Mythical Monday: The Neck, Water Men, and Nixies by Mae Clair

Last week for Mythical Monday, I ventured into the forests of Germany and Scandinavia for a look at the earthy Moss People. Today, I’m mired in the same region of the globe, but wading into a watery domain with Nixies and the Water-Men of Germany.

Tales vary depending on the branch of folklore you happen to be pursuing. In some legends, the Water-Men are human in appearance but have green teeth and favor green hats. They often mingle with humans in marketplaces where they do their shopping. For the most part they dwell on good terms with men, and even aspire to friendship. Their women are beautiful and ethereal, commonly called Nixies.Fantasy girl taking magic light in her hands, standing on edge of pond at night

In other legends, they appear human-like with amphibious features such as gills, webbed feet and hands. Many claim they are shapeshifters who have no true form.

In Scandinavia, these same creatures are known as Necks, a male water sprite who dwells in rivers and streams. Master musicians who favor the harp and violin, they prey on unsuspecting women and children by luring them to the water to drown. The music they weave is magically enchanted, much like that of a siren, too beautiful for mortals to resist. Pregnant women and unbaptized children are especially susceptible to their bewitching melodies.

In most tales the Neck is doomed, but in some, he is a creature who fervently craves redemption.

A timeworn legend tells of a priest who came upon a Neck as he played along the riverbank. Spying the creature, the priest rebuked the Neck harshly. “Look at this dead staff,” he said, displaying the withered piece of wood he used to aid in his walking. “This piece of rot will put forth green leaves, before your soul is saved.”

By Ernst Josephsson (1851 - 1906) (Swedish) (Details of artist on Google Art Project) [Public domain or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

By Ernst Josephsson (1851 – 1906) (Swedish) (Details of artist on Google Art Project) [Public domain or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Hearing the cruel denouncement and fearing his soul beyond redemption, the Neck burst into tears. He threw his harp aside and buried his face in his hands, mournfully bemoaning his fate.

Satisfied, the priest left him  weeping, but as he walked away, guilt twisted his heart. He had not gone far when his staff abruptly surged with green sap, putting forth a bounty of twigs and leaves—a message from the great I AM that all creatures belong to God. Deeply ashamed, the priest retraced his steps. He found the Neck still sobbing, and humbly begged forgiveness, showing the heartbroken creature his staff. Seeing the change that had overtaken the withered piece of wood, the Neck rejoiced. Reclaiming his harp, he burst into song, his music so utterly beautiful that the river itself echoed with his sweet melody.

As someone who adores a happily-ever-after, I love that tale. I can imagine the old priest rejoicing with him, sitting down on the river bank and sharing his bread and wine.

Have you ever heard this legend before? Were you familiar with the Neck?

18 thoughts on “Mythical Monday: The Neck, Water Men, and Nixies by Mae Clair

  1. I’ve never heard of this legend. Veeeery interesting.
    We have in Romania a spirit of the waters known as The Water Wraith, a Romanian mythological representation. She makes herself seen and felt during the night. She is found in the folk tales as a white, cold woman, half human half fish. She is tall, with big breasta and lives in the water. She comes to the surface only on bad weather or on full moon. She shakes the water from her body and walks along the streets until midnight, when cocks start to sing. I believe in spirits of the nature. Their behaviour is always dual, both positive and negative. Nothing paradoxical. Man’s behavior, his free will and choices are those that trigger the Good or Bad around us.Thank you for another special post!
    http://shadowspastmystery.blogspot.ro/

    • Hi, Carmen. Always delightful to have you visit my blog. I liked that legend you shared about the Water Wraith and how she comes to the surface and walks on land during bad weather or a full moon. So many spirits of folklore seem to be triggered by weather or changes in celestial patterns.

    • HI, Mary *waving* I’m sometimes surprised by the old tales I have tucked away too, many I’ve forgotten or haven’t visited in many years. And redemption is a favorite theme of mine, so I couldn’t resist this one. I felt so badly for the poor Neck when the priest first left him sobbing by the river bank.

  2. I had never heard of necks or nixies and enjoyed your post very much. Ondine was a fairy tale I remember reading as a child, and the idea of water spirits always enticed me. I’m so glad the priest in the story saw the truth and was able to set the neck’s heart at ease.

    • Me too, Flossie. I love the HEA in this story. Like you, I’ve always been intrigued by water sprites. There are so many of them in various shapes and forms, with different powers. I suppose watery passages were baffling and mysterious to our ancestors. Although that isn’t to say they still aren’t today!

    • Hi, Debbie. I bet their music is haunting indeed, a symphony to creation. Many thanks for checking out my latest tale. I loved the message in this one–both for the redemption of the Neck and the lesson for the priest!

  3. You never fail to impress me with the new creatures I discover each Monday here. The harp makes me think these Necks have a Celtic background.

    • Wonderful to have you drop by, Alicia. *big wave* It’s lovely to learn you enjoy my Mythical Mondays. This particular legend really resonated with me due to the beautiful redemption theme. It’s great to hear my posts have engaged your muse 🙂

  4. There’s a very famous place along the Rhine River in Germany called Lorelei Rock. It’s the deepest, narrowest, and deadliest bend of the river and full of legends. One of these legends involves a nixie named Lorelei who sinks ships. There’s a statue of her on the river. But then, it is Germany, and they tend to like their myths dark and dangerous. Check out Lorelei Rock though. The pictures of that part of the Rhine are absolutely gorgeous if nothing else.

    • Hi, Laura! Fantastic to have you drop by. I am definitely going to look up Lorelei Rock. I know how knowledgable you are of German folklore and this legend sounds right up my alley. Thanks for the heads up!

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