Summary (Masterplots, Fourth Edition)
Near a forest in Austria there lives an old fisherman, his wife, and their foster daughter, Undine. The nearby wood is said to be inhabited by spirits who are enemies of the mortal human beings living outside the forest.
One day, the young knight Sir Huldbrand of Ringstetten is traveling through the forest when a storm breaks. As he rides through the gloomy wood, he is pursued and tormented by manifestations of unearthly folk. At last he comes to the edge of the forest and takes refuge in the fisherman’s cottage, where he is given food and shelter.
Sir Huldbrand is amazed by the beauty of young Undine, who asks him to tell the story of his adventures in the forest. The fisherman, however, forbids the telling and cautions that it is unwise to talk of spirits at night. Undine—rebellious, mischievous, and untamed—disappears into the night when her foster father reproves her.
The fisherman and the knight call for her to return, but their voices are lost in the noise of the wind and of the rain. As the storm increases, they become more worried and finally set out in search of her. It is Sir Huldbrand who finds her, safe and sound in the leafy bower where she is hiding. When he returns with her to the fisherman’s cottage, he tells her of his adventures in the forest. The storm rages so furiously that the cottage and its four inhabitants become cut off by encircling floods.
Sir Huldbrand relates how it came about that...
(The entire section is 941 words.)
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