11 May 2012


It's been a while since I last did a Folklore, Myths and Legends post and as I've not long since finished reading THE LADY OF THE RIVERS by Philippa Gregory in which some of the 'descendants of Melusina/Melusine' features I thought now would be a perfect time.

A folklore character popular in Europe, Melusina is a spirit of of fresh water springs and rivers who is often depicted looking much like a mermaid (a woman with the bottom half of a fish) though as a 'nixie' she is also illustrated as having wings and/or two tails.

Melusine's secret discovered, from Le Roman de Mélusine. One of sixteen paintings by Guillebert de Mets circa 1410. 

Known by many as the Mermaid of Luxembourg, legend has it that Mesulina was the beautiful wife of Count Siegfried, the founder of the city, who loving his wife as he did agreed on marriage to the one request she made of him.

That request being that once a month on the first Wednesday (OR as some would argue once a week on a Saturday) she should be left to retire alone to her chambers, a cavern hewn into the rocks, where he was to leave her undisturbed so, as legend has it, she could take her weekly bath in complete privacy.

Anyway, all goes well until just like the proverbial curious cat Melusina's husband wonders what his wife is doing and peers through the keyhole into her chamber where he beholds his wife lying in the bath .............

with her fishtail hanging over the edge.

Now being a mermaid Melusina has a keen sixth sense which straight away alerts her to the fact that someone has seen her, that someone knows her secret, and thus she jumps out of the window into the river below never to be seen again though, of course, as all good legends go, some say that every once in a while a beautiful girl with a fishtail is seen to be swimming in that very river.

Not so say other legends. According to some, on being spied by her beloved, Melusina flies from the bathroom window whereupon she takes the form of a dragon with four clawed feet, bat-like wings and a monstrous head.

But what of other stories surrounding Melusina?

Well, according to Sir Walter Scott in his 1802/3 The Minstrelsy Of The Scottish Border ........

"The reader will find the fairy of Normandy or Bretagne adorned with all the splendour of Eastern description. The fairy Melusina, also, who married Guy de Lusignan, Count of Poitou, under condition that he should never attempt to intrude upon her privacy, was of this latter class. She bore the count many children, and erected for him a magnificent castle by her magical art. Their harmony was uninterrupted until the prying husband broke the conditions of their union, by concealing himself to behold his wife make use of her enchanted bath. Hardly had Melusina discovered the indiscreet intruder, than, transforming herself into a dragon, she departed with a loud yell of lamentation, and was never again visible to mortal eyes ; although, even in the days of Branatome, she was supposed to be the protectress of her descendants, and was heard wailing as she sailed upon the blast round the turrets of the castle of Lusignan the night before it was demolished."

And perhaps the most famous literary tale of them all?

Compiled in the 1300's and told as a 'spinning yarn' to entertain the ladies as they sat at their spinning wheels, The Tale Of Melusine was translated into German and then into English.

Telling the story of how during the times of the crusades King Elynas went hunting in the forest one day only to come across a beautiful lady named Pressyne who he fell madly in love with.

Persuaded to marry him, Pressyne  had one condition ....... (sound familiar?) that he must not enter her chamber when she bathed herself or her children of whom she went on to have three, triplets, Melusine, Melior, and Palatyne.

Anyway, to cut a long story, Melusine's father also breaks his promise and in revenge Pressyne flees the country taking her daughters with her where all is well until Melusine turns 15 whereupon .........

On learning of her fathers broken promise she and her sisters capture him and lock him, along with his riches, in a mountain.

For some reason or other their mother is very upset by this and, as punishment for their disrespect to their father, Melusine is condemned to spend the rest of her life ....... you know the rest of the story by now.

Or do you?

In a slight variation on the theme .......

Having forgiven her husband for spying on her in the bathtub, Melusine assumes the form of a dragon and flies off,  but only after he calls her a serpent in front of his court.

Going full-circle back to Philippa Gregory, as I mentioned several of the female characters in her Cousin's War trilogy (of which The Lady Of The Rivers is third) are said to be descendants of Melusina. You might be interested to know that this means they are gifted/cursed (take your pick) with several special powers, one of which is that they are foretold of a loved ones death when they hear the singing of Melusina.

Sources used: Wikipedia, Luxembourg Legends and Monstrous.Com


naida said...

Thanks for the interesting mermaid legend post!

Lawrence said...

Cool. I actually enjoyed reading it.

~ Colors and Grays

ashok said...


joan said...

thanks Tracey
another great review
btw i've been on my blog settings and it was set for registered users only so hopefully it will be ok now
thanks for keeping in touch via facebook and not losing faith in me lol

Melissa (Books and Things) said...

I like the mermaid legend one and that her nickname could be Mel. ;D

Mama Zen said...

I hadn't heard this before!

NRIGirl said...

Very interesting - all those variations by which folklore spreads!

Once visiting Papa's Marine Fisheries lab I have seen "processed" mermaids. Alas, it was nowhere close to my imagination but a huge blob something like a seal.

Thank you for stopping by earlier to say hi! It cheered up my day.

Have a fun weekend!

Kelly said...

If I've ever run across this creature before, I don't remember it. They sound fascinating!

Jenners said...

I so enjoy this series!!!

chitra said...

I like reading or listening to the folk tales.Here I get a feeling as if I am listening to you.

Betty Manousos said...

actually, i always enjoy your interesting and beautiful mermaid legend posts!


Claudine G. said...

Wow. I didn't know that much about Melusina previously, but you've given me another curious myth to read about. Mermaids are mysterious and somehow, sad. In many tales, they're portrayed as bitter creatures due to betrayed Love.

Fascinating. Thanks for sharing, Petty.

carol said...

Melusina certainly is an interesting character. Thanks for sharing the variations of her story.

GMR said...

Hmm...first I've heard of this one. Love how I can stop by your site and be entertained AND informed. Thanks Tracy!