Samiksha Jaiswal (Editor)

Undine (novella)

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Of French origin

Originally published


Publication date

Original language

Undine (novella) t2gstaticcomimagesqtbnANd9GcRMtkzVjWPbnGIJPR

Media type
Print (Hardback & Paperback)

Friedrich de la Motte Fouqué, William Leonard Courtney

Friedrich de la Motte Fouqué books, Novellas, Other books

Undine is a fairy-tale novella (Erzählung) by Friedrich de la Motte Fouqué in which Undine, a water spirit, marries a knight named Huldebrand in order to gain a soul. It is an early German romance, which has been translated into English and other languages.


Success and influence

During the nineteenth century the book was very popular and was, according to The Times in 1843, "a book which, of all others, if you ask for it at a foreign library, you are sure to find engaged". The story is descended from Melusine, the French folk-tale of a water-sprite who marries a knight on condition that he shall never see her on Saturdays, when she resumes her mermaid shape. It was also inspired by works by the occultist Paracelsus.

An unabridged English translation of the story by William Leonard Courtney and illustrated by Arthur Rackham was published in 1909. George Macdonald thought Undine "the most beautiful" of all fairy stories, while Lafcadio Hearn referred to Undine as a "fine German story" in his essay "The Value of the Supernatural in Fiction". The references to Undine in such works as Charlotte Yonge's The Daisy Chain and Louisa Alcott's Little Women show that it was one of the best loved of all books for many 19th-century children.

The first adaptation of Undine was E.T.A. Hoffmann's opera in 1814. It was a collaboration between E.T.A. Hoffman, who composed the score, and Friedrich de la Motte Fouqué who adapted his own work into a libretto. The opera proved highly successful, and Carl Maria von Weber admired it in his review as the kind of composition which the German desires: 'an art work complete in itself, in which partial contributions of the related and collaborating arts blend together, disappear, and, in disappearing, somehow form a new world'.

In the 1830s, the novella was translated into Russian dactylic hexameter verse by the Romantic poet Vasily Zhukovsky. This verse translation became a classic in its own right and later provided the basis for the libretto to Tchaikovsky's operatic adaptation. The novella has since inspired numerous similar adaptions in various genres and traditions.


  • Undine, E.T.A. Hoffmann, 1814
  • Undine, Christian Friedrich Johann Girschner, 1830
  • Undine, Albert Lortzing, 1845
  • Undina, Alexei Lvov, 1846
  • Undina, Pyotr Tchaikovsky, 1869
  • Rusalka, Antonín Dvořák, 1901
  • Music

  • Sonata Undine, a Romantic sonata for flute and piano (in E-minor) by Carl Reinecke, 1882
  • Ondine, a movement in Gaspard de la Nuit by Maurice Ravel, 1908
  • Ondine, a piano prelude by Claude Debussy, 1911–1913
  • Undine, track 9 from the album Once I was an Eagle by Laura Marling, 2013
  • Ballet

  • Ondine, composed by Cesare Pugni and choreographed by Jules Perrot, 1843
  • Coralia, or the Inconstant Knight, choreographed by Paul Taglioni, 1847
  • Undine, composed by Hans Werner Henze and choreographed by Frederick Ashton, 1958
  • Film

  • The Loves of Ondine, a film by Andy Warhol
  • Ondine, a film by Neil Jordan
  • Literature

  • Ondine, ou la Nymphe des Eaux, a play by René-Charles Guilbert de Pixerécourt, 1830
  • "Undina," a verse translation by Vasily Zhukovsky, 1837
  • Ondine, a poem by Aloysius Bertrand, 1842
  • Undine, an autobiographical book by Olive Schreiner, 1928
  • Ondine, a play by Jean Giraudoux, 1939
  • Undine geht by Ingeborg Bachmann
  • Haunted Waters, an adaptation for teen readers, by Mary Pope Osborne, 1994 (reissued 2006)
  • Art

  • Undine and Huldbrand, a painting by Henry Fuseli, 1819–1822
  • Undine, a painting by Moritz Retzsch, 1830
  • Undine, a painting by John William Waterhouse, 1872
  • Ondine, a painting by Paul Gauguin, 1889
  • Undine, a painting by Georges Fantin-Latour
  • Undine, a painting by Daniel Maclise
  • Undine, a painting by J.M.W. Turner
  • Undine, illustrations by Arthur Rackham
  • Ondine de Spa, a sculpture by Pouhon Pierre-Le-Grand
  • Undine with harp, a sculpture by Ludwig Michael von Schwanthaler, 1855
  • References

    Undine (novella) Wikipedia

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