The Plot

(Critical Survey of Science Fiction and Fantasy)

Undine is the story of a water-spirit’s quest for a soul, of the stringent conditions that subsequently apply to her remaining in the human world, and of the tragedy that overtakes her, then her husband, as a result of his unfaithfulness in marriage. An old fisherman and his wife live in their cottage by a lake, separated from the city by a dark forest filled with frightening specters. Late in life, they have a daughter, but she apparently drowns. Shortly afterward, a richly dressed child called Undine appears, soaking wet, at their door.

When Undine is eighteen years old, water-spirits lead two visitors to the cottage, then create a storm to keep them there. One of the visitors, a knight named Huldbrand of Ringstetten, falls in love with Undine. The other visitor, Father Heilmann, marries them.

After the wedding night, Undine is transformed because she has acquired a human soul. She reveals her true nature as a water-spirit to her husband, who chooses to remain with her. On their way back to the city, a tall man in white appears to them in the forest and wishes to talk to the bride. It is Uncle Kühleborn, the most powerful water-spirit in the region. Undine no longer wants anything to do with him. Huldbrand draws his sword to protect her, and Kühleborn turns into a torrent of water, telling Huldbrand always to guard his wife that well.

In the city, the only person who is not happy that Huldbrand has reappeared with an...

(The entire section is 505 words.)