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Undina by Zhukovskiy:Undina, mermaid, Betalda

by Vasily Ivanovich Zhukovsky
Once upon a time, on a desolate peninsula, an old fisherman lived with his wife. Thick woodlands separated the peninsula from the mainland. People said that the forest was haunted and evil spirits brooded there. Nobody dared to approach the forest. The old fisherman wasn't afraid of evil spirits and went through the forest regularly to the nearest town to sell his fish. One day he was net-fishing on the shore. A strange sound startled him and a Knight riding a beautiful steed appeared. The Knight rode up to the old man and said: "Let me spend the night in your hut. I don't want to travel through the damned forest during the evening." The old man was glad to help the stranger and led him to his hut. There they met the fisherman's wife and his adopted daughter Undina. The Knight was thunderstruck by Undina's natural beauty. She was a slim, blonde, blue-eyed, eighteen year-old girl. The intrigued Undina asked the Knight to tell them stories about himself and his travels, but her parents strictly ordered her to leave the Knight alone because he was very tired. Undina felt hurt and left. While she was gone the old fisherman told the Knight how Undina appeared in his hut: Once he returned home after selling fish and found out that his little daughter had drowned out at sea. The parents were destroyed by this event and wept bitterly. Later on that evening the door of their hut opened and they saw a beautiful little girl. The girl was soaked and her skin was cold to the touch. She had no idea where she came from, who were her parents, and only told fantastical stories about the coral gardens that she grew up in. From that time until this Undina lived in the fisherman's hut and became he and his wife's adopted daughter. As soon as the old man finished his story Undina came back into the hut. She said she was sorry for her behavior earlier and that she would not behave in such a manner in the future. Now that everybody was together the Knight began to tell about himself. He met a beautiful girl named Betalda in a tournament for knights. She was gorgeous but was also stuck-up and arrogant. She was wearing expensive gloves and the Knight asked her to have them to wear. Betalda said that she would give him her gloves only if he dared to pass through the haunted forest. The Knight agreed to do it because it would be a shame to decline her offer. In the forest he encountered evil spirits and loathsome gnomes. He narrowly escaped and fortunately came upon the fisherman. The Knight needed to stay with the fisherman because rains from a storm caused the river to overflow. The flood was so serious that the peninsula turned into an island. The Knight and Undina spent a lot of time together while he was there and soon they were in love. One evening when everyone in the hut were talking someone knocked at the door. It was a priest whose ship just sank and he was the only survivor. The kind fisherman and his wife took the poor priest in and let him stay and wait for the flood to subside like the Knight was already doing. The Knight loved Undina, and seizing the opportunity he asked the priest to marry them. After the wedding Undina told the Knight she had a terrible secret. Her secret was that she was not human, but one of the evil spirits that lived in the haunted forest. She was the daughter of the Mediterranean Sea King, a wonderful merman. Usually spirits have no souls but Undina's father decided to endow his beloved daughter with a soul even though he knew everybody who had one was doomed to suffer. The only way Undina could retain her soul was if a man fell in love with her. Finishing her sad story she said: "I am very grateful to you for giving me a soul. I have been frank with you. If you want to leave me do it now. I will plunge into the waters of the Stream, who is my uncle, the strongest of all evil spirits living in the haunted forest." Having listened to this the Knight embraced Undina and swore to love her forever. The newlyweds decided to leave the kind fisherman and his wife as soon as the floodwaters dissipated. They came to the Knight's town where they were greeted by Betalda. Undina and Betalda became close friends. They treated each other like sisters, but Betalda sometimes became jealous because she also loved the Knight. One day when the Knight, his wife, and Betalda were strolling in the park a strange man came to Undina and whispered something in her ear. He was blonde and looked like a ghost. Undina said that man revealed to her some good news. During a feast in honor of Betalda's name day Undina publicly told that secret, which was this: Many years ago the duke found Betalda on the seashore. He was sorry for her and decided to adopt the child. But Betalda has her true parents. At these words Betalda's parents appeared, and as it turned out they were the kind fisherman and his wife. Betalda began to cry hysterically because she was disgusted because she thought beggars couldn't be her parents. The fisherman's wife said, "If you are really our daughter you have three birthmarks on your right heel." The duchess checked and found three birthmarks. The next day the Knight and Undina intended to go to the Knight's castle. On the way to the castle they met a tear-stained Betalda. She told them the duke was so irritated with her behavior at the feast that he kicked her out of the house. The fisherman also refused to shelter Betalda until she would be kind to him and his wife. Betalda told them about her misfortune and the Knight and Undina felt sorry for her and took her with them. Undina's home life was not going well in the castle. The Knight grew cold to Undina and often was getting intimate with Betalda. He began to shun Undina because she wasn't human. Undina often cried but didn't make scenes. She only asked the Knight: "Don't scold me near the water! My sea relatives may hear you. They will avenge me and punish you for insulting my family. I will languish in underwater captivity and you will be killed. If you marry another woman my relatives will force me to kill you." The Knight agreed and said he understood. One day Undina, the Knight, and Betalda went to the river. They navigated up-stream and suddenly a big shaggy paw appeared in the water. It snatched a necklace out of Betalda's hands. The Knight began to scold and insult Undina, "You and your damned relatives always spoil my life. Be gone sorceress." Upon these words Undina dissolved into the water. Realizing what he had just done the Knight and Betalda mourned and cried for Undina. However they soon forgot about Undina and decided to marry. After their marriage a white cloud rose from the water. The cloud resembled Undina and flew to the Knight's room. She entered the room and said, "I must kill you, my relatives are forcing me to do it." The next morning people found the Knight dead in his bedroom.