great work, found the four texts and worked at them till

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[87] Baring-Gould, Curious Myths, II. 207.

great work, found the four texts and worked at them till

[88] The word nymph itself means "cloud-maiden," as is illustrated by the kinship between the Greek numph and the Latin nubes.

great work, found the four texts and worked at them till

The well-known story of Undine is similar to that of Melusina, save that the naiad's desire to obtain a human soul is a conception foreign to the spirit of the myth, and marks the degradation which Christianity had inflicted upon the denizens of fairy-land. In one of Dasent's tales the water-maiden is replaced by a kind of werewolf. A white bear marries a young girl, but assumes the human shape at night. She is never to look upon him in his human shape, but how could a young bride be expected to obey such an injunction as that? She lights a candle while he is sleeping, and discovers the handsomest prince in the world; unluckily she drops tallow on his shirt, and that tells the story. But she is more fortunate than poor Raymond, for after a tiresome journey to the "land east of the sun and west of the moon," and an arduous washing-match with a parcel of ugly Trolls, she washes out the spots, and ends her husband's enchantment.[89]

great work, found the four texts and worked at them till

[89] This is substantially identical with the stories of Beauty and the Beast, Eros and Psyche, Gandharba Sena, etc.

In the majority of these legends, however, the Apsaras, or cloud-maiden, has a shirt of swan's feathers which plays the same part as the wolfskin cape or girdle of the werewolf. If you could get hold of a werewolf's sack and burn it, a permanent cure was effected. No danger of a relapse, unless the Devil furnished him with a new wolfskin. So the swan-maiden kept her human form, as long as she was deprived of her tunic of feathers. Indo-European folk-lore teems with stories of swan-maidens forcibly wooed and won by mortals who had stolen their clothes. A man travelling along the road passes by a lake where several lovely girls are bathing; their dresses, made of feathers curiously and daintily woven, lie on the shore. He approaches the place cautiously and steals one of these dresses.[90] When the girls have finished their bathing, they all come and get their dresses and swim away as swans; but the one whose dress is stolen must needs stay on shore and marry the thief. It is needless to add that they live happily together for many years, or that finally the good man accidentally leaves the cupboard door unlocked, whereupon his wife gets back her swan-shirt and flies away from him, never to return. But it is not always a shirt of feathers. In one German story, a nobleman hunting deer finds a maiden bathing in a clear pool in the forest. He runs stealthily up to her and seizes her necklace, at which she loses the power to flee. They are married, and she bears seven sons at once, all of whom have gold chains about their necks, and are able to transform themselves into swans whenever they like. A Flemish legend tells of three Nixies, or water-sprites, who came out of the Meuse one autumn evening, and helped the villagers celebrate the end of the vintage. Such graceful dancers had never been seen in Flanders, and they could sing as well as they could dance. As the night was warm, one of them took off her gloves and gave them to her partner to hold for her. When the clock struck twelve the other two started off in hot haste, and then there was a hue and cry for gloves. The lad would keep them as love-tokens, and so the poor Nixie had to go home without them; but she must have died on the way, for next morning the waters of the Meuse were blood-red, and those damsels never returned.

[90] The feather-dress reappears in the Arabian story of Hasssn of El-Basrah, who by stealing it secures possession of the Jinniya. See Lane's Arabian Nights, Vol. III. p. 380. Ralston, Songs of the Russian People, p. 179.

In the Faro Islands it is believed that seals cast off their skins every ninth night, assume human forms, and sing and dance like men and women until daybreak, when they resume their skins and their seal natures. Of course a man once found and hid one of these sealskins, and so got a mermaid for a wife; and of course she recovered the skin and escaped.[91] On the coasts of Ireland it is supposed to be quite an ordinary thing for young sea-fairies to get human husbands in this way; the brazen things even come to shore on purpose, and leave their red caps lying around for young men to pick up; but it behooves the husband to keep a strict watch over the red cap, if he would not see his children left motherless.

[91] Thorpe, Northern Mythology, III. 173; Kennedy, Fictions of the Irish Celts, p. 123.

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