The nix of the mill-pond



There was once upon a time a miller who lived with his wife in great contentment. They had money and land, and their prosperity increased year by year more and more. But ill-luck comes like a thief in the night, as their wealth had increased so did it again decrease, year by year, and at last the miller could hardly call the mill in which he lived, his own. He was in great distress, and when he lay down after his day's work, found no rest, but tossed about in his bed, full of care. One morning he rose before daybreak and went out into the open air, thinking that perhaps there his heart might become lighter. As he was stepping over the mill-dam the first sunbeam was just breaking forth, and he heard a rippling sound in the pond. He turned round and perceived a beautiful woman, rising slowly out of the water. Her long hair, which she was holding off her shoulders with her soft hands, fell down on both sides, and covered her white body. He soon saw that she was the Nix of the Mill-pond, and in his fright did not know whether he should run away or stay where he was. But the nix made her sweet voice heard, called him by his name, and asked him why he was so sad? The miller was at first struck dumb, but when he heard her speak so kindly, he took heart, and told her how he had formerly lived in wealth and happiness, but that now he was so poor that he did not know what to do. "Be easy," answered the nix, "I will make thee richer and happier than thou hast ever been before, only thou must promise to give me the young thing which has just been born in thy house." - "What else can that be," thought the miller, "but a young puppy or kitten?" and he promised her what she desired. The nix descended into the water again, and he hurried back to his mill, consoled and in good spirits. He had not yet reached it, when the maid-servant came out of the house, and cried to him to rejoice, for his wife had given birth to a little boy. The miller stood as if struck by lightning; he saw very well that the cunning nix had been aware of it, and had cheated him. Hanging his head, he went up to his wife's bedside and when she said, "Why dost thou not rejoice over the fine boy?" he told her what had befallen him, and what kind of a promise he had given to the nix. "Of what use to me are riches and prosperity?" he added, "if I am to lose my child; but what can I do?" Even the relations, who had come thither to wish them joy, did not know what to say. In the meantime prosperity again returned to the miller's house. All that he undertook succeeded, it was as if presses and coffers filled themselves of their own accord, and as if money multiplied nightly in the cupboards. It was not long before his wealth was greater than it had ever been before. But he could not rejoice over it untroubled, for the bargain which he had made with the nix tormented his soul. Whenever he passed the mill-pond, he feared she might ascend and remind him of his debt. He never let the boy himself go near the water. "Beware," he said to him, "if thou dost but touch the water, a hand will rise, seize thee, and draw thee down." But as year after year went by and the nix did not show herself again, the miller began to feel at ease. The boy grew up to be a youth and was apprenticed to a huntsman. When he had learnt everything, and had become an excellent huntsman, the lord of the village took him into his service. In the village lived a beautiful and true-hearted maiden, who pleased the huntsman, and when his master perceived that, he gave him a little house, the two were married, lived peacefully and happily, and loved each other with all their hearts.
One day the huntsman was chasing a roe; and when the animal turned aside from the forest into the open country, he pursued it and at last shot it. He did not notice that he was now in the neighbourhood of the dangerous mill-pond, and went, after he had disembowelled the stag, to the water, in order to wash his blood-stained hands. Scarcely, however, had he dipped them in than the nix ascended, smilingly wound her dripping arms around him, and drew him quickly down under the waves, which closed over him. When it was evening, and the huntsman did not return home, his wife became alarmed. She went out to seek him, and as he had often told her that he had to be on his guard against the snares of the nix, and dared not venture into the neighbourhood of the mill-pond, she already suspected what had happened. She hastened to the water, and when she found his hunting-pouch lying on the shore, she could no longer have any doubt of the misfortune. Lamenting her sorrow, and wringing her hands, she called on her beloved by name, but in vain. She hurried across to the other side of the pond, and called him anew; she reviled the nix with harsh words, but no answer followed. The surface of the water remained calm, only the crescent moon stared steadily back at her. The poor woman did not leave the pond. With hasty steps, she paced round and round it, without resting a moment, sometimes in silence, sometimes uttering a loud cry, sometimes softly sobbing. At last her strength came to an end, she sank down to the ground and fell into a heavy sleep. Presently a dream took possession of her. She was anxiously climbing upwards between great masses of rock; thorns and briars caught her feet, the rain beat in her face, and the wind tossed her long hair about. When she had reached the summit, quite a different sight presented itself to her; the sky was blue, the air soft, the ground sloped gently downwards, and on a green meadow, gay with flowers of every colour, stood a pretty cottage. She went up to it and opened the door; there sat an old woman with white hair, who beckoned to her kindly. At that very moment, the poor woman awoke, day had already dawned, and she at once resolved to act in accordance with her dream. She laboriously climbed the mountain; everything was exactly as she had seen it in the night. The old woman received her kindly, and pointed out a chair on which she might sit. "Thou must have met with a misfortune," she said, "since thou hast sought out my lonely cottage." With tears, the woman related what had befallen her. "Be comforted," said the old woman, "I will help thee. Here is a golden comb for thee. Tarry till the full moon has risen, then go to the mill-pond, seat thyself on the shore, and comb thy long black hair with this comb. When thou hast done, lay it down on the bank, and thou wilt see what will happen." The woman returned home, but the time till the full moon came, passed slowly. At last the shining disc appeared in the heavens, then she went out to the mill-pond, sat down and combed her long black hair with the golden comb, and when she had finished, she laid it down at the water's edge. It was not long before there was a movement in the depths, a wave rose, rolled to the shore, and bore the comb away with it. In not more than the time necessary for the comb to sink to the bottom, the surface of the water parted, and the head of the huntsman arose. He did not speak, but looked at his wife with sorrowful glances. At the same instant, a second wave came rushing up, and covered the man's head. All had vanished, the mill-pond lay peaceful as before, and nothing but the face of the full moon shone on it. Full of sorrow, the woman went back, but again the dream showed her the cottage of the old woman. Next morning she again set out and complained of her woes to the wise woman. The old woman gave her a golden flute, and said, "Tarry till the full moon comes again, then take this flute; play a beautiful air on it, and when thou hast finished, lay it on the sand; then thou wilt see what will happen." The wife did as the old woman told her. No sooner was the flute lying on the sand than there was a stirring in the depths, and a wave rushed up and bore the flute away with it. Immediately afterwards the water parted, and not only the head of the man, but half of his body also arose. He stretched out his arms longingly towards her, but a second wave came up, covered him, and drew him down again. "Alas, what does it profit me?" said the unhappy woman, "that I should see my beloved, only to lose him again!" Despair filled her heart anew, but the dream led her a third time to the house of the old woman. She set out, and the wise woman gave her a golden spinning-wheel, consoled her and said, "All is not yet fulfilled, tarry until the time of the full moon, then take the spinning-wheel, seat thyself on the shore, and spin the spool full, and when thou hast done that, place the spinning-wheel near the water, and thou wilt see what will happen." The woman obeyed all she said exactly; as soon as the full moon showed itself, she carried the golden spinning-wheel to the shore, and span industriously until the flax came to an end, and the spool was quite filled with the threads. No sooner was the wheel standing on the shore than there was a more violent movement than before in the depths of the pond, and a mighty wave rushed up, and bore the wheel away with it. Immediately the head and the whole body of the man rose into the air, in a water-spout. He quickly sprang to the shore, caught his wife by the hand and fled. But they had scarcely gone a very little distance, when the whole pond rose with a frightful roar, and streamed out over the open country. The fugitives already saw death before their eyes, when the woman in her terror implored the help of the old woman, and in an instant they were transformed, she into a toad, he into a frog. The flood which had overtaken them could not destroy them, but it tore them apart and carried them far away. When the water had dispersed and they both touched dry land again, they regained their human form, but neither knew where the other was; they found themselves among strange people, who did not know their native land. High mountains and deep valleys lay between them. In order to keep themselves alive, they were both obliged to tend sheep. For many long years they drove their flocks through field and forest and were full of sorrow and longing. When spring had once more broken forth on the earth, they both went out one day with their flocks, and as chance would have it, they drew near each other. They met in a valley, but did not recognize each other; yet they rejoiced that they were no longer so lonely. Henceforth they each day drove their flocks to the same place; they did not speak much, but they felt comforted. One evening when the full moon was shining in the sky, and the sheep were already at rest, the shepherd pulled the flute out of his pocket, and played on it a beautiful but sorrowful air. When he had finished he saw that the shepherdess was weeping bitterly. "Why art thou weeping?" he asked. "Alas," answered she, "thus shone the full moon when I played this air on the flute for the last time, and the head of my beloved rose out of the water." He looked at her, and it seemed as if a veil fell from his eyes, and he recognized his dear wife, and when she looked at him, and the moon shone in his face she knew him also. They embraced and kissed each other, and no one need ask if they were happy.
从前,有位磨坊主和妻子生活在一块,生活十分富足。 他们有钱有地,光景一年好似一年。 但不幸的事情突然来了,他的财富变得一年少似一年,最后那磨坊主连自己的磨坊几乎都不能维持了。 他悲痛万分,每天干完活躺在床上,总是辗转反侧,夜不能寐。 一天早晨,天不亮他就起床出了门,心想这样心情可能会好些。 等他跨上水坝,太阳还刚刚升上地平线,突然他听到水中有潺潺之声,他回头一看,发现水中缓缓地冒出个美女。 她用纤纤的玉手将一头长长的秀发理在两肩旁,遮住了整个身躯。 磨坊主马上意识到她就是水池中的水妖了,情急之中他不知该留还是该走了。 只听水妖柔柔地呼唤着他的名字,问他为何如此闷闷不乐,声音十分悦耳。 起初磨坊主给吓怕了,但当他听到美女说话如此温柔可爱时,便赶紧定了定神,告诉她自己过去的生活如何富足,现在生活如何贫困潦倒、百般的无奈。 "别着急,"水妖说,"我会让你过比以前更富足、更幸福的,但你必须答应把家中新降生的小东西给我。""那除了小猫小狗之类还会有什么别的东西呢?"磨坊主心想,于是他答应了她的要求。 听完这话,水妖沉了下去,他也乐颠颠地跑回作坊,心存安慰,神情格外舒畅。 但他刚跨进门就见女仆跑出房子尖叫着向他道喜,说夫人刚生下个男婴。 真是如五雷轰顶一般,磨坊主站在那儿,呆若木鸡,他意识到那狡猾的水妖早就知道这一点,而且还欺骗了他。 他耸拉着脑袋,走到妻子床前,妻子对他说:"给你生了个胖小子,难道你还不开心吗?"他告诉她灾难已降临到他头上,接着便把许诺的事一五一十地说了。 "财富对我来说有什么用呢?"他又说,"如果失去了孩子,我该怎么办?"就是那些前来道贺的亲朋好友们也不知该说什么好。 这以后磨坊主确实时来运转了,他所做的交易都兑了现。 似乎一夜之间柜里自行装满了钱币,壁橱里的钱也都积得满满的。 不久他的财富就大大超过了从前。 但是他却不能高兴起来,因为他和水妖之间的交易让他伤透了脑筋。 每当他走过池边,总担心女妖会从水中冒出来讨债,他也从不让孩子一个人走近水边,"记住,"他告诫孩子,"如果你碰到水,水里就会伸出一只手来抓住你,把你拖下水去。"但年复一年水妖没再现身,磨坊主心中的一块石头总算放了下来。 男孩长大成人了,在一名猎户手下当徒弟。 当他学会了十八般武艺,成为一名出色的猎手时,村长便让他为村里服务。 村里有位美丽的姑娘深为猎手钟爱,村长知道这一切时便给了他一间小屋,让两人终于结成百年之好,他们婚后过得幸福安乐,相亲也相爱。
一天猎手正追赶一只雄鹿,当雄鹿从森林处拐进一片旷野后,他迅速追了上去,射死了它。 但他却没注意到自己竟站在了水池边。 他把鹿开膛破肚后,走到水边想洗洗那双沾满鲜血的手。 不料一沾水,水妖便突然从水中钻了出来,面带笑容,用她那湿淋淋的双手抱住猎手,跌入水中,浪花倾刻淹没了他。 时至黄昏,猎手还没回家,妻子焦急万分,便出去找他。 因为丈夫曾一再说过要防范水妖的诱惑,不敢斗胆到池边去。 她马上明白发生了什么事情,于是便赶紧跑到水边。 当她看到丈夫留在岸边的猎袋时,她证实了自己的猜疑。 此刻她悲痛欲绝,芳心欲碎,一遍遍呼唤着爱人的名字,但听不到回音。 她又跑到水池的对岸去叫唤,口中咒骂着水妖,但仍然没有人应声。 水面平静,只有初升的新月目不转睛地注视着她,这可怜的女人没有离开水池,她一刻不停地围着水池跑,跑了一圈又一圈,时而默不作声,时而低泣。 最后她筋疲力竭,倒在地上睡着了,不久便进入了梦乡。
她梦见自己正在一大堆顽石间焦急地向上攀登,荆棘绊住了她的脚,雨点打在她的脸上,风把她的头发吹得七零八落,当她到达山顶时,展现在眼前的是一副从未见过的画面:天空碧蓝,空气新鲜,坡度平缓。 一间精致小巧的农舍在一片绿草地上,周围长满了各色的花朵。 她走上前去把门打开,发现里面坐着一位白发苍苍的老婆婆,正热情地跟她打招呼。 就在这时,可怜的女人醒了,天刚破晓,她马上按昨夜梦里见到的去做,不辞辛苦地爬上山顶,果真见到了和梦中完全一样的景色。 老婆婆接待了她,给她指定一张椅子坐下。 "你一定是遇到了麻烦,"她说,"否则你不会找到我这偏僻寒舍来的。"可怜的女人一把眼泪一把鼻涕地把事情的原委都说了。 "开心点,"老婆婆说,"我会帮你的。这里有一把金梳。等满月升起时,你就到池边去,坐在池边,用这把梳子梳理你那乌黑的秀发。梳完后再把它放在岸边,看看会发生什么事。"女人回了家,但时间距离满月还早得很。 最后她终于等到了满月升起,赶紧跑去池边,坐在岸边,用金梳梳发,然后再把它放在水边。 不久水里就翻起了万千波涛,浪涛打到岸边,把金梳给卷走了。 还没等金梳沉底,水面突然分开,露出了猎手的脑袋。 猎手没说话,只是忧郁地看着他的妻子。 同时,又一个浪涛打过来,他的脑袋被淹没了。 倾刻一切都消失了,水面平静如初,唯有满月倒映在其中。
女人满怀悲痛地走回家中,但她又梦见了那位村舍里的老婆婆。 第二天早晨,她又去老婆婆那儿诉苦。 老人给了她一只金笛说:"等到满月升起时,用这只笛子吹出一曲优美的曲子,吹完后再把笛子放在沙滩上看看会怎么样。"女人照着她说的话去做了。 笛子刚放到沙地上就听见水里有一阵响动 ,一个浪涛打来把笛子卷走了。 水路立刻分开,露出了猎手的头和半个身子,他伸出手臂想要拥抱她,但又一个浪头打过来把他给淹没了。 "啊,她是怎么帮我的?"女人叫道,"为什么让我看到他又要失去他啊!"她又绝望了,但梦又把她引到了老婆婆的面前,这回老人给了她一只金纺轮,并安慰她说:"这一切并没有完,等满月升起时,拿这只纺轮坐到岸边,把这卷线纺完,再把纺轮放在岸边,看看会发生什么事情。"女人完全照着她的话去做了。 当满月升起时,她拿着纺轮坐到岸边,一刻不停地纺啊纺,直到亚麻线用完,水池上满是纺好的线。 同样的事情又出现了,只见一个浪头打来,把纺轮卷走了,很快,猎手头和整个身体都从水中脱水而出,呈现在女人面前。 猎人赶紧跳到岸边,抓起妻子的手就逃。 但没等他们走出多远,就听到池水一片喧哗,池水立刻漫及整个旷野。 两人立刻意识到死亡的危险,吓呆了的女人乞求老婆婆暗中相助。 过了一会儿,他俩便变了形,一个成了蛤蟆,一个成了青蛙。 洪水吞没了他们但没能毁灭他们,只是把他们冲散,带到老远的地方去了。
水退了,他们又踏上干地,重现人形,但彼此都不知对方在那里。 他们发现自己身处陌生人中间,那些人都不知自己的家乡在何方。 他们面前只有高山低谷,为了活命,他们不得不去放羊。 多年过后,他们仍一直赶着羊群穿行森林草地,无处可托相思,无可可托牵挂。
春天来临了,一天他们都出去放羊,可能是命运的安排,他俩走得越来越近了,在峡谷中相遇了,但互不认识。 但是他们高兴,因为他们不再孤独了。 他们因此每天都把羊赶到一个地方,说话不多,但彼此心存慰藉。 一天傍晚当满月升起时,羊儿也睡着了,牧羊人从袋中抽出一支短笛,吹出一支优美而略带伤感的曲子,等他吹完,他发现牧羊女正在悲伤地哭泣。 "你哭什么?"他问。 "啊!"她回答说,"当我最后一次吹起这根笛子时,天空升起满月,水中露出我爱人的脑袋。"他看着她,仿佛觉得他眼睛上的一层眼罩立刻脱落,他认出了她,同时她也看了看他,月亮正照在他的脸上,她也认出了他。 他们相互拥抱着,亲吻着,谁都无需再问他们是否幸福了。

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