THE FAIRY MYTHOLOGY
Kennt ihr der Nixen, munt're Schaar?
Know you the Nixes, gay and fair?
The Nixes, or Water-people, inhabit lakes and rivers. The man is like any other man, only he has green teeth. He also wears a green hat. The female Nixes appear like beautiful maidens. On fine sunny days they may be seen sitting on the banks, or on the branches of the trees, combing their long golden locks. When any person is shortly to be drowned, the Nixes may be previously seen dancing on the surface of the water. They inhabit a magnificent region below the water, whither they sometimes convey mortals. A girl from a village near Leipzig was one time at service in the house of a Nix. She said that everything there was very good; all she had to complain of was that she was obliged to eat her food without salt. The female Nixes frequently go to the market to buy meat: they are always dressed with extreme neatness, only a corner of their apron or some other part of their clothes is wet. The man has also occasionally gone to market. They are fond of carrying off women whom they make wives of, and often fetch an earthly midwife to assist at their labour. Among the many tales of the Nixes we select the following:--
A Water-Man once lived on good terms with a peasant who dwelt not far from his lake. He often visited him, and at last begged that the peasant would visit him in his house under the water. The peasant consented, and went down with him. There was everything down under the water as in a stately palace on the land,--halls, chambers, and cabinets, with costly furniture of every description. The Water-man led his guest over the whole, and showed him everything that was in it. They came at length to a little chamber, where were standing several new pots turned upside down. The peasant asked what was in them. "They contain," was the reply, "the souls of drowned people, which I put under the pots and keep them close, so that they cannot get away. " The peasant made no remark, and he came up again on the land. But for a long time the affair of the souls continued to give him great trouble, and be watched to find when the Water-man should be from home. When this occurred, as he had marked the right way down, he descended into the water-house, and, having made out the little chamber, he turned up all the pots one after another, and immediately the souls of the drowned people ascended out of the water, and recovered their liberty.1
There is a little lake in Westphalia called the Darmssen, from
which the peasants in the adjacent village of Epe used to hear all through the night a sound as if
of hammering upon an anvil. People who were awake used also to see something in the middle of the lake.
They got one time into a boat and went to it, and there they found that it was a smith, who, with his
body raised over the water, and a hammer in his hand, pointed to an anvil, and bid the people bring
him something to forge. Prom that time forth they brought iron to him, and no people had such good
plough-irons as those of Epe.
At Seewenweiher, in the Black-Forest, a little Water-man (Seemänlein) used to come and join the people, work the whole day long with them, and in the evening go back into the lakes. They used to set his breakfast and dinner apart for him. When, in apportioning the work, the rule of "Not too much and not too little" was infringed, he got angry, and knocked all the things about. Though his clothes were old and worn, he steadily refused to let the people get him new ones. But when at last they would do so, and one evening the lake-man was presented with a new coat, be said, "When one is paid off, one must go away. After this day I'II come no more to you." And, unmoved by the excuses of the people, he never let himself be seen again.3
A midwife related that her mother was one night called up, and
desired to make haste and come to the aid of a woman in labour. It was dark, but notwithstanding she
got up and dressed herself, and went down, where she found a man waiting. She begged of him to stay
till she should get a lantern, and she would go with him; but he was urgent, said he would show her
the way without a lantern, and that there was no fear of her going astray.
1. This legend seems to be connected with the ancient idea of the water-deities
taking the souls of drowned persons to themselves. In the Edda, this is done by the sea-goddess