The Nixie In The Mill Pond

I thought nixies would be more commonplace.  I was pretty confident they’d be one of the folk monsters now employed by genre fantasy, and that the internet would be crawling with very dramatic pictures of them battling heroes and whatnot.  But try typing nixie into Google Images and see what you get.

Nixies, as I understand them, are sad and lonely monsters.  They belong to a grand old family of pond spirits recorded across Europe and they appear in a good many shapes and sizes, ranging from alluring young women to brilliant bestial combinations of horse, fish and frog.  It’s said they’re the souls of drowned innocents and that, dwelling alone in the amphibious depths of their lairs, they crave company of any sort.  Understandable, then, that if somebody sets foot in their pond they seize them with both their webbed hands and drag them down to the poolbed.


Here’s the Brothers Grimm doing nixies.  The story begins with familiar fairy tale motifs: a miller falls on hard times and strikes up a bargain with someone he knows he really oughtn’t.  He asks the nixie of the mill pond to help him restore his lost fortunes.  That’s easy work for a nixie, but she wants something of him in return.  The newborn thing that’s just arrived in his house.  The miller, being an ignorant and terrible husband, forgets that his wife is currently in labour, and reckons all he’ll have to offer to the pond is a puppy, a kitten, or at the very worst a foal.  When he gets home, he’s presented with his brand new baby son.

The miller manages to keep his son away from the pond, and lives the rest of his life in unparralled prosperity.  His son grows up into a famed hunter and finds himself a wonderful wife.  Then, one day, he rides through the forest chasing a deer, and it leads him by twists and turns to the old mill pond.  Before the hunter can rein in his horse, it too plunges into the water.  Straight away the nixie grabs him, and tugs him down into the darkness.  (Incidentally, this is reminiscent of something that by coincidence I read just yesterday.)




That’s the first half of the story, but the second half is the best bit, because we switch to following the hunter’s wife.  Aided by a wise old woman (who may or may not be the full moon), she sets about rescuing her husband.  She has mixed success, as you’ll discover, and a miserable period ensues involving a frog and a toad.  Finally, though, we get to a happy ending which I think is one of the prettiest in the Brothers Grimm.


Here’s my gallery of nixies…





That last one is supposed to be a nixed version of a brilliant WWF global warming campaign ad.  The ad is way better, so here it is. 









This final one is an illustration of something that happens just after the hunter’s wife gets her husband back.  I wanted it to be a bit like those masked liquid monsters from Spirited Away.


Enough about nixies, I think, since there’s a bit of other news to impart.  A few nice new reviews have come out, which I’m about to add to the front page of the site and – in more detail – to the book page.  Most excitingly, I’m going to be appearing at an event on the 4th November at Blackwell’s in Oxford alongside three superb authors.  I’ll provide more details in a seperate post, and no doubt plug it more as the date nears.

Comments 1

  1. J Adamthwaite wrote:

    I didn’t know anything about nixies until I read this, but I think I like them. They strike me as being highly misunderstood creatures.

    I especially like your last illustration… and it is definitely reminiscent of those liquidy, floating monsters.

    Posted 07 Oct 2009 at 4:17 pm