|Rhinemaidens by Hans Makart (Wikimedia Commons)|
The sound of the gurgling water echoes off the rocks which line the shores of the Rhine giving this section of the river an enchanted feeling. The gurgling river creates a humming sound which when heard can be mistaken for that of a soft ghostly voice. It is an essential part of the mystery behind the legend of the Loreley (Lorelei). She is often depicted as a siren or mermaid and there is a tale that is told of her.
It is a tale which has with the passing of time grown into a legend. It is a tale of a ghostly woman who beckons sailors to come closer to her and to the rocks on which sits. If they do they are doomed to lose their ship to the craggy coast and their lives to the cold waters that surround it.
I was in early elementary school when my new grade teacher singled me out from the rest of the class. I was always very shy so having a teacher direct their attention to me was an event that I dreaded.
He asked if my name was Lorelei and when I nodded, he asked if I had heard the legend of the Loreley. I shook my head no and he began to tell myself and my fellow students the magical tale of the river Rhine and of a beautiful woman who would later transform into a ghostly siren there. It is funny because I do not recall the teacher's name or exactly what grade I was in at the time. I was quite impressed with the tale however and loved the thought that I might somehow have a magical ghostly mermaid lady connected to me.
The rock hill known as the Loreley sits on the east shore of the Rhine river within the Rhine Gorge.The Rhine Gorge is a section of the river which is historically recognized as a treacherous waterway to maneuver through. The channel is lined with rocky hills and the waters hide dangerous rocks and strong undercurrents.
The Rhine's history of luring men to their death by capsizing their ships was forever romanticized when in 1801 Clemens Brentano wrote "Zu Bacharach am Rheine" the ballad of the Lore Ley. The River Rhine was forever romanticized by the image of a siren forever destined to call from the bluffs to the passing ships.
The Haunting Song of the Loreley
Clemens Brentano's Zu Bacharach am Rheine told a poetic tale of the river Rhine involving a woman named Lore Ley. Lore Ley is a beautiful woman, but when betrayed by her lover she extracts her revenge on all men. She is accused by the clergy of bewitching and murdering
men and as such she is sentenced to death.
As Lore Ley is lead away she beseeches to once more look down over the river Rhine. Allowed to climb the rock to look down upon the river she throws herself down into the Rhine and to her death.
Her tale is one of enchantment, romance, disappointment, and heartbreak. The sound of the waters of the Rhine echoing throughout the gorge increase the romantic mystical theme of the lovely siren Lore Ley singing upon the rocks. From that day onward the rocks echo her song.
Heinrich Heine Poem: Die Loreley. Heinrich Heine brings the image of Lorelei to life even further within his poem Die Loreley. In her death Loreley becomes a ghostly siren and within her death lie the death of many men. She sits high upon the rock softly singing a song which lures passing seamen toward her and into the unyielding rock upon which she sits. Siren, ghost, or mermaid, the Loreley through time becomes a legend which flows as deep as the Rhine itself.
The Ballad of the Lore Ley by Clemens Brentano
Her name is forever destined to remain connected to this river and the rock which bears her name. From the barren rock of Loreley the image of a woman is formed. From the haunted waters where ships of yesteryear pass her voice rings out into the sky over the river Rhine.
Heinrich Heine: The Poem of Loreley Translated
Her portrayal is one of beauty seduction and sorrow. Enticing as a creature of the deep oceans can be the folklore behind her being lives on today. The tale of the legendary Loreley has also remained with me since I first heard of her.
Lorelei is the English spelling of Loreley (German) and today both names carry the meaning of siren, mermaid, or water nymph. This popular television show The Gilmore Girls increased the awareness and use of this name.
The Rhine River and the Loreley cliffs are quite a popular destination for tourists. A simple Google search will bear you more information on travel and tours to this destination.
As a child I lived within walking distance to a lake so my siblings and I would often go there to swim throughout the summer months. After learning the tale of the siren of the River Rhine I would pretend to be a mermaid as we swam at that local beach. A mermaid seemed a friendlier image than that of a woman who fell to her death into a watery grave. Today in my mind's image I now see the ghostly girl the legend actually portrays online you will also find me by my screen name Ladymermaid.
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