Undine; Undina

The legend of Ondine derives from Alsatian folklore but became especially popular as the basis for an 1811 romantic novella by Friedrich de la Motte Fouqué (1777–1843), which George MacDonald, author of The Princess and the Goblin, called the most beautiful of fairy tales. A beautiful but mysterious little girl, dripping like a Nixie, appeared on the doorstep of an elderly couple mourning the equally mysterious loss of their own small daughter. They adopted her as their only daughter. She told them her name is Undine, which they disliked as it sounded heathen. The little girl was simultaneously so charming and strong-willed that she convinced a priest to baptize her under that name despite his objections. She grew up wild and gorgeous, eventually falling in love with a passing knight who pledged his undying love to her.

Variations on the legend exist. The knight married Ondine. She bore him a child. By marrying a mortal, she may have sacrificed her own immortality. Alternatively, in goddess fashion, Ondine may just demand total devotion. When he was unfaithful to her, she took it very badly, bestowing the kiss of death. According to one version, the knight swore to be faithful to her with every waking breath. When he broke his word, On dine cursed him to die if he ever fell asleep. Ondine returned to the waters.

Whether or not Ondine can or will miraculously heal the fatal illness named after her is subject to speculation. It may be worth asking her to revoke her curse and heal the condition.

Ondine the goddess is invoked for true love, to punish unfaithful lovers, and to provide artistic inspiration. The following is but a sampling of works inspired by Ondine and does not include the countless video game references:

• Undine is an 1816 opera by E. T A. Hoffmann (author of The Tales of Hoffmann and The Nutcracker).

• Ondine or La Naiade is an 1843 ballet by Jules Perrot and Cesare Pugni.

• Undina is an 1869 opera by Pyotr Tchaikovsky, composer of The Nutcracker.

• Ondine names an 1872 painting by John William Waterhouse.

• Ondine names an 1889 painting by Paul Gauguin.

• Ondine names a perfume first introduced in 1954 by Suzanne Thierry.

• Ondine is a 1939 play by Jean Giraudoux. (Audrey Hepburn starred in the title role in the 1954 New York City production with music by Virgil Thomson.)

• Ondine is a 1958 ballet created by Sir Frederick Ashton for London’s Royal Ballet.

• Ondine-sama is the priestess of a holy lake in the popular Japanese anime series, Kyo Kara Maoh!

• Ondinism is a condition named by English physician Havelock Ellis in which it is impossible to experience sexual pleasure without urinating.

• Undine’s Curse is a potentially fatal respiratory illness (formal name: Central Alveolar Hypoventilation Syndrome).

• Undine’s Curse is a rum-based cocktail.

Ondine resembles a Nixie far more than she resembles the spirits called Ondines.


Ondine is described as beautiful with long golden hair and blue eyes.


Hair ornaments, Ondine perfume, combs, mirrors, pastries


  • Neraida
  • Nixie
  • Ondines


Encyclopedia of Spirits: The Ultimate Guide to the Magic of Fairies, Genies, Demons, Ghosts, Gods & Goddesses – Written by : Judika Illes Copyright © 2009 by Judika Illes.