|Place of origin||Europe|
|Subspecies||Dryads, Naiads, Nereids, etc.|
|Related species||Apsara, Fairy, Hulder, Mermaid, Nixie, Siren, Undine, Vila|
|Behind the Scenes|
Nymphs are female nature spirits from Greek mythology which are well-known for their beauty. While they're often the offspring and/or companions of gods and goddesses, they themselves are not typically regarded as goddesses in the same sense the Olympic gods are, as it's possible for them to be killed. Still, they're not considered mortals either, as they won't ever grow old or be affected by illness.
Nymphs are typically friendly in disposition, although there have been some exceptions. They're often associated with dance, music, love and promiscuity, and known to engage in love and sexual behavior not only with humans but also with other forest denizens such as Fauns and Satyrs. Historically, each Nymph or group of Nymphs is intrinsically linked with a specific location or landmark. Many are associated with water bodies, to the point that the alchemist Paracelsus used the term "Nymph" as a synonym for his water elementals, a.k.a. Undines.
While no official system of classification exists, the different kinds of Nymphs may be divided according to their natural element. There are those associated with trees (Dryads and Hamadryads), flowers (Anthousai), freshwater (Naiads), saltwater (Nereids and Oceanids), glens and groves (Alseids), pastures (Auloniads), mountains (Oreads), the underworld (Lampads), and even the skies, clouds and celestial bodies (Hyades, Pleiades, Hesperides, etc.). In some cases, these types of Nymphs may be classified further, for instance, several kinds of Naiads can be specified according to whether they inhabit fountains (Crinaeae), marshlands (Eleionomae), lakes (Limnades), springs (Pegaeae) or rivers (Potamides). Nowadays, the term Dryad is typically used for tree Nymphs in general, but there are specific subtypes associated with different kinds of trees, for instance, the Meliae, who inhabit ash trees, or the Epimeliads, who inhabit apple trees.
There are countless individual Nymph characters in Greek mythology, with some particularly famous ones including Syrinx, Leuce, Eurydice, Nephele, Echo, Melinoë and Salmacis, among many others. Famous Nereids include Calypso, Arethusa, Thetis and Galatea. The sea monster Scylla is sometimes regarded as a transformed Nymph. The fictional "chess goddess" Caïssa is also described as a Dryad.
In The Tempest, by William Shakespeare, Nymphs are among the nature spirits inhabiting the island to which the wizard Prospero was exiled. They seem to be under the command of Ariel and therefore, by extension, Prospero himself.
Works Featuring Nymphs
- The Tempest, by William Shakespeare
- Afternoon of a Faun, by Stéphane Mallarmé
- The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus, by L. Frank Baum
- Unlike Sirens and Mermaids, Sea Nymphs are generally friendly creatures who often protect and guide sailors. However, in the painting The Cave of the Storm Nymphs, by Sir Edward Poynter, they're depicted luring a ship to its destruction.
- The medical condition known as "nymphomania" is named after these beings.