Undines (or Ondines) are Water Elemental Spirits often found in pools, waterfalls or ponds. It include mythological beings like Nereids, Naiads or Mermaids. There are countless depictions in different cultures and countries. In Spain, my native place, they are often called "Ayalgas" or "Anjanas" and are told to have golden hair (and goose feet). Sometimes luring their beloved into the waters, sometimes falling in love with a human just like in the very sad fairy tale Geman Romance "Undine" written by Baron de la Motte Fouque in 1811, and probably my favourite book about a water nymph.
Won't you dare to break the glassy surface of this shady pond?
There's no reason to feel fear if you heart is wise and pure
Are you afraid it is not?
(Lyrics from my own song The Call of the Nymph)
A popular German Romance from the XIX century
The story is similar to "The Little Mermaid" and maybe less well known now yet very compelling and also very tragic.
Undine itself is inspired on previous folk tales like "Melusine" a French folk-tale of a water spirit that marries a knight on condition that he shall never see her on Saturdays, when she resumes her mermaid shape.
In the case of Undine, the water nymph is adopted by a Fisherman and his wife after they lose their child, and thus innocent and wild Undine becomes a beloved daughter and falls in love with a Knight. She has a "spirit" but not really a human "soul" which she gets at the moment she marries (and also the weight of human feelings upon her). When the lost daughter appears and her husband also betray her she losses all, family and love... Several times she is betrayed and the ending of the tale is as romantic as "dark" (no spoilers here). It is more a romantic novel than a fairytale for children. Still this is the main inspiration for "The Little Mermaid" that we all known.
The book was a hit during the XIX century and there are several illustrated versions. It spawned a musical, an opera, a ballet, even the famous classical piano piece "Ondine" by Debussy and an early XX century silent movie. The one copy of the book I own and my favourite is illustrated by artist Arthur Rackham who is in fact one of my favourite artists of all time and one of the most prominent visual artists in the "Golden Era of illustrated fairytales"
Undine is about a water elemental that falls in love with a Knight. The irony is that even if she was no human, the purity of her feelings was stronger than his. It's a sad story (be warned). The ending is rather eerie, and I would say mysteriously bordering on "ghost tale" (Wuthering Heights vibes)
A story about love, betrayal and broken promises.
The whole Ondine book is now public Domain and it can be read entirely online from Project Gutenberg at this link. It is not a long read.
Here an illustration of Undine drawn by one of my favourite artists and illustrators Arthur Rackham in 1909 (Public Domain) in which this entire photoshoot is slightly inspired on the before mentioned fairy romance novella and illustrations.
Making the dress, headpiece and looking for locations
I made the dress specifically for this shoot. The only thing premade was a green corset to which I attached lace, trims. I made extensions of organza fabric and a ruffled feathered collar. I also made a headpiece using all kind of natural elements including dried natural fungi and moss. I wanted it to look "pale" green like in the illustration. My partner @hedac and I love Nature and look for locations and this one in particular is Irati Forest (one of the biggest beech woods in Europe) and river. I never shy from cold water... my friends usually joke that I maybe part nymph after all.
And in days as hot as today... (I am melting in a poodle like the Wicked Witch of the West in Oz) this is what I dream of... cool waters... me floating and drifting.
Back to the waters...
What's your favourite fairytale?
As you know I love fairytales, myths, legends and fantasy so you will probably find a lot about that in my music, art and even photography. This is likely one of my favourite fairytales along with Norwegian "East of the Sun and West of the Moon" ( a Beauty and the beast / Eros and Psyche retelling involving a Polar Bear)
Which one is your favourite?
To end another illustration from Rackham for Undine, this time in black and white.
singer-songwriter & illustrator