Drawn to Water – Arthur Rackham’s Rhinemaidens

Can you imagine a better combination – fairy tales and Arthur Rackham? One of the genius artists working in the Golden Age of illustration, Arthur Rackham is one of my all-time favourite illustrators. His work not only featured in the highest quality printed books, but hung in exhibitions. Rightly so.

This image of the Rhinemaidens, from Arthur Rackham’s illustrations for Wagner’s opera The Ring, was introduced to me when it hung as a print on my sister’s wall. She doesn’t have it any more, and I have this anxious tension every time I acknowledge its loss. Maybe one day I will be lucky enough to find a copy abandoned in a second hand store at a price my budget can manage.

What is it about this image that gets me? I think it is tied in with the magic of the idea of Mermaids. Beautiful women whose lives are lived out in a watery world we can only glimpse through the fantastic developments of underwater filming. These magical Rhinemaidens dwelt in the River Rhine, not the sea, and were whole, like fairy women. The concept is almost as bewitching to me as mermaids, and this image helped me to form the backstory of my own ocean-bound characters, cursed to be trapped within the boundary of the sea. Are they enticing someone in to the water, or begging to be released? Or both?

I had no idea of the story behind this image when I began to reference it in my story Find Me. It haunts my main character Skye, and begins to suggest to her crazy possibilities about an intriguing boy she has met who never seems to leave the water…

Like so many myths and legends, it is as if we humans share a common access to a swirling mist of imagination, with writers and artists and storytellers the world over drawing consciously or unconsciously from a common resource of magical ideas. I have often felt as if a pool of ideas floats around the globe, waiting for us to draw on it, and every now and then lucky creatives will reach out with their souls or hearts or minds and pluck an idea from the flow. More than once I’ve recognised an idea in someone else’s work that I’d had before in a dream, or jotted down on paper in the middle of a brainstorming session.

I love this possibility. I remember a vampire dream I had when I was a teenager. In the light of the Twilight phenomena I wonder what would have happened if I’d written it out as a story and sent it to a publisher? But every idea has its time. I hope this is the time for the world of Immersed, and that the magic that resonates in this beautiful image of Arthur Rackham’s Rhinemaidens will resonate in my story with fellow lovers of all beings that dwell magically in the watery depths.

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2 comments

    • Thanks so much! I hope that voice is in my fiction writing too. And thanks for the kind hopes I find a print. I hung it on the wall of a second-hand bookstore in my story, partly as a plot device and partly positive visualisation. πŸ™‚

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