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Grimm's Fairy Tales

The Water-Nixie -

a comparison of the first version (1812)
with the final version (1857)

 
German title (1812): Die Wassernix
German title (1857): Die Wassernixe
English title: The Water-Nixie
English title: The Water Nixie
English title: The Water Nymph
English title: The Water Sprite
Story position: Volume 1, Number 79
Story designation: KHM 79 ("Kinder- und Hausmärchen")

Quick history: There were seven editions of the Grimm's Fairy Tales published in the Grimm Brothers' lifetime. Each edition was presented in two volumes. Volume 1 of the first edition appeared in 1812; Volume 2 of the first edition appeared in 1815. Both volumes of the seventh (7th) and final edition appeared in 1857.

(Take me directly to the detailed comparison in the original German.)

Here are the nontrivial differences between the first and final versions of The Water-Nixie using the English translation by Margaret Hunt (1884). We disregard spelling, punctuation, and grammar updates, and minor shuffling of words.

In the difference spots, "1:" indicates the first edition (1815), and "7:" indicates the seventh and final edition (1857). Naturally, Hunt worked with the final edition, so all of the words in the common passages and the lines labeled "7:" are hers. Think of the lines labeled "1:" as what she would have produced if she had translated the 1st edition. Highlighted words direct your attention to the added, deleted, or changed wording. Click on "1:" to see the difference spot in the original German.

A highlighted ! in a section of text common to both versions indicates an exclamation appearing in the first version that was lost by the final version. Find 1 of them.

 

The Water-Nixie [1] -
showing the significant differences between the first and final versions

A LITTLE brother and sister were once playing by a well, and while they were thus playing, they both fell in. A water-nixie lived

1:   there,

7:   down below,

who said, "Now I have got you, now you shall work hard for me!"

1:  

7:   and carried them off with her.

She gave the girl dirty tangled flax to spin, and she had to fetch water in a bucket with a hole in it, and the boy had to hew down a tree with a blunt axe, and they got nothing to eat but dumplings as hard as stones. Then at last the children became so impatient, that they waited until one Sunday, when the nixie was at church, and

1:   fled.

7:   ran away.

But when church was over, the nixie saw that the birds were flown, and followed them with great strides. The children saw her from afar, and the girl threw a brush behind her which formed an immense hill of bristles, with thousands and thousands of spikes, over which the nixie was forced to scramble with great difficulty; at last, however, she got

1:   over it.

7:   over.

When the children saw this, the boy threw behind him a comb which made a great hill of combs with a thousand times a thousand teeth, but the nixie managed to keep herself steady on them, and at last crossed over that. Then the girl threw behind her a looking-glass which formed a hill of mirrors, and was so slippery that it was impossible for the nixie to cross it. Then she thought, "I will go home quickly and fetch my axe, and cut the hill of glass in half." Long before she returned, however, and had hewn through the glass, the children had escaped to a great distance, and the water-nixie was obliged to betake herself to her well again.

 
NOTES:
[1] Hunt uses "nix" instead of "nixie" throughout.

 

***

To identify the differences, I did a word-by-word comparison of the first and final versions in the original German. I used texts provided on the fine "Kinder- und Hausmärchen der Brüder Grimm" site (khm.li). In the comparisons below, as above, "1:" indicates the first version (1815), and "7:" indicates the seventh and final version (1857).

Und nun, auf Deutsch, mit aller Unterschieden zwischen die erste und letzte Ausgaben . . .

 


1: Die Wassernix
7: Die Wassernixe

Ein Brüderchen und ein Schwesterchen spielten an einem Brunnen, und wie sie so spielten, plumpten sie beide hinein. Da war

1: eine Wassernix, die sprach:
7: unten eine Wassernixe, die sprach

»jetzt hab ich euch, jetzt sollt ihr mir brav

1: arbeiten!« und dem
7: arbeiten,« und führte sie mit sich fort. Dem

Mädchen gab sie

1: verwirrten,
7: verwirrten

garstigen Flachs zu spinnen, und

1: Wasser mußte es
7: es mußte Wasser

in ein hohles Faß schleppen, der

1: Jung
7: Junge

aber sollte einen Baum mit einer stumpfen Axt

1: hauen,
7: hauen;

und nichts zu essen bekamen

1: sie, als steinharte Klöse.
7: sie als steinharte Klöße.

Da wurden zuletzt die Kinder so ungeduldig, daß sie warteten, bis eines Sonntags die Nixe in der Kirche war, da

1: flohen
7: entflohen

sie. Und als die Kirche vorbei war, sah die

1: Nix,
7: Nixe

daß die Vögel ausgeflogen waren, und setzte ihnen mit großen Sprüngen nach. Die Kinder erblickten sie aber von weitem, und das Mädchen warf eine Bürste hinter sich, das gab einen großen Bürstenberg, mit tausend und tausend Stacheln, über den die

1: Nix
7: Nixe

mit großer Müh klettern

1: mußte,
7: mußte;

endlich aber kam sie doch

1: darüber.
7: hinüber.

Wie das die Kinder sahen, warf der Knabe einen Kamm hinter sich, das gab einen großen

1: Kammberg, mit tausend mal
7: Kammberg mit tausendmal

tausend Zinken, aber die

1: Nix
7: Nixe

wußte sich daran

1: festzuhalten,
7: fest zu halten

und kam zuletzt doch drüber. Da warf das Mädchen einen Spiegel hinterwärts, welches einen Spiegelberg gab, der war so glatt, so glatt, daß sie unmöglich drüber konnte. Da dachte

1: sie: ich
7: sie »ich

will geschwind nach Haus gehen und meine Axt

1: holen,
7: holen

und den Spiegelberg entzwei

1: hauen, bis
7: hauen.« Bis

sie aber wieder kam, und das Glas aufgehauen hatte, waren die Kinder längst weit entflohen, und die

1: Wassernix
7: Wassernixe

mußte sich wieder in ihren Brunnen trollen.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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