimm’s thought a potential wife was worth it, but not the actual wife.
On the other hand, all these women are going through Hell and back to rescue their husbands. That’s kind of a double-standard. In fact, in several stories we see the wife accused of terrible things like eating her children, but the husband just kind of sits by and goes with it. He doesn’t step in to the defense of his wife. He lets people tie her up to a stake in order to burn her. Would the wives in these stories let someone do that to their man? No way honey.
It says that a woman should be devoted to her husband, but that a man shouldn’t necessarily be devoted to his wife. He can always get another one. It’s ok for a man to go all-out to win a woman’s affection, but once he has it, “Meh.”
There are many elements of this story that I really like. I think it’s a really neat story in all the different manners in which it is told.
double standards for rescuing, dreams, full moon, golden comb, golden flute, golden spinning wheel, grimm’s fairy tales, grimm’s fairy tales The Nixie of the Mill-Pond, head rises out of the water, husband recuse, mermaid, mermaid mill pond, mill pond, moonlight, nixie, old woman, PCOS, The Nixie of the Mill-Pond, three tasks, woman rescuer, woman rescues husband
Grimm’s Fairy Tales, PCOS