The Water Nixie
Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm
A little brother and little sister were playing by a well, and while
they were playing there they both fell in. A water nixie was down there.
She said, "Now I have you. Now you will have to work diligently for me,"
and she led them away with her.
She gave the girl tangled dirty flax to spin, and she had to fill a
bottomless barrel with water. The boy had to chop down a tree with a dull
ax, and all they got to eat were dumplings as hard as rocks.
Finally the children became so impatient, that they waited until one
Sunday when the nixie was at church, and then ran away. When church was
over, the nixie saw that the birds had flown away, and she followed them
with long strides.
The children saw her from afar, and the girl threw a brush behind her,
which turned into a large brush-mountain with thousands and thousands of
spikes, which the nixie had to climb over with great difficulty, but she
finally got to the other side.
When the children saw this the boy threw a comb behind him, which
turned into a large comb-mountain with a thousand times a thousand teeth,
but the nixie was able to keep hold of them, and finally got to the other
Then the girl threw a mirror behind her, which turned into a glass
mountain, which was so slippery, so slippery that it was impossible for
the nixie to climb over it.
Then she thought, "I will quickly go home and get my ax and chop the
glass mountain in two."
However, by the time she returned and had chopped up the glass
mountain, the children were far away and had escaped, so the water nixie
had to trudge back to her well.
- Source: Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm, Die
Wassernixe, Kinder- und Hausmärchen (Children's and
Household Tales -- Grimms' Fairy Tales), final edition (Berlin, 1857), no.
- The Grimms' source: Marie Hassenpflug (1788-1856).
- Translated by D. L.
Ashliman. © 2002.
- This tale was included in the first edition (vol. 1, 1812) of the
- Aarne-Thompson type 313.
- English translators have differed somewhat in their rendering of the
Grimms' title Die Wassernixe, for example:
- The Water-Nix (Margaret Hunt, 1884).
- The Nixie (Francis P. Magoun, Jr., and Alexander H. Krappe, 1960).
- The Water Nixie (Ralph Manheim, 1977).
- The Water Nixie (Jack Zipes, 1987).
- The Water Nixie (D. L. Ashliman, 2002).
- The Grimms' collection Children's and Household Tales contains
one additional tale involving an abduction by a nixie: The Nixie in the Pond (no. 181).
- The Grimms' collection Children's and Household Tales includes
four additional tales featuring a heroine who magically helps the hero
flee. Depending on other elements in the plot, these tales are categorized
as Aarne-Thompson types 313 (A-C).
- Foundling Bird (no. 51).
- Sweetheart Roland (no. 56).
- The Two Kings' Children (no. 113).
- The Drummer (no. 193).
- Mastermaid, a Norwegian folktale of type
313C from the collection of Peter Christen Asbjørnsen and
- Water Spirit Legends. Stories about mermaids,
nixies, and other supernatural creatures who live in the water.
- Melusina. Legends about mermaids, water
sprites, and forest nymphs and their sensuous relationships with mortal
- The Mermaid Wife. Migratory legends of
Christiansen type 4080.
- The Grimm Brothers' Children's and Household
Tales (Grimms' Fairy Tales).
- The Grimm Brothers' Home Page.
- D. L. Ashliman's folktexts, a library of folktales, folklore,
Revised November 13, 2002.