Mélusine is said to have been the wife of the founder of Luxembourg, Count Siegfried. When they married, she requested Siegfried to leave her alone for one full day and night every month, and that he should not ask or try to find out what she was doing.
Siegfried accepted this wish, and all went well for years. On the first Wednesday of the month, Mélusine would retire into her chambers in the “casemates,” a network of caverns underneath the city, not to be seen again until early light on Thursday.
But one day, Siegfried’s curiosity got the better of him. Wondering what his wife might be doing alone all the time, he peeped through the keyhole, and was shocked to see that Mélusine was lying in the bathtub, with a fishtail hanging over the rim. Realizing that her husband had come to know the truth about her, she jumped out of the window into the river Alzette below, never to be seen again.
Every now and then, people claim to have seen a beautiful girl’s head pop out of the river, and a fishtail rippling the calm waters of the river Alzette.
According to another legend, Mélusine is imprisoned within the rock that helped form Luxembourg City’s tremendous defenses. She passes the time by knitting, but thankfully she manages only one stitch each year, because should she finish her knitting before she’s released, all of Luxembourg and its people will vanish into the rock with her!
Once every seven years, Mélusine returns, either as a serpent with a golden key in its mouth or as a beautiful woman.
All it will take to win her freedom is for some brave soul to kiss the womanly vision or take the key from the serpent’s mouth. That brave soul has yet to appear, and in the meantime Luxembourg prays for her to drop a stitch or two, so that whatever it is she’s knitting will take a very long time to complete!
-A tale from Luxembourg-
Illustration: Book of Hours, France, 15th century