Summary (Masterplots, Fourth Edition)
In a mountain forest glade Rautendelein, a beautiful elf-child, sits singing and combing her long, golden hair while calling to a water spirit, the Nickelmann. She makes fun of the croaking froglike monster who comes out of a nearby well. Into that setting skips a faun who seems enamored of the lovely sprite and who invites her to be his love. She refuses, as if this is not her destiny. When she leaves, the wood and water sprites discuss the intrusion of man in their hallowed realms, the sprites that day forcing off the road and into a valley lake a bell meant for a mountaintop church. The bell-founder appears, quite exhausted and badly injured from his fall. He collapses before the cottage of Wittikin, a witch whom mortals in the region greatly fear. Her granddaughter, Rautendelein, strangely drawn to the thirty-year-old Heinrich, makes him a bed of straw and gives him milk to drink.
Heinrich is also drawn to this beautiful creature whose speech is song and who makes him glad to leave the mundane life below. He tried to match the musical note of her voice in his supreme creation, the bell in the lake. He calls her his sweet fantasy and the glade his real home. He begs for a dying kiss. Wittikin tells the child all mortals die while they, the mountain folk, Thor’s children, must go about their immortal business.
When voices interrupt a merry troll dance, Rautendelein fears she will lose this strange man. A wood sprite answers the rescue...
(The entire section is 1281 words.)
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