was breathtakingly beautiful and possessed of a streak of
independence, truly what we call a 'free spirit'.
nymphs and mermaids, she was leery of men. If a nymph ever falls in
love with a man and bears his child, she will begin to age like a
mortal woman, losing her eternal youthfulness and everlasting life.
Nonetheless, when Ondine saw the handsome young Palemon she was
smitten and began to watch for him on his daily walks. When Palemon
noticed her, he was taken by her incredible beauty and came back
frequently to try to get a glimpse of her again.
Eventually they talked and fell in love. He broke his engagement
with the young noblewoman Berta and, in time, convinced Ondine to
marry him. When they exchanged their wedding oaths, Palemon vowed
that "My every waking breath shall be my pledge of love and
faithfulness to you."
But it was not to be.
The following year Ondine gave birth to their son. From that moment
on, her beauty began to fade, her body suddenly susceptible to the
effects of age. As her youthful attractiveness gave way to a more
mature beauty, Palemon's eye began to wander to the younger women he
met at court.
One fateful day Ondine was out walking on their estate when she
heard the sound of Palemon's familiar snoring. Planning to take him
back home so he could finish his nap, the amused Ondine entered the
stables to wake him.
The scene she encountered filled her with great sorrow. Discarded
garments littered the floor and her beloved Palemon lay sleeping in
the haystack, his arms wrapped around his former fianceé Berta.
Having sacrificed her immortality for this man, she was filled with
anger and regret.
Kicking her sleeping husband, she woke him and uttered her curse.
"You pledged faithfulness to me with your every waking breath and I
accepted that pledge. So be it. For as long as you are awake, you
shall breathe. But should you ever fall into sleep, that breath will
Ondine still retained some of her magic . . . enough to make the
curse come true. And so it was. Palemon would never sleep again.