The Nixie of the Mill-Pond, by the Brothers Grimm, is a fairytale with a number of strong messages for its readers. It subtly shares lessons about greed, promises, trust, guidance, dreams and transformation. However, it’s strongest lesson is that of perseverance.
A character (the miller) within the fairytale wishes for a better life and makes a promise to a Nixie in order to fulfil the wealth he desires. But, the character does not make good on his promise and in doing so suppresses his child’s development and life experience. The Nixie simply bides her time until the right moment presents itself and she can take what she was promised.
The story goes on, but if we break it down to the three central characters from here, we have:
- the Nixie who tricked the miller into a promise he naively accepted
- a wife trying to find her lost husband and set him free
- an old woman who offered wisdom, support, guidance and practical solutions
The wife seeks the guidance of the old woman and perseveres to try and free her husband. On three occasions, she tries hard to undo the damage of someone else’s promise. We have to ask the question why? Why was she left in this predicament? Is it as simple as the miller never having questioned the cost of his greed? And of not facing the initial challenge/situation he was presented when he made the promise?
I’m sure many of us have made promises to others, but how many of us have avoided having to fulfill our end of the bargain – either conscious or unconscious avoidance.
In this fairytale, rather than negotiate the initial promise with the Nixie to ensure it’s one he can keep, the man avoids fulfilling it because of the emotional toll of giving up his first born. In the end, his avoidance means his son and wife suffer.
This brings us to our first learning for the year ahead:
- Perseverance is what will help lead to lasting change, particularly emotional change. If this is the learning journey you are on for 2020, stick at it.
- Face the emotional situations early to minimise creating fear and/or avoidance in future. If you haven’t addressed situations in the past that would have been best dealt with there and then, it’s time to work on this. Be free from fear that you may have held on to in the past.
In the end, the wife is reunited with her husband through persevering with the help of the old woman’s wisdom. So as you face 2020, think about who you will turn to for guidance, practical support, help and accountability.