Bad Fairy Case File #337: The Nixie

OFFENSES: Enchantment, Drowning, Kidnapping

DESCRIPTION: Water Sprite, Half-Human Half-Fish in appearance

ALIAS: Nix, Niwiht, Nihtes, Nyx, Nikwus, Nikwis, Nikke, Neck

PROVENANCE: Irish and German folklore

A shape-shifting water fairy from early German folklore, the Nixie is infamous for singing enchanted songs to lure human prey to watery deaths. The Nixie is usually a malicious female river mermaid, and the Nix is her male counterpart.

Though they are able to shape shift, their natural appearance is that of a small human-shaped being with attributes of a frog, toad or fish. They are described as green or blue in hue and have webbed feet and hands, gills and often fish-like faces with large eyes seated on the sides of their bulbous heads.

The Nixie is often found in tales of a traveler’s lonely journey through some tender wilderness in which a body of water is nonchalantly approached. The Nixie will entice the traveler with an intoxicating melody near her fairy stomping grounds (a pond, waterfall, river or lake).

Legend of Nixies have been also found in Scandinavian mythology as well as Celtic mythology, retaining most of its German attributes. Sometimes, however, they gain Catholic messages within the tale, for example, they can be especially fond of murdering pregnant women and unbaptized children.

The Nixie might be confused for the Kelpie of Irish folklore, who is also a water sprite known for shape-shifting and waiting by murky waters to prey on unsuspecting humans. The essential difference between the Kelpie and Nixie (besides the countries in which their tales were woven), is the song of the Nixie is it’s main attracting force to entice those they wish to bring into their watery clutches, while the Kelpie merely waits for travelers to approach.

The merpeople created for the film Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, based on the book by J.K. Rowling, may have been modeled after Nixie folklore. They are first mentioned in a song found in an enchanted golden egg, in which they sing, “Come seek us where our voices sound, we cannot sing above the ground.” Later they are discovered under a lake holding children prisoner, and we discover that these mermaids are far closer to monsters than to anything seen in Walt Disney Pictures‘ The Little Mermaid (1989). There are many sea-fairies to choose from in the world of mythology, but this is very reminiscent of Nixie folklore in particular.

More about Nixies: