Nixies #folklore

The idea that creatures live in water is prevalent in folklore. One such creature is the nixie.


The Fairy Mythology by Thomas Keightley [1870]

Kennt ihr der Nixen, munt’re Schaar?
Von Auge schwarz und grün von Haar
Sie lauscht am Schilfgestade.

Know you the Nixes, gay and fair?
Their eyes are black, and green their hair–
They lurk in sedgy shores.

THE Nixes, or Water-people, inhabit lakes and rivers. The man is like any other man, only he has green teeth. He also wears a green hat. The female Nixes appear like beautiful maidens. On fine sunny days they may be seen sitting on the banks, or on the branches of the trees, combing their long golden locks. When any person is shortly to be drowned, the Nixes may be previously seen dancing on the surface of the water. They inhabit a magnificent region below the water, whither they sometimes convey mortals. A girl from a village near Leipzig was one time at service in the house of a Nix. She said that everything there was very good; all she had to complain of was that she was obliged to eat her food without salt. The female Nixes frequently go to the market to buy meat: they are always dressed with extreme neatness, only a corner of their apron or some other part of their clothes is wet. The man has also occasionally gone to market. They are fond of carrying off women whom they make wives of, and often fetch an earthly midwife to assist at their labour. 

Hero Tales and Legends of the Rhine by Lewis Spence [1915]

Another water-spirit not unlike the Lorelei is the nixie, which is both male and female, the male appearing like any human being, but, as in the case of the water-spirits of the Slavonic peoples and England, Scotland, and Central America, being possessed of green teeth. The male is called nix, the female nixie, the generic term for both being nicker, from a root which perhaps means ‘to wash.’ There is perhaps some truth in the statement which would derive the Satanic patronymic of ‘Old Nick’ from these beings, as spirits extremely familiar to the Teutonic mind. On fine sunny days the nixies may be seen sitting on the banks of rivers, or on the branches of trees, combing their long golden locks. Previous to a drowning accident the nixies can be seen dancing on the surface of the water. Like all sea and river spirits, their subaqueous abode is of a magnificence unparalleled upon earth, and to this they often convey mortals, who, however, complain that the splendours of the nixies’ palaces are altogether spoiled for them by the circumstance that their banquets are served without salt.

Where on the marshes boometh the bittern,
Nicker the Soulless sits with his ghittern;
Sits inconsolable, friendless and foeless,
Bewailing his destiny, Nicker the Soulless.

Popular Romances of the West of England collected and edited by Robert Hunt [1903, 3rd edition]


“INEVITABLE death awaits the wretch who is seduced by their charms. They seize and drown the swimmer, and entice the child; aitd when they anticipate that their malevolence will be gratified, they are seen gaily darting over the surface of the waters.”

Since lhis tale has been in type, my attention has been called to an article on, the “Popular Mythology of the Middle Ages,” by Sir F. Palgrave, in the Quarterly Review, No. 44, 1820. The Nixies, to whom the above quotation especially refers, are in most respects like the Cornish mermaids.

Element Encyclopedia of Fairies by Lucy Cooper


Shape-shifting water spirits of German mythology. Nix are the males of the species, nixies the females.

Nixies are often depicted sitting in the sun, combing their long hair. Although sometimes described as resembling mermaids, they are able to come ashore and walk among humans, with only their wet skirts hinting at their true identity.

The males were skilled musicians and it was said they could be persuaded to pass on their skills to mortals. However, they had a dark side too, and were said to suck humans down into the water, drowning them and keeping their souls in upturned urns.

*Read more in the book.

Encyclopedia of Fairies in World Folklore and Mythology by Theresa Bane


Variations: Nis, Nix, Urchins

In Germany and Switzerland the nixen are water fairies, living in lakes and rivers, they have been known to lure sailors and swimmers alike to their death on the rocky shoreline. Although seen in both human genders the females, alluring and lovely, are more commonly sighted, sometimes at the market purchasing meat. The male nixen are also physically attractive but are described as having green teeth. Both sexes are said to wear green hats.

There are a few stories of nixen intentionally choosing to be helpful to a human either by preventing a drowning or giving a warning of an approaching storm; however these instances are notably rare. Typically, these water fairies are said to dance along the surface of the water when a person is about to drown and will steal a child, leaving a changeling in its place. The male nixen will abduct a mortal woman and keep her as its wife; later, when it is necessary, it will hire a mortal midwife to assist in the delivery of their child.

Nixen are particularly susceptible to metals, more so than other fay. When used against them, they are rendered powerless. Long term exposure to metal will kill them.


The nixie of German and Norse lore are water fairies of dubious motivations; in some stories they are malicious, luring people into the water and drowning them, while in others they are considered to be benign and friendly. The males, sometimes referred to as nix, are shape-shifters able to assume many forms, including fish, humans, and snakes. The female of the species are described as looking like the traditional mermaid. When these fay assume a human guise they can always be discerned for what they are as their clothes will always be wet.

Nixies, like many water fairies, live in palatial underwater castles resplendent with their riches. Mortals who have been fortunate enough to visit and were allowed to return claim the only fault with the aquatic kingdom is the food which is served at their lavish banquets are served without salt seasoning.

*Read more in the book.

A Wizard’s Bestiary by Oberon Zell Ravenheart and Ash “LeopardDancer” DeKirk

Nixie (or Nix, Nixe)

Freshwater Merfolk in Germanic and Scandinavian folklore. The name is derived from Old High German nihhus, meaning “crocodile,” and refers to a great water-monster. Depending on the country, they are described variously as green Mermaids, grey Water-Horses, bird-woman Sirens, or aquatic Centaurs. All are predatory beings that entice mortals to a watery doom.

*Read more in the book.

The Element Encyclopedia of Magical Creatures by John Matthews and Caitlin Matthews


In the myths of Scandinavia, Germany and Switzerland, the Nixi is a freshwater being who haunts lakes and rivers. Female Nixis are like mermaids who entice humans into the water. But unlike mermaids, they are seldom good looking, having a wizened appearance, with green hair and skin. Male Nixis are like old men from the neck up, with the body and brush of a fox and the hooves of a horse.

*Read more in the book.

Further Reading:

Folklore in a Nutshell by Ronel

In Germanic and Scandinavian folklore, nixies are water fairies who live in rivers and lakes. Usually the males are referred to as nix; they are excellent musicians and shapeshifters. The females are most often seen resembling mermaids. Both genders can assume human form and are extremely attractive.

Just before a human drowns, nixies are seen dancing on the surface of the water. It is believed that the nixies suck humans down to the deeps, drowning them, and keep their souls in upturned urns.

Nixies are more allergic to iron than other fae. Long term exposure will kill them.

On occasion, nix take mortal women as their wives. They need to hire mortal midwifes to assist in the birth of their children.

Nixies live in underwater palaces – like most water fae – and hold lavish banquets to which they sometimes invite humans (who always complain about the lack of salt in the food).

Nixies might seem benevolent at times, warning about storms, but they, like all water fae, should be treated with caution.

Nixies in Modern Culture

I could only find nixies in books.

The Spiderwick Chronicles leave the old-fashioned charm of New England far behind and head south for some fiendish faerie fun in the hot Florida sun. Eleven-year-old Nicholas Vargas only thinks his life has been turned upside down after his developer father remarries and moves his new wife and daughter into the soon-to-be completed Mangrove Hollow.

But an “expedition” to a nearby lake turns up a little nixie with a giant problem – the huge, lumbering, fire-breathing variety – and it’s up to Nick; his stepsister, Laurie; and his big brother, Julian (plus a familiar face from the original Spiderwick Chronicles) to figure out the best way to stop a host of rampaging giants before all of Florida goes up in smoke.

Check it out on Goodreads.

A stiletto heel through a vampire’s heart…
Who ever said you had to sacrifice fabulous for functional?

Eventually I’d find her, the one who stole my abilities.

Now I was stuck like this…

As a water elemental, everything about me before was fluid…

My shape, my gender…

Hell, I didn’t even have a gender before…

Whatever form was most appealing to my human prey… that’s the shape I’d take. Luring my prey to my watery lair through sex appeal and alluring song…

I didn’t even know that vampires were real…
How was I supposed to know that I’d chosen a vampire as an entree?
When I was bit that damned bloodsucker stole my shape-shifting ability…

I was scared shiftless.

I’m out for more than vengeance. I want my life back. But even if I catch her, even if I kill the vampire who ruined my life… can I even take my abilities back? Or, am I destined to stay like this… forever. 

Check it out on Goodreads.

Nixies in My Writing

Origin of the Fae: Nixies

Nixies are water fae who prefer living in lakes and rivers. They are shapeshifters – they can turn into any animal, look like any monster, be perfectly alluring to humans. Despite what folklore says, they do not abduct humans – either children replacing them with changelings, or women, keeping them as wives. Nixies do keep human souls captive, but only as a kind of purgatory for those who didn’t live life with any kind of conviction: they weren’t particularly good or bad. Those humans invited to banquets are the loved-ones of the captive souls, brought to torment the dead. Also, they eat human flesh, which is why they are alluring to their prey. The palace of nixies is one place accessed through the water ways of the Otherworld and is where they keep the souls and hold their banquets. Nixies don’t live in the palace, preferring the wilds of their rivers and lakes. Their mission is to keep their home clean – which means if a human pollutes their river or lake, they will torment their soul until Ankou, king of the dead, absolves the soul and allows it to continue to its destined afterlife.

Translation of nixie into Afrikaans: no need, as this is the name of the creature in German and Dutch (root languages of Afrikaans).

Where did you encounter nixies for the first time? What do you think of these water fae? Check out my Pinterest board dedicated to these water fae.

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