THE NIX OF THE MILL-POND
HERE was once upon a time, a miller who lived with
his wife in great contentment. They had money
and land, and their prosperity increased year
by yearmore and more. But ill-luck comes like
a thief in the night, as their wealth had
increased so did it again decrease, year by year.
At last the miller could hardly call the mill in
which he lived his own. He was in great distress,
and when he lay down after his day's work,
found no rest, but full of care, tossed about
in his bed.
One morning, he rose before daybreak and went
out into the open air, thinking perhaps there his
heart might become lighter. As he was stepping
over the mill-dam, the first sunbeam was just
breaking forth, and he heard a rippling sound
in the pond. He turned round and perceived a
beautiful woman, rising slowly out of the water.
Her long hair, which she was holding off her
shoulders with her soft hands, fell down on both
sides, and covered her white body.
He saw that she was the Nix of the Mill-pond,
and in his fright did not know whether he should
run away or stay where he was.
 But the Nix made her sweet voice heard, called
him by his name, and asked him why he was
so sad? The miller was at first struck dumb, but
when he heard her speak so kindly, he took
heart, and told her how he had formerly lived
in wealth and happiness, but that now he was
so poor that he did not know what to do.
"Be easy," answered the Nix, "I will make you
richer and happier than you have ever been
before, only you must promise to give me
the young things which has just been born in
"What else can that be," thought the miller,
"but a young puppy or kitten?" and he promised
her what she desired.
The Nix descended into the water again, and he
hurried back to his mill, consoled and in good
spirits. He had not yet reached it, when the
maid-servant came out of the house, and cried
to him to rejoice, for his wife had a little boy.
The miller stood as if struck by lightning. He saw
very well that the cunning Nix had been aware
of it, and had cheated him.
Hanging his head, he went up to his wife's
bedside and when she said, "Why do you not
rejoice over the fine boy?" he told her what
had befallen him, and what kind of a promise he
had given to the Nix. "Of what use to me are
riches and prosperity?" he added, "if I am to
lose my child; but what can I do?"
Even the relations, who had come thither to
wish them joy, did not know what to say. In
the meantime prosperity again returned to
the miller's house. All that he undertook
succeeded; it was as if presses and coffers
filled themselves of their own accord, and as
if money multiplied nightly in the
cup-  boards. It was not long before his wealth was
greater than it had ever been before. But he
could not rejoice over it untroubled, the bargain
which he had made with the Nix tormented
Whenever he passed the mill-pond, he feared
she might ascend and remind him of his debt.
He never let the boy himself go near the water.
"Beware," he said to him, "if you do but touch
the water, a hand will rise, seize you, and
draw you down."
But as year after year went by, and the Nix did
not show herself again, the miller began to feel
at ease. The boy grew up to be a youth and
was apprenticed to a huntsman. When he
had learnt everything, and had become an
excellent huntsman, the lord of the village
took him into his service. In the village lived
a beautiful and true-hearted maiden, who
pleased the huntsman. When his master
perceived that, he gave him a little house,
the two were married, lived peacefully and
happily, and loved each other with all their
One day, the huntsman was chasing a roe.
And when the animal turned aside from the
forest into the open country, he pursued it
and at last shot it. He did not notice that he was
now in the neighborhood of the dangerous
mill-pond, and went, after he had
disembowelled the stag, to the water, in
order to wash his blood-stained hands.
Scarcely, however, had he dipped them in
than the Nix ascended, smilingly wound
her dripping arms around him, and drew him
quickly down under the waves, which
closed over him.
When it was evening, and the huntsman
did not return
 home, his wife grew alarmed. She went out
to seek him, and as he had often told her
that he had to be on his guard against the
snares of the Nix, and dared not venture into
the neighborhood of the mill-pond, she
already suspected what had happened. She
hastened to the water, and when she found
his hunting-pouch lying on the shore, she
could no longer have any doubt of the
Lamenting her sorrow, and wringing her hands,
she called on her beloved by name, but in vain.
She hurried across to the other side of the
pond, and called him anew. She reviled the
Nix with harsh words, but found no answer
followed. The surface of the water remained
calm, only the crescent moon stared steadily
back at her. The poor woman did not leave
the pond. With hasty steps, she paced round
and round it, without resting a moment,
sometimes in silence, sometimes uttering
a loud cry, sometimes softly sobbing. At last
her strength came to an end, she sank down
to the ground and fell into a heavy sleep.
Presently a dream took possession of her. She
was anxiously climbing upward between great
masses of rock. Thorns and briars caught
her feet, the rain beat in her face, and the
wind tossed her long hair about. When she
reached the summit, quite a different sight
presented itself to her. The sky was blue, the
air soft, the ground sloped gently downward,
and on a green meadow, gay with flowers of
every color, stood a pretty cottage. She went
up to it and opened the door. There sat an
Old Woman with white hair, who beckoned to
At that very moment, the poor woman awoke,
al-  ready dawned and she at once resolved to
act in accordance with her dream. She
laboriously climbed the mountain.
Everything was exactly as she had seen it in
the night. The Old Woman received her
kindly, and pointed out a chair on which she
might sit. "You must have met with a
misfortune," she said, "since you have sought
out my lonely cottage."
With tears, the woman related what had
"Be comforted," said the Old Woman, "I
will help you. Here is a Golden Comb for
you. Tarry till the full moon has risen, then
go to the mill-pond, seat yourself on the
shore, and comb your long black hair with
the comb. When you have done, lay it down
on the bank, and you will see what will
The woman returned home, but the time
till the full moon came, passed slowly. At
last the shining disc appeared in the heavens,
then she went out to the mill-pond, sat
down and combed her long black hair with
the Golden Comb. When she had finished,
she laid it down at the water's edge.
It was not long before there was a movement
in the depths, a wave rose, rolled to the
shore, and bore the comb away with it.
In not more than the time necessary for the
comb to sink to the bottom, the surface of
the water parted, and the head of the huntsman
arose. He did not speak, but looked at his
wife with sorrowful glances. At the same
instant, a second wave came rushing up, and
covered the man's head. All had vanished, the
mill-pond lay peaceful as before, and nothing
but the face of the full moon shone on it.
Full of sorrow, the woman went back, but
again the dream
 showed her the cottage of the Old Woman.
Next morning, she again set and complained
of her woes to the Wise Woman.
The Old Woman gave her a Golden Flute, and
said, "Tarry till the full moon comes again, then
take this flute. Play a beautiful air on it, and
when you have finished, lay it on the sand.
Then you will see what will happen."
The wife did as the old woman told her. No
sooner was the flute lying on the sand, than
there was a stirring in the depths and a
wave rushed up and bore the flute away
Immediately afterward the water parted, and
not only the head of the man, but half of his
body also arose. He stretched out his arms
longingly toward her. But a second wave came
up, covered him, and drew him down again.
"Alas, what does it profit me?" said the unhappy
woman, "that I should see my beloved, only to
lose him again!"
Despair filled her heart anew, but the dream led
her a third time to the house of the Old Woman.
She set our, and the Wise Woman gave her a
Golden Spinning-Wheel, consoled her and said,
"All is not yet fulfilled, tarry until the time of the
full moon. Then take the spinning-wheel, seat
yourself on the shore, and spin the spool full.
When you have done that, place the
spinning-wheel near the water, and you will see
what will happen."
The woman obeyed all she said exactly. As soon
as the full moon showed itself, she carried the
Golden Spinning-Wheel to the shore, and span
industriously until the flax came to an end, and
the spool was quite filled with the threads. No
sooner was the wheel standing on the shore, than
there was a more violent
 movement than before in the depths of the pond,
and a mighty wave rushed up, and bore the wheel
away with it.
Immediately the head and whole body of the man
rose into the air, in a water-spout. He quickly
sprang to the shore, caught his wife by the hand
But they had scarcely gone a very little distance,
when the whole pond rose with a frightful roar,
and streamed out over the open country. The
fugitives already saw death before their eyes,
when the woman in her terror implored the
help of the Old Woman, and in an instant they
were transformed, she into a Toad, he into
The flood which had overtaken them could
not destroy them, but it tore them apart and
carried them far away.
When the water had dispersed and they both
touched dry land again, they regained their
human form, but neither knew where the other
was. They found themselves among strange
people, who did not know their native land.
High mountains and deep valleys lay between
them. In order to keep themselves alive,
they were both obliged to tend sheep.
For many long years, they drove their flocks
through field and forest and were full of
sorrow and longing. When spring had
once more broken forth on the earth, one
day they both went out with their flocks,
and as chance would have it, they drew
near each other. They met in a valley,
but did not recognize each other. Yet
they rejoiced that they were no longer
so lonely. They did not speak much, but
they felt comforted.
One evening when the full moon was
shining in the sky, and the sheep were
already at rest, the shepherd pulled
the flute out
 of his pocket, and played on it a beautiful
but sorrowful air. When he had finished,
he saw that the shepherdess was
"Why are you weeping?" he asked.
"Alas," answered she, "thus shone the
full moon when I played this air on
the flute for the last time, and the
head of my beloved rose out of
He looked at her, and it seemed
as if a veil fell from his eyes, and
he recognized his dear wife. And
when she looked at him, and the moon
shone in his face she knew him also.
They embraced and kissed each other,
and no one need ask if they were happy.