Undine: A less known story that inspired The Litle Mermaid ( and Photoshoot about Nymphs and Water Elementals)

in colorchallenge •  4 months ago

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.

This post is also part of @kalemandra #colorchallenge for Thursday Green

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)

nymph - by priscilla Hernandez (yidneth.com)-2.jpg

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.

nymph - by priscilla Hernandez (yidneth.com)-3.jpg

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

nymph - by priscilla Hernandez (yidneth.com)-4.jpg

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.

nymph - by priscilla Hernandez (yidneth.com).jpg

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.


Priscilla Hernandez
singer-songwriter & illustrator

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What a beautiful post- I loved how you can see your inspiration for the photographs in the gorgeous Arthur Rackham illustrations. I've not read Undine, but I'm going to follow your link and do-so, I think it would make a wonderful theme for a new oil-painting series I'm hoping to start this autumn.

My favourite fairy tale as a child was definitely Rumplestiltskin - always gave me that eery vibe you describe!

E x


I love Rackham and other illustrators lika Goble, Dulac, Bauer and so much. Most fairytales have adult and dark elements, and I kind of like the haunting elements in them. I think the king forcing the lady to an impossible task (weaving gold out of hay or menacing to kill her) is darker than the goblin itself hahaha XD


I completely agree- I just remember relishing this sense of impending doom as a kid... but then, I always was an odd child ;) E x


:) the water was :) cool :) indeed. I wish I were there now.

This is really beautiful my friend and such magical pictures of you in the water... Like a fairy one with nature ❤️ my favorite fairytale is beauty and the beast but there are others that is amazing to. I loved this. 😍


The one I mentiom at the end is Norwegian Beauty and the Beast. All batb are in fact inspired in part in Eros and Psyche to a point. I wrote once but must update an essay of all versions in cimema and books of batb. I have a soft spot for fairytale romance.


I have to check that out for sure 😉 I am weak for love story's and romance and then put fairytale on top of that 🤗 magic!
I would love to se that you wrote. Your dress that you made is amazing btw, you really have many gifts 💕


By the way just if curious original text of Undine is public domaim as it is from early XIX. Posted a link for direct online reading. It is a short novel. Yes , I love fairytales. My fav version of batb is Panna a Netvor a version from the seventies from the 70s

Beauty and the beast is probably my favorite fairy tale of all time- something always resonated with me that the main female character felt like the odd person out. Love the photos!

always like your photo and illustrations!

Such a beautiful green dress! It looks very similar to a green fairy dress my daughter sometimes dresses up in. I asked her what her favourite fairy tale was and her first response was the tooth fairy 😂 coz she gives you coins for loosing teeth. ...


Thank you. I made the dress and crown myself. I kind if like to dress in nature, fills with magic my imaginings. I actually have lots of comfy hiking but fae clothing. Lol. Greetings to your little fairy, would love to see her


I’ll get her to dress up and I’ll send you a pic one day soon! 😄

very interesting your post, are like florcores or very fascinating story, greeting


Gracias. Veo que también hablas español. Este es un cuento de hadas muy triste pero bello que inspiró la sirenita. Ondina

Hmmm special interest you have ... an adult lady dressing up in costumes and jumping into the water for photography, fun and quite special i have to say ...😅

Hmmm special interest you have ... an adult lady dressing up in costumes and jumping into the water for photography, fun and quite special i have to say ...😅

My favourite fairytale is Hans Christian Anderson's Snow Queen :)

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Oh Yidneth! I just have to try and do a photo like these one day.. For the fun of it. You really look like youre from a fairy tale. Like you could act in one of the Lord of the ring movies. You fit so right into that it cant be put in words. If i were you id really consider sending all you have to show to Hollywood. Yes it might sound silly, but i really think you have what it takes at least for some small parts singing some amazing numbers.


Oh my, It is fun, I just came back from the river pond, today it was black and with horns hahaha XD (good thing you don't have to wear bikinis) hahah. If we ever coincide sure, I have a tendency to kidnap my friends for a fairy make-over XD just for the day... but warning" you may get like the feeling of wings and garlands hahahah XD. If we ever cross paths, deal! and well to do an elegant shot in nature nothing fancy is needed, a white dress, barefoot a bouque of wild flowers and your lovely red hair. Thanks for the sweet words and encouraging... middle aged and still doing these geeky things... but you have to do what you love! :)
pd. on my way back from the pond I stopped in the supermarket. I was wearing a medieval green chemise XD LOL (you gotta buy kefir and ice cream you know, medieval princess or not)

Great photo and nice dress! I'm inspired with your idea - Maybe, I'll also prepare a suit of LadyNazgool:)))


Sure, dressing up is fun. I kind of loce dressed up all the time now like it became my style for daily too. More discrete but elven.

Tus intentos de no spoilear el final me dieron mas ganas de leer el libro, ya que la historia se ve muuuy interesante y seguro al final sucede algo impactante jajaja, gracias por añadir el link para leer el libro!! lo haré!

El vestido te quedó muy hermoso, se parece mucho al de la ilustracion, el parecido impresiona mucho!

Me encantaron las fotografias! te transportan directamente al siglo 19 !! si esa era la intencion lo lograste totalmente!

Excellent photos!!


Thank you, always to serve the stories and inspiration :) I love fantasy and it's part of my music, writings, drawings and also photography... it's become somehow a way of living

Marvelous story and photographs! You are such a delightful and creative "free spirit" 💚


Aww thank you yesterday I was again in another pond, wearing horns lol haha. I cannot help it.

Amazing photography! Looks amazing :)

Awesome Pics, I love the nature and the greenery.
The Head/Hair piece looks loverly, be great if you also have a close up pic of it.


I made the headpiece using an inexpensive headband and carefully attaching natural elements (foraged from the forest) as well as artificial. I'll look for a close up, yes I have some close ups of it :)


Yay, as always your post and pics are amazing.

Amazing Talent a.png


Thank you, your illustrations are very cute too :)