Like mermaids, the sea nymphs in mythology from Sweden are powerful, dangerous beings. Like the sailors in this story one should be very careful to avoid them.

One night some sailors were sleeping in a hut on the northwest shore of an island. A noise woke them during the night and they saw a hand reaching in the door. It was a beautiful hand, though slightly wet. They knew it was a sea nymph come to destroy them and pretended to be asleep.

The next day a new man joined their group. He was young, recently married and rather arrogant. They told him about the sea nymph and he laughed at them for being frightened of a beautiful woman. He promised them that if he saw the hand he would take hold of it.

That night the hand appeared again. As he had promised the new man took the hand, which pulled him quietly out of the room. He did not return that night and the next day they could not find him anywhere on the island.

Many years later, the man's wife was about to remarry. During the festivities a stranger entered the house. The young wife recognized him as her first husband. She and the guests questioned him about what had happened to him the night he disappeared.

The man said that the sea nymph had brought him to her pearly halls under the sea. She was beautiful, like all nymphs in mythology, and he had forgotten his wife, his parents and everyone else he loved till that very morning. When the sea nymph told him that his wife was to be married again he suddenly remembered her. He begged to see her again. The sea nymph assented but warned him that he must not enter her house.

When the man saw his wife he could not resist the desire to be with her and joined the party in the house. As he said this, a powerful tempest blew up and ripped the roof off! The man suddenly fell ill and died three days later.

Reading this story I am reminded of Joseph Campbell's book "The Hero With a Thousand Faces". Campbell talks about how some heroes are not ready for their journey. The man is this story is not. He is recently married, usually the end of the hero's adventures. He boasts and is arrogant – two more strikes against him. When he accidentally meets the Goddess (all nymphs in mythology are really the Goddess in disguise), he is not prepared for the encounter.

Campbell's book is really excellent. It's written by a college professor so it tends to be intellectual and sometmes a little dry, but you have to expect that. The important point is that this book has a lot of insights that will give you a whole new perspective on many stories, not just the nymphs in mythology. For example, George Lucas studied this book while writing "Star Wars". I personally have found many elements from it in "The Wizard of Oz".

Click here for more on the nymphs in mythology.

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