Haunted Waters by Mary Pope Osborne

Ondine, by John William Waterhouse (1872)
Image via Wikipedia

As a confirmed book addict I always make sure to check the “Friends of the Library” sale section of any library I visit. Often you can get great deals on new and classic books. A few days ago I picked up Haunted Waters by Mary Pope Osborne at a local library in this fashion.

I was intrigued because it was a reworking of a myth, something I am fascinated by, and it was a short well packaged story – something I else enjoy.

After reading it last night I can say it was well worth the dollar I paid for it! It is a reworking of the myth of Undine (a water spirit) and in particular the version as told by Baron de la Motte-Fouqu in 1814.

Lord Huldebrand of Ringstetten is lost in an ancient forest when he is driven by a violent storm and otherworldly spirits toward the sea. There he finds a poor elderly fisherman and his wife. They invite him in to escape the storm and share their humble hut and meager food.  He also meets their beautiful and ethereal daughter Undine.

The storm cuts off the coastal penisula from the mainland forcing Huldebrand to stay with the family. He slowly becomes enchanted with Undine and can’t be without her.  But a demon seems to haunt her, or at least the family, and he is unsure of who or what this enchanting creature is or represents.

In Osborne’s telling Undine rather unsubtly proposes marriage and Lord Huldebrand, in his infatuations and obsession, agrees. A priest is conveniently washed up on shore and is there to conduct the ceremony. Soon the couple head back to civilization to start their lives.

As you might imagine, not everything goes as planned and this story doesn’t exactly end with “happily ever after.” Huldebrand swore love and faithfulness to Undine forever even as she hinted that tragedy might await.

Back in his own world Huldebrand can’t shake the haunted nature of his love nor the sense that he has made a tragic mistake. And despite his love and true devotion, he only finds out the true nature of his bride, and the consequences of his choices, when it is too late.

This is easily a story you can read in one sitting.  The simple tale has all the elements of mythical romance and tragedy; and it pulls the reader forward in the way these classic stories do.

Publisher’s Weekly summed it up well:

The gifted author unfolds her tale so that its developments seem both inevitable and wholly surprising. She chooses details elegantly and economically, using just a few descriptive phrases to evoke a sumptuously imagined chivalric age. Lustrous as a pearl.

If like me you love a good story infused with mythology, and all the romance and mystery that entails, be sure to check out this great edition.  A classic for teens and adults alike.

Kevin Holtsberry
I work in communications and public affairs. I try to squeeze in as much reading as I can while still spending time with my wife and two kids (and cheering on the Pittsburgh Steelers and Michigan Wolverines during football season).

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