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Undine by Friedrich de la Motte Fouqué Illustrated by Arthur Rackham

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Undine is a fairy-tale novella by Friedrich de la Motte Fouqué in which Undine, a water spirit, marries a knight named Huldebrand in order to gain a soul. It is an early German romance, which has been translated into English and other languages. Of Undine George MacDonald, the famous Scottish author, poet, and Christian minister, and author of the Princess and Curdie, as Undine is a fairy-tale novella by Friedrich de la Motte Fouqué in which Undine, a water spirit, marries a knight named Huldebrand in order to gain a soul. It is an early German romance, which has been translated into English and other languages. Of Undine George MacDonald, the famous Scottish author, poet, and Christian minister, and author of the Princess and Curdie, as well as many other works, and the inspiration for C. S. Lewis, said it was "the most beautiful" of all fairy stories. "Of all the great mass of material left by Friedrich de la Motte Fouqué (1777-1843), only a lyric or two and the fairy tale Undine have any value for the present day. Fouqué represents the talent which develops in the glare of the world, is popular for a decade, but soon withers when the sun is set. His relations to Romanticism are largely external; he frequented the salons of Rachel Levin and Henrietta Herz in Berlin, was aided by August von Schlegel, and was praised by Jean Paul; but in his heart he was not inspired by any of the deeper longings that characterize the true Romantic spirit. Even though he is to be credited with the first modern dramatization of the Nibelungen story, The Hero of the North (1810), and though he took subjects from the Germanic past and from the chivalric days, he brought no new life to his rehabilitations. Fouqué was too productive, too facile, too external, too indifferent to psychological motivation to be real. He diluted Romanticism and sentimentalized it. In him patriotism becomes chauvinism; love, philandering; and his age of chivalry, a thinly veiled and sentimental picture of his own times. The strength and the indigenousness of Arnim are gone, and that power to throw a Romantic glamor over life which Tieck and Hoffmann had, is lacking. Only in his charming fairy-tale, Undine (1811), does Fouqué rise above his milieu. Undine, the source of which, according to Fouqué himself, is to be found in a work of Paracelsus on supernatural beings, remains one of the best creations of the Romantic school and, like Eichendorff's novel, has become international, not only in its original form but in the opera by Lortzing (first performance, Hamburg, 1845). The value of the story lies in the author's power to make the reader believe in Undine, the water sprite, and in the presentation of a new nature-mythology. All Romanticists have consciously or unconsciously attempted to satisfy Friedrich Schlegel's demand for anew mythology: Fouqué's earth, air, and water spirits people the elements with graceful forms from the world of nature; the nymph Undine in the form of a flowing stream embraces even in death the grave of her lover." VOLUME V, THE GERMAN CLASSICS, Masterpieces of German Literature Beautifully Illustrated by Arthur Rackham


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Undine is a fairy-tale novella by Friedrich de la Motte Fouqué in which Undine, a water spirit, marries a knight named Huldebrand in order to gain a soul. It is an early German romance, which has been translated into English and other languages. Of Undine George MacDonald, the famous Scottish author, poet, and Christian minister, and author of the Princess and Curdie, as Undine is a fairy-tale novella by Friedrich de la Motte Fouqué in which Undine, a water spirit, marries a knight named Huldebrand in order to gain a soul. It is an early German romance, which has been translated into English and other languages. Of Undine George MacDonald, the famous Scottish author, poet, and Christian minister, and author of the Princess and Curdie, as well as many other works, and the inspiration for C. S. Lewis, said it was "the most beautiful" of all fairy stories. "Of all the great mass of material left by Friedrich de la Motte Fouqué (1777-1843), only a lyric or two and the fairy tale Undine have any value for the present day. Fouqué represents the talent which develops in the glare of the world, is popular for a decade, but soon withers when the sun is set. His relations to Romanticism are largely external; he frequented the salons of Rachel Levin and Henrietta Herz in Berlin, was aided by August von Schlegel, and was praised by Jean Paul; but in his heart he was not inspired by any of the deeper longings that characterize the true Romantic spirit. Even though he is to be credited with the first modern dramatization of the Nibelungen story, The Hero of the North (1810), and though he took subjects from the Germanic past and from the chivalric days, he brought no new life to his rehabilitations. Fouqué was too productive, too facile, too external, too indifferent to psychological motivation to be real. He diluted Romanticism and sentimentalized it. In him patriotism becomes chauvinism; love, philandering; and his age of chivalry, a thinly veiled and sentimental picture of his own times. The strength and the indigenousness of Arnim are gone, and that power to throw a Romantic glamor over life which Tieck and Hoffmann had, is lacking. Only in his charming fairy-tale, Undine (1811), does Fouqué rise above his milieu. Undine, the source of which, according to Fouqué himself, is to be found in a work of Paracelsus on supernatural beings, remains one of the best creations of the Romantic school and, like Eichendorff's novel, has become international, not only in its original form but in the opera by Lortzing (first performance, Hamburg, 1845). The value of the story lies in the author's power to make the reader believe in Undine, the water sprite, and in the presentation of a new nature-mythology. All Romanticists have consciously or unconsciously attempted to satisfy Friedrich Schlegel's demand for anew mythology: Fouqué's earth, air, and water spirits people the elements with graceful forms from the world of nature; the nymph Undine in the form of a flowing stream embraces even in death the grave of her lover." VOLUME V, THE GERMAN CLASSICS, Masterpieces of German Literature Beautifully Illustrated by Arthur Rackham

30 review for Undine by Friedrich de la Motte Fouqué Illustrated by Arthur Rackham

  1. 5 out of 5

    Lee Klein

    Read free Gutenberg Project ePub file on iPhone with sleeping newborn sprite (she was living in an aquatic environment just a few days ago) on chest or nearby. Read it thanks to an encouraging mention in Lovecraft's Supernatural Horror in Literature. It's a long fairy tale in form and tone, a supernatural love triangle involving the coolest secondary character I've seen in a while: an impish uncle who's half-man/half-brook. As H.P. states, early on it nicely evokes the unknown, particularly in t Read free Gutenberg Project ePub file on iPhone with sleeping newborn sprite (she was living in an aquatic environment just a few days ago) on chest or nearby. Read it thanks to an encouraging mention in Lovecraft's Supernatural Horror in Literature. It's a long fairy tale in form and tone, a supernatural love triangle involving the coolest secondary character I've seen in a while: an impish uncle who's half-man/half-brook. As H.P. states, early on it nicely evokes the unknown, particularly in the forest and the natural world (a storm, a flooding stream). Loved when the knight runs his sword through a waterfall. Liked how Undine (her unsettled soulnessness only repaired by marriage, in particular) reminded me of a few capricious/tempestuous young ladies I've known. A tragic disappearance of a child, a rich and beautiful knight, a mysterious beautiful damsel, a bit of conflict between paganism and a priest, but I felt like either it went on too long or I got impatient. Cleaner in syntax than Poe although written in 1811 but lordie the extravagantly named author dude sure liked his adverbs. Overall, a worthwhile read that might have made a better long story than a novella, but a fine extended complement to the Brothers Grimm.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Breslin White

    This is a good rendition of supernatural themes. A lot of people would have taken a comic turn to it, but the author proposes something more serious.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Oliviu Craznic

    „I wept him to death.”

  4. 5 out of 5

    Meredith

    This is the story of the Knight Huldbrand of Ring-stetten and of Undine, telling how the Knight wedded with water-sprite, and what chanced therefrom: and how the Knight died and was buried: and how Undine returned to her element beneath the Mediterranean Sea 'of all fairy-tales, the most beautiful...': https://blogs.bl.uk/european/2015/02/... Charming. I liked the language and supernatural elements. I'd love to read a sapphic retelling of Undine. Can be read here: https://archive.org/details This is the story of the Knight Huldbrand of Ring-stetten and of Undine, telling how the Knight wedded with water-sprite, and what chanced therefrom: and how the Knight died and was buried: and how Undine returned to her element beneath the Mediterranean Sea 'of all fairy-tales, the most beautiful...': https://blogs.bl.uk/european/2015/02/... Charming. I liked the language and supernatural elements. I'd love to read a sapphic retelling of Undine. Can be read here: https://archive.org/details/undine00l... Quote: (view spoiler)[ But she would not hear of this ; it irked her sore ; Undine, she said, her parents had named her, and Undine she still would be. Now this appeared to me to be but a heathenish name, not to be found in any calendar ; and for this reason I took counsel of a priest in the city. With such soft speech and cozening words did she flatter him, using the while such merry mockery, that he could remember none of the grave arguments he thought to use against the name Undine. Undine, therefore, was she baptized. There, by the light of the lately risen moon, they saw the brook, which came from the forest, wildly overflowing its banks, and sweeping away stones and tree-trunks in its impetuous course. The storm, as if awakened by the tumult, broke furiously from the clouds that passed swiftly over the moon : the lake howled under the mad buffet of the wind : the trees of the little peninsula groaned from root to topmost bough, and bent dizzily over the surging waters. “Undine! For Heaven’s sake, Undine!” cried the two men in terror. Not a word came back in answer, and without further thought they rushed out of the cottage, one in this direction, the other in that, searching and calling for Undine. (hide spoiler)] He saw by the moonlight momentarily unveiled, a little island encircled by the flood; and there under the branches of the overhanging trees was Undine The knight took the beautiful girl in his arms and bore her over the narrow space where the stream had divided her little island from the shore Quote: (view spoiler)[ Now in the midst of this stillness came the sound of soft knocking at the door, and startled those that were within; for, at times, but a trifling incident can scare us, when it happeneth unexpectedly…They looked at each other with doubt in their faces…Meantime Undine approached the door and called out boldly and angrily, “Spirits of the earth, I warn ye ! If ye mean mischief, Kuhleborn shall teach ye better !” Words so full of mystery only added to the terror of the others, and they looked at the maiden fearfully. When Hulbrand, however, was minded to ask Undine what she might man by such a speech, there came a voice from without. “I am no spirit of the earth,” it said, “but a spirit still within its earthly frame. I pray ye within the hut, if ye fear God and will help me, open to me.” Undine at these words opened the door and held out a lantern into the night, so that they perceived an aged priest standing there. He stepped back in wonder: full startled was he to see so beautiful a maiden at the humble cottage entrance, and he might well suppose in such a case that witchcraft and magic were at work…”No spirit am I,” saith Undine, smiling, “Do I then look so ugly? Moreover, thou mayest see that holy words do not frighten me. I, too, know of God, and understand how to praise him–every one in his own way, to be sure, for so hath he created us. Come in, reverend father, thou art come among good people.” “Thou must know, my beloved, that there exist in the elements beings not unlike mortal men, which yet rarely let themselves be seen of men. Wonderful salamanders glisten and sport in the flames of fire: gnomes, lean and spiteful, dwell deep within the earth; spirits, which are of the air, wander through the forests; and a vast family of water-spirits live in the lakes and streams and brooks. In domes of crystal, echoing with many sounds, through which heaven looks in with its sun and its stars, the water-spirits find their beautiful home; loft trees of coral with blue and crimson fruits shine in their gardens; they wander over the pure sand of the sea, and among lovely variegated shells and amid all the exquisite treasure of the old world, which the present world is no longer worthy to enjoy. All these the floods have covered with their mysterious veil of silver; below sparkle, stately and solemn, many noble ruins, washed by the loving waters which win from them delicate moss-flowers and entwining clusters of sea-grass. Those who dwell there are very fair and lovely to behold–more beautiful, I ween, than human beings. Here and there a fisherman has been lucky enough to espy some mermaid as she rose from the waters and sang; thereupon he would tell, near and far, of her beauty, and such wondrous beings have been called Undines. Thou, dear one, art actually seeing an Undine. We should live far more happily than other human beings–for human beings we call ourselves, being similar in face and stature–were it not for one evil that is peculiar to us. We, and our like in the other elements, vanish into dust and pass away, body and spirit, so that not a vestige of us remains behind; and when ye human beings awake hereafter to a purer life, we abide with the sand and the sparks of fire, the wind and the waves. For we have no souls. The element in which we live animates us; it even obeys us whiel we live; but it scatters us to dust when we die. And we are merry, having naught to grieve us–merry are the nightingales and little gold-fishes, and other pretty childdren of nature. Nathless, all beings aspire to be higher than they are; and so my Father, who is a mighty water-prince in the Mediterranean Sea, was fain that his only daughter should become possessed of a soul, even though she must needs in that case endure the suffereings of those similarly endowed. Beings such as we can only gain a soul by an union of deepest love with one of thy race. A soul I now possess; and my soul thanks thee (hide spoiler)] "Little niece," said Kuhleborn, "forget not that I am here with thee as a guide." Soon she was lost to sight in the Danube Quote: (view spoiler)[ And because these things were so, the good Undine often visited Huldbrand in his dreams, caressing him with many tender kisses, and then going away silently and with tears. When he woke, he scarcely knew why his cheeks were wet; were they her tears or his own? ” ‘Tis for this very reason,” Undine replied, smiling through her tears, “that he is now hovering in spirit over the Mediterranean, and is hearing this talk of ours, in a warning and bodeful dream. With manifest intent have I arranged it all.” Then Kuhleborn looked up at the knight; muttering threats and stamping his feet in furious rage, he shot like an arrow beneath the waters…And the knight soared, or so it appeared to him, over mountains and streams till once more he was in the Castle Ringstetten and awoke on his bed. And, trembling with love and with the nearness of death, the knight bent towards her, and she kissed him with a holy kiss. But she did not again draw back, she pressed him to her ever closer and closer, and wept as if she would weep away her soul. Tears rushed into Huldbrand’s eyes, and his breast surged and heaved, till, at the last, breath failed him, and he fell back softly from Undine’s arms upon the pillows of his couch–dead. “My tears have been his death,” she said to some servants who met her in the ante-chamber. This is all she sapke, and passing them by as they stared on her with terror, she went slowly out towards the fountain. (hide spoiler)] Memorable phrases: (view spoiler)[ and wept as if she would weep away her soul My tears have been his death And because these things were so, the good Undine often visited Huldbrand in his dreams, caressing him with many tender kisses, and then going away silently and with tears. When he woke, he scarcely knew why his cheeks were wet; were they her tears or his own? Tears were also a theme in Tanith Lee's Legenda Maris. Loved the role of dreams in this story. Undine having the ability to visit Huldbrand in his dreams, and bring Huldbrand to see her in the Mediterranean. Random, but one thing that stuck out to me was Huldbrand calling an imp in a forest a 'wight' - it reminded me of Game of Thrones. I looked it up, and wasn't able to find much, but it seems that the name 'wight' was a common name for earth or ground spirits in folklore. I love Joanna's review that mentions wanting to read an analysis of this fairy tale through a feminist lens. Along that train of thought, out of all the fairy tales I've read, I thought Undine ended up wielding some power and had a fair share of agency. This isn't 100% true of course, there are still some problematic occurrences. Still, I would love to read a feminist analysis that is more than "bah, fairy tales are sexist" (hide spoiler)]

  5. 5 out of 5

    Vida

    I heard this described as a true fairytale. Intrigued, I read it and was not disappointed. A tragic tale of an elemental who seeks to gain a soul through unconditional love and marriage to a human. ( A handsome Knight of course) This book caters to all aspects of a true fairytale; a subtle yet revealing moral, magic and mystery, and of course, love and betrayal. My heart continuously went out to the beautiful "water-spirit" who so desperately wanted a soul, a better inner life and to the Knight, I heard this described as a true fairytale. Intrigued, I read it and was not disappointed. A tragic tale of an elemental who seeks to gain a soul through unconditional love and marriage to a human. ( A handsome Knight of course) This book caters to all aspects of a true fairytale; a subtle yet revealing moral, magic and mystery, and of course, love and betrayal. My heart continuously went out to the beautiful "water-spirit" who so desperately wanted a soul, a better inner life and to the Knight, who was so human. An interesting look into elementals of nature, hints of astral projection and all things mystical, written and translated beautifully. Very highly recommended.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Joanna

    My wonderful, awesome boyfriend got me a copy of this book from 1909, illustrated by Arthur Rackham, for Christmas. It's become one of my most prized possessions. It is beautifully written (or translated, I suppose I should say) and of course, stunningly illustrated. I consider it a masterful example of the literary fairytale. I like the story of Undine better than Hans Christian Anderson's "The Little Mermaid" for a number of reasons, though it features with very similar plot elements and theme My wonderful, awesome boyfriend got me a copy of this book from 1909, illustrated by Arthur Rackham, for Christmas. It's become one of my most prized possessions. It is beautifully written (or translated, I suppose I should say) and of course, stunningly illustrated. I consider it a masterful example of the literary fairytale. I like the story of Undine better than Hans Christian Anderson's "The Little Mermaid" for a number of reasons, though it features with very similar plot elements and themes. It is interesting that in Fonque's Undine, the mortal man turns from the mermaid/water nymph in favor of a mortal lover because he is made "afraid" of her extraordinary nature and powers. His feelings towards her change once she reveals to him that she is not a simple fishing girl. (This, I think could be possibly read in a number of ways - he does also learn at that time that supernatural forces that she is in legion with brought him her way, which is probably enough to freak anyone out a little. Yet from the start the narration describes that the knight needs no coaxing to become Undine's lover.) In "The Little Mermaid", the prince is romantically indifferent to the mermaid from start to finish. I think that alone indicates that two very different stories are told within each, though one principal plot point remains the same: the water nymph must marry a mortal man in order to gain the ultimate prize - a human soul. (I won't spoil the ending of either story for anyone who hasn't read them, but their quests end quite differently from one another, and certainly as neither anticipated.) I would love to write a paper analyzing this text through a feminist lens (starting with the mermaid figure as a representation of 'the feminine mystique'), and comparing it to "The Little Mermaid". There is a lot of material for a very interesting discussion to be had.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Lacey Louwagie

    Even though I just finished this book yesterday, I feel the need to write my review quickly because it's a story that seems to slide out of my mind; when I would walk away from it and come back, it often took me a moment to reorient myself to this strange little story. Perhaps such slipperiness is appropriate for a story about a volatile water creature, but everything just felt so wishy-washy to me that I had trouble finding much to hold onto. Undine was a spoiled child or an angelic woman. The Even though I just finished this book yesterday, I feel the need to write my review quickly because it's a story that seems to slide out of my mind; when I would walk away from it and come back, it often took me a moment to reorient myself to this strange little story. Perhaps such slipperiness is appropriate for a story about a volatile water creature, but everything just felt so wishy-washy to me that I had trouble finding much to hold onto. Undine was a spoiled child or an angelic woman. The knight loved Undine passionately, then loved Bertalda, then Undine, then ... and Bertalda was a selfish snob, then a humble daughter, a passionate friend or a deceitful hussy. All said, I was irritated enough with Huldebrand's inability to commit that I really thought he deserved whatever Undine's vengeful uncle could throw at him. Despite it being an old story (published 1811), the prose was quite easy to read, and there were some moments of heartbreak and beauty. As partial inspiration for The Little Mermaid, it was interesting to see the comparisons -- a mermaid who loves a human and gains a soul, a human man with a wavering heart, etc. But this lacks the heart of Andersen's classic, which may be why it won't stay with me in the same way.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Christine

    So this is the tale that launched a thousand mermaid stories. If you can launch a mermaid story, that is. Now, it is an old story – you know before women were considered fully fledged members of the human race and stuff. In some ways, it is rather sympathetic to the two women – one a water spirit, the other a human woman – both of whom love the same man – who is a wishy washy jerk. It is the human woman who elicits more reaction and sympathy. Her life is turned upside down and she is condemned So this is the tale that launched a thousand mermaid stories. If you can launch a mermaid story, that is. Now, it is an old story – you know before women were considered fully fledged members of the human race and stuff. In some ways, it is rather sympathetic to the two women – one a water spirit, the other a human woman – both of whom love the same man – who is a wishy washy jerk. It is the human woman who elicits more reaction and sympathy. Her life is turned upside down and she is condemned for not being good enough while the water spirit, Undine, is the perfect daughter. Honestly, at a few points a good smack was what Undine deserved. Yup, it is one of those types of tales. It is magical in the sense of wonder and description. It is very much a medieval romance. But it lacks the power of the work of Marie de France and the magic of other sea folk tales. Crossposted at booklikes.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Gale

    THE SACRIFICE OF A WATER SPRITE This is the original fairy tale Noir, which inspired all the rest: ballet, opera, Giroudoux' ONDINE and Osborne's HAUNTED WATERS. This novella examines the spiritual question of the Soul--that elusive qualify in which mankind trusts. Can it be other than God-given? Can it be acquired through marriage or noble deeds, bartered or even sold outright? Does the possession of a soul make one's life easier or more difficult, one's moral decisions clearer or more complex? THE SACRIFICE OF A WATER SPRITE This is the original fairy tale Noir, which inspired all the rest: ballet, opera, Giroudoux' ONDINE and Osborne's HAUNTED WATERS. This novella examines the spiritual question of the Soul--that elusive qualify in which mankind trusts. Can it be other than God-given? Can it be acquired through marriage or noble deeds, bartered or even sold outright? Does the possession of a soul make one's life easier or more difficult, one's moral decisions clearer or more complex? For humankind, a soul can prove a mixed blessing. But what would it do for supernatural being? This 175-year old fairy tale from the enchanted forests of Germany is intensely poetic and romantic in style, yet it echoes medieval sagas of doomed emotional quests. The ageless theme warns of the danger resulting from the unnatural union between mortal and immortal. Despite the depth of their love such pairings of dissimilar species usually result in great pain and ultimate tragedy--placing the mortal's soul in real peril. This short tale is further condensed by the skillful translator, yet it retains the flavor of the dark, mysterious original. Fouque's sylvan setting and watery undulations surprise readers at every turn: flood, stream, fountain, ocean, and lake all seek to reclaim the escaped water sprite who would defy the essence of her being to dare live as a woman. Does an evil demon stalk Undine and her cavalier? Is his supernatural presence trying to protect her or reclaim her from the solid world? To which world would she rather belong--or does the poor maiden even have a choice at all? Like the little mermaid in the Hans Christian Andersen original Undine endures great suffering in exchange for the gift of a human soul. The plot flows along swiftly and relentlesly to its disastrous conclusion; for none in the lover's triangle triumphs in the end. The water sprites merely mock the futility of bonding with humans, while our hearts bleed for the heroine as evanescent as a rainbow in the mist. August 4, 2010. I welcome dialogue with teachers)

  10. 5 out of 5

    Kathrin

    Every once in a while, I am in the mood to read a Kunstmaerchen just for the sake of remembering how much I love fairy tales and what authors can do with them. Undine has been on my list for a while - ever since I saw a beautifully illustrated edition at my local bookshop. However, because I don't own the book yet, I decided to listen to the audiobook instead. Undine is the story of a knight, Huldbrand, who travels through a scary forest to prove himself to his love, Bertalda. He meets an old fis Every once in a while, I am in the mood to read a Kunstmaerchen just for the sake of remembering how much I love fairy tales and what authors can do with them. Undine has been on my list for a while - ever since I saw a beautifully illustrated edition at my local bookshop. However, because I don't own the book yet, I decided to listen to the audiobook instead. Undine is the story of a knight, Huldbrand, who travels through a scary forest to prove himself to his love, Bertalda. He meets an old fisherman and asks him for help seemingly lost in the woods. While the fisher and his wife take him in he meets their daughter, Undine. Huldbrand will quickly fall for her and marries her ignoring all the strange things happening around his new wife. And everything gets really complicated when he takes Undine to his home to live a 'normal' life and meet his former lover, Bertalda. I loved the grotesque elements of the story. Being a fan of dark fantasy I notice many well-known themes when reading Kunstmaerchen - like elemental beings who have to listen to their own laws and how difficult it is for them to live in the human world. Undine is not the easiest character to like in the beginning but she grew quickly on me and her ending was very undeserved. All in all, this is a lovely short story that supposedly inspired The Little Mermaid some twenty years later. I am happy that I found the time to listen to the story as it's easier to follow than other classics. Maybe one day I'll own a nice illustrated edition myself.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Isa Lavinia

    Undine Okay, I feel like one of those people who go, "omg, the Glee cover was WAY better than the original", but...   I read Jean Giraudoux's Ondine when I was a child, and re-read it a thousand times since, plus I watched the wonderful comédie-française production, starring a young Isabelle Adjani, so it's fair to say I'm a little bit obsessed with Giraudoux's take on the story.   I guess since that story is practically set in stone in my mind, when I got to the original by Motte Fouqué, every page Undine Okay, I feel like one of those people who go, "omg, the Glee cover was WAY better than the original", but...   I read Jean Giraudoux's Ondine when I was a child, and re-read it a thousand times since, plus I watched the wonderful comédie-française production, starring a young Isabelle Adjani, so it's fair to say I'm a little bit obsessed with Giraudoux's take on the story.   I guess since that story is practically set in stone in my mind, when I got to the original by Motte Fouqué, every page of it my brain would go, "No! That's not how it goes!" ...which is absurd because Giraudoux's work is an adaptation of this!   That being said, it's still a delightful fairytale, well worth reading (you can find it for free at Project Gutenberg!) And Arthur Rackham's illustrations are AMAZING! Look!     You can see all of his illustrations for this book at the site Rackham Fairy and Fairy Tale Art.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Skye

    I'm just fascinated by the 'elemental creatures without souls' theme in folk and fairy tales, and so I adored this. Beautifully written if a bit weak in plot. The descriptions of Kuhleborn were particularly memorable, and he was probably the most fascinating character of the story, although I liked Undine in the beginning also. This work has a lot to say, quite unintentionally, about gender and marriage. Easily comparable with HCA's The Little Mermaid.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Alexandra Gold

    The permise and plot was interesting but the execution kinda suffered from a lack of substance. Sure Undine and the knight were good as a couple but the implication of a love triangle was a turning off my interest. Parts of this novella are pretty great though. The ending sure is creepy but makes up for the weak points.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Marts (Thinker)

    A wicked tale about a 'water spirit' who marries a knight, claiming to love him unconditionally, in order to claim his soul. Includes all the elements of a scary classic. A seemingly haunted forest, a house in a really deserted area, a storm, horses, a castle, and the likes of such...

  15. 5 out of 5

    Katy

    Great story. Old fashion fairy tale, a bit creepy -- but one needs to read these tales.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Lamprini

    just amazing.bow to such a writting

  17. 4 out of 5

    Jana

    Gorgeous images, not so likeable characters.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Jody

    My only familiarity with this book was from Little Women (when Jo wants to buy the book for herself, but gives her money to buy Marmee a Christmas gift instead). In some ways, Undine feels like a more coherent Phantasties, or something George MacDonald-esque, at least. Yet it has its own story and flavour. Its own joys and deeply tragic moments. There is a maturing of Undine as the story unwinds. Even though she is not terribly likable at first, she is very much so by the end. She is likeable an My only familiarity with this book was from Little Women (when Jo wants to buy the book for herself, but gives her money to buy Marmee a Christmas gift instead). In some ways, Undine feels like a more coherent Phantasties, or something George MacDonald-esque, at least. Yet it has its own story and flavour. Its own joys and deeply tragic moments. There is a maturing of Undine as the story unwinds. Even though she is not terribly likable at first, she is very much so by the end. She is likeable and noble, in fact. Gives a deeper picture/practise of genuine love than many fairy stories. Well worth the read!

  19. 5 out of 5

    Angelli

    I learned of "Undine" from "Little Women" by Louisa May Alcott because Jo was saying she wanted to buy this book. Aside from "Anne of Green Gables", this book is the only book that I have read again and again (and again). I'll admit, the first time I read the book there was a lot I didn't understand especially the poem at the beginning but when I read it for the second time, I just came to love it! And after reading the book for the second time then reading the poem then, suddenly it all made sen I learned of "Undine" from "Little Women" by Louisa May Alcott because Jo was saying she wanted to buy this book. Aside from "Anne of Green Gables", this book is the only book that I have read again and again (and again). I'll admit, the first time I read the book there was a lot I didn't understand especially the poem at the beginning but when I read it for the second time, I just came to love it! And after reading the book for the second time then reading the poem then, suddenly it all made sense and the poem gave me such a bittersweet feeling, I suppose that's what it was. The book was so wonderfully written and each word just felt like it was calling and sucking me into its world. Like how I loved the story, I also absolutely loved the characters! When I read, I usually take my time to visualize the characters and give them their appearances, their voices and what-not but in Undine for some reason, it all felt natural as if there was already an image given to you to imagine the places, the people, their personality and their faces. Undine was truly a very fun character to visualize because she gave an aura saying she was very free. I got that from her dialogues and how her movements were described. I really loved her character. The other characters were also nicely created. I can say this even about Bertalda because I really have never felt such intense hatred toward a fictional character from a novel. In my opinion, every detail was very vividly given. Everything just felt so very alive to me. Reading Undine was a very fun and even magical experience for me because among the books I have read so far, Undine is the only book that made me feel as if I was there beside them seeing everything that happened to them. I have never felt such intense feelings towards fictional characters in a book before Undine. Now, I may not have read many books at all yet but this book really was a very good book. This book is pretty old so if you have access to the book I recommend you read it. Other people may not love it like I do, they may not even like it but I swear it really was an enjoyable read!

  20. 5 out of 5

    Shannon

    What a strange little story. I ordered a copy of the book because I'm interested in the Ashton ballet Ondine, which is loosely based on it. (A DVD of the ballet will be available in the US in May, although it's not the old recording of Margot Fonteyn that I'm dying to see based on this clip.) I'm glad I started with the written version of the story. It's a fairy tale, and the characterization lacks detail and sometimes feels inconsistent. Still, I like Undine a lot, especially at the beginning wh What a strange little story. I ordered a copy of the book because I'm interested in the Ashton ballet Ondine, which is loosely based on it. (A DVD of the ballet will be available in the US in May, although it's not the old recording of Margot Fonteyn that I'm dying to see based on this clip.) I'm glad I started with the written version of the story. It's a fairy tale, and the characterization lacks detail and sometimes feels inconsistent. Still, I like Undine a lot, especially at the beginning when she's wild and childish. The moment in the fourth chapter when she bites Huldbrand is funny, but it also feels important in comparison with the way the story ends. As she grows in her ability to injure him she loses her willingness to do it. Undine shares some plot points with Hans Christian Andersen's little mermaid, including the central problem of the human soul. Like the little mermaid, Undine lacks a soul and gains it in the course of the story. The two stories feel different, though, in some important ways. It would be fun to read them together for a book club or discussion group. Other topics that would be fun to discuss include: - Bertalda, born with a human soul but still not particularly good, as a foil for Undine. - The role of romantic love and marriage. Also, the importance of broken promises, which shows up in a lot of these old ballet stories. - The vague feelings of disgust that seems to haunt Huldbrand from the moment he learns about Undine's origins. I think there's some Dinnersteinian insight to be found there. - The question of what justice means for women. I think Bertalda and Undine both get a sort of justice by the end, but it doesn't make either of them happy. Poor Undine clearly feels it won't do her any good. Her heart is broken either way.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Christina

    I heard about Undine in the book Love, Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli, who ruined the ending by the way. Anyway, the mention of a mermaid in either the book or the description of Undine, tickled my daughter's fancy and we decided to read it. So it's an 1811 novella written by a German Romantic. Who cares? I was impressed she actually wanted to read it. Wow Nellie! The entire book readeth like this. It's in Old English. Nathless (actually a word), we read the entire thing. I had to look up words quite I heard about Undine in the book Love, Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli, who ruined the ending by the way. Anyway, the mention of a mermaid in either the book or the description of Undine, tickled my daughter's fancy and we decided to read it. So it's an 1811 novella written by a German Romantic. Who cares? I was impressed she actually wanted to read it. Wow Nellie! The entire book readeth like this. It's in Old English. Nathless (actually a word), we read the entire thing. I had to look up words quite a bit, some of which could not be found on my ereader's dictionary. It was quite the learning experience, although I will not be speaking in Old English anytime soon. Sorry, but there will be a few spoilers. I won't tell you the end, but while I enjoyed the story, I was seriously annoyed at times. First, Undine is a spoiled brat. There. I said it. Maybe marriage subdued her a bit, but in the beginning, she is a whiny, tantrumy little brat and I couldn't stand her. I have no idea why Huldbrand was so intrigued. Second, Bertalda is a spoiled, ungrateful brat. She was adopted by a super rich family and when she found out that her birth parents are poor, she throws a full on tantrum, including stomping out of the room like a toddler. Oh yes, Huldbrand is attracted to Bertalda as well. Third, Huldbrand is an idiot. Taking into account the two women previously mentioned, he is obviously attracted to spoiled brats who throw tantrums. Seriously, what is wrong with these people? I'm sure you are wondering why I gave it three stars. It's actually a good story. I know in the days of Kim Kardashian, Lindsay Lohan, sex tapes, marriages that last days, etc., etc., that the drama in Undine may seem a little blasé. However, I still enjoyed it. Man falls in love with woman, man marries woman, woman turns out to be mermaid, man takes mermaid back to castle, man falls in love again with his former fiancée, and, well, I don't want to spoil the ending. If you're feeling a little adventurous, give it a try.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Paul Groos

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. Some authors have been forgotten by history, some undeservedly, some rightfully so. Our French Huguenot-turned-German-nationalist baron with the long name sits squarely in the second category. Forgotten by everyone and for good reason. I came to this book more out of academic interest and inspired by the wonderful Sonate Undine by Reinecke. This is a romantic fairy tale and it does have a few strong points: Fouqué manages to convey the idea that all of nature is inhabited by spirits, some good, Some authors have been forgotten by history, some undeservedly, some rightfully so. Our French Huguenot-turned-German-nationalist baron with the long name sits squarely in the second category. Forgotten by everyone and for good reason. I came to this book more out of academic interest and inspired by the wonderful Sonate Undine by Reinecke. This is a romantic fairy tale and it does have a few strong points: Fouqué manages to convey the idea that all of nature is inhabited by spirits, some good, some malevolent, others indifferent. Every stream, tree and even the soil itself: there is a gnome, spirit, ghost in it. They go by many names and they exert their powers over hapless humans that stumble into their domain. This, by the way, is not his own idea: he borrowed it from a renaissance doctor-slash-alchemist by the name of Paracelsus. I also liked the tragic storyline: knight falls in love with his holiday crush: she is exotic, strange and unconventional. He impulsively marries her and takes her home to discover that here strangeness is actually kind of annoying. He proceeds to fall in love with the utterly normal woman that sent him on holiday in the first place. A doomed love triangle ensues and everyone ends up dead, miserable or both. Apart from these two assets, the story is slow, predictable and full of classic, over the top romantic imagery: a castle on the river, a deep, dark forest, a placid lake. Some words are used so often that they become laughable (anmuthig is a prime example). And the mood swings of Bertalda, the square, conventional love interest of our knight, are a little too extreme. In conclusion: this is a nice story that is in need to be rewritten by a modern author with a more rapid pace, new vocabulary and a little less romanticism. Until then, this piece will remain of academic interest only.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Mark

    After playing the SNES game, The Secret of Mana as a kid, it's not surprising that I wanted to read this book and find out more about Undine. So, I listened to it. I wanted to do a different translation, but this was the only one they had on audio, and I'm doing too much creative writing and hymn engraving these days to bother reading it just yet. However, I ended up liking this translation after all, knowing what the story is like. Anyway, the book reads more like a classic than a fairy tale (al After playing the SNES game, The Secret of Mana as a kid, it's not surprising that I wanted to read this book and find out more about Undine. So, I listened to it. I wanted to do a different translation, but this was the only one they had on audio, and I'm doing too much creative writing and hymn engraving these days to bother reading it just yet. However, I ended up liking this translation after all, knowing what the story is like. Anyway, the book reads more like a classic than a fairy tale (although it has elements of fairy tales, and it's very short). It seems to be designed for adults, actually, although there are editions targeted toward children. It was different than I was expecting. It's always interesting to see how people portray characters without souls—although it turned out to be different than I expected here. I was a little surprised to see that they called Undine a mermaid. Apparently she is one, but they never mention her being part fish or anything like that. She definitely pertains to the water, though. However, at the beginning of the story, she seems very much human (although she acts differently than the others present). There are some sad and tragic happenings in the story. The author spares us the gory details, thankfully. It makes me wonder if this is based on something else. What else, though? Where did the idea come from?

  24. 5 out of 5

    Ruth Ann

    The Little Mermaid by Disney filmmakers recreates the fairy tale written by Hans Christian Andersen in 1837. Undine, published in 1811, is an earlier version about the water spirit that marries a knight to gain a soul. This German novella influenced many other adaptations in literature, music, and art. Further research shows much earlier fourteenth century folklore about a feminine water spirit in the Melusine legends and Roman poet Ovid's Metamorphoses as a source for the undines. Undine tells The Little Mermaid by Disney filmmakers recreates the fairy tale written by Hans Christian Andersen in 1837. Undine, published in 1811, is an earlier version about the water spirit that marries a knight to gain a soul. This German novella influenced many other adaptations in literature, music, and art. Further research shows much earlier fourteenth century folklore about a feminine water spirit in the Melusine legends and Roman poet Ovid's Metamorphoses as a source for the undines. Undine tells a slightly different story as it opens with the knight, Sir Huldbrand, finding warm welcome by a fisherman and his wife after travel through a dark, frightening forest. Sir Huldbrand shelters in their cottage which sits in a meadow at land's end. It is here that he meets the wild Undine and they fall in love. Need I say that you won't find Disney's "happy ever after" ending in this tale. I picked my Kindle edition on recommendation of an amazon.com reader noting F. E. Bunnett as a skillful translator while retaining the flavor of the original. Indeed, I found the story flowed easily and that it evoked the romantic chivalry of a medieval tale with magical elements from fairy tales.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Jeana

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. This is a tragic fairytale about a water sprite (Undine) who marries a human (a knight). When she does this, she gains a soul. But after she returns to his castle, he rejects Undine and falls back in love with a woman from before he met Undine. It's just sad, so sad, that Undine realizes what's happening but she continues to love Huldbrant and endure his horrible treatment. Then she finally leaves and returns to the water. He marries the woman and then dies. At the end, though, Undine creates a This is a tragic fairytale about a water sprite (Undine) who marries a human (a knight). When she does this, she gains a soul. But after she returns to his castle, he rejects Undine and falls back in love with a woman from before he met Undine. It's just sad, so sad, that Undine realizes what's happening but she continues to love Huldbrant and endure his horrible treatment. Then she finally leaves and returns to the water. He marries the woman and then dies. At the end, though, Undine creates a little spring that circles around the knight's grave, like her arms around him. That image is haunting and beautiful. My version of this book is an old Arthur Rackham-illustrated copy that is amazing. It's the kind with the tipped-in pictures and onion paper over the top. There's something about the smell of old books that makes me happy. Reading this old strange story--even stranger as I read it to my six-year-old--was made more interesting with this copy. I love reading old books.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Amanda Kespohl

    It's a charming story with some beautiful descriptions. There are some neat things going on, especially at beginning, in the enchanted forest. However, the MC ended up being a bit of a drip and her knight and BFF were total jerks. It made it hard to know who to root for, especially when all the "villainous" spirits were just trying to protect Undine and keep her from suffering. For this, she treats them like crap, because, ew, spirits without souls. How passe. Once Undine acquires one through ma It's a charming story with some beautiful descriptions. There are some neat things going on, especially at beginning, in the enchanted forest. However, the MC ended up being a bit of a drip and her knight and BFF were total jerks. It made it hard to know who to root for, especially when all the "villainous" spirits were just trying to protect Undine and keep her from suffering. For this, she treats them like crap, because, ew, spirits without souls. How passe. Once Undine acquires one through marriage, she's too cool for her fellow water spirits. Fouque seems to equate having a soul with being spineless. Upon obtaining one, his heroine spends most of her time weeping and allowing others to mistreat her. I understand that Christianity is a heavy influence here, but I don't believe that the Christian notion of forgiveness requires you to suffer your husband being cruel and cheating on you. Ultimately, Undine seemed like a more interesting character before she got her soul.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Rachel Heffington

    I have had very little experience reading fairytales outside of the famous Grimms' or Hans Christian Anderson, so this foray into Undine was quite new. In fact, I came to the story only because of an allusion to it in Lousia May Alcott's LITTLE WOMEN. I enjoyed this emotional telling of the marriage between mortal knight Huldebrande and water-spirit Undine. It was a dramatic, romantic, and somewhat illogical story (how many times can one be fooled by the water spirit's uncle before recognizing h I have had very little experience reading fairytales outside of the famous Grimms' or Hans Christian Anderson, so this foray into Undine was quite new. In fact, I came to the story only because of an allusion to it in Lousia May Alcott's LITTLE WOMEN. I enjoyed this emotional telling of the marriage between mortal knight Huldebrande and water-spirit Undine. It was a dramatic, romantic, and somewhat illogical story (how many times can one be fooled by the water spirit's uncle before recognizing him in all his white disguises?), but beautiful and noble. I had at first thought it a French fairytale but came to realize it was German, which fact was revealed by the knight, Huldebrande, living in a place called Ringstetten and possessing such a name himself. Having been to the Danube River, the setting of this pretty story came alive to me. I would definitely recommend this novella to the reader who appreciates a good, old-fashioned fairytale.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Gary

    Undine is a tightly written fairy tale-type story, with many twists and turns in a pretty small container. As a note, they do not live happily ever after. There is very few places which leaves you hoping the book ends, but you want to find out how things will work out in the end. The best way for me to describe the contents is to say the story line is strange, particularly to our modern ears. I heard about the story through George McDonald and CS Lewis and even they held the same thoughts. But i Undine is a tightly written fairy tale-type story, with many twists and turns in a pretty small container. As a note, they do not live happily ever after. There is very few places which leaves you hoping the book ends, but you want to find out how things will work out in the end. The best way for me to describe the contents is to say the story line is strange, particularly to our modern ears. I heard about the story through George McDonald and CS Lewis and even they held the same thoughts. But it is gripping, better than many of our modern stories. Fouqué tells this story without much fluff and with little commentary, which is the proper way of telling a good story. But along that lines, there is not many memorable lines. So if you read it, prepare to ponder and enjoy, let the story line give you thought rather than Fourque's words. For more of my thoughts, please see my blog.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Eric Juneau

    Sadly, the mermaids here are far and few between, like most mermaid stories I read. She's a human for about all of the book. She's some sort of orphaned water-nymph taken in by parents, and she never betrays a non-human nature. She marries a wandering knight, and then there's some strife and betrayal. To be honest, I tuned out the last quarter of the book once I realized the mermaids were not happening. The nice thing about it was that it was classic romance genre, so there was nothing complex ab Sadly, the mermaids here are far and few between, like most mermaid stories I read. She's a human for about all of the book. She's some sort of orphaned water-nymph taken in by parents, and she never betrays a non-human nature. She marries a wandering knight, and then there's some strife and betrayal. To be honest, I tuned out the last quarter of the book once I realized the mermaids were not happening. The nice thing about it was that it was classic romance genre, so there was nothing complex about it. It smacked of Ivanhoe -- wandering knight, torn between two women, and I think there was a joust. But it was much shorter so that was good. I can also see where Hans Christian Andersen got some of his influences for The Little Mermaid. If you want to say you've read some classic romantic literature, this is a good place to start.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Ria

    When I was reading a summary of this tale, I was struck by its closeness to Melusine. Then, the Little Mermaid too. Of course, as all those tales are related in some ways, they do have similarities and differences. Undine is a soulless water-spirit, but she was given one through the love of her husband Huldbrand. This caused her to change from the most wayward character one can think of, to the gentlest person. Undine's character transformation is contrasted with Bertalda, the former love-interest When I was reading a summary of this tale, I was struck by its closeness to Melusine. Then, the Little Mermaid too. Of course, as all those tales are related in some ways, they do have similarities and differences. Undine is a soulless water-spirit, but she was given one through the love of her husband Huldbrand. This caused her to change from the most wayward character one can think of, to the gentlest person. Undine's character transformation is contrasted with Bertalda, the former love-interest of her husband. Although she is mortal, and therefore, has an immortal soul, she is proud and often discurteous even towards Undine. Cronologically, it is the first story of the same theme which is produced in the 19th Century; although its sources are far older. It is a beautifully-written and moving tale.

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