I’ve been meaning to talk a bit about The River Maid and the background behind it. Although The River Maid is fiction, there are some historical elements to the story which are true. Some people who are not familiar with the Rhineland may be surprised to know that there is actually a castle called Katz Castle in the hills above St Goarshausen.
It was seized by the French Revolutionary army in 1805 and the castle was destroyed in 1806 by Napoleon - just like in the book. However, it was probably due to its position on the Rhine, rather than because of a mermaid.
The Counts of Katzenelnbogen built Katz Castle in the 1300’s, but the family line died out, and the castle then passed through various hands. After being destroyed in 1806, the castle was rebuilt in the late 1800’s and it’s still there today, although as far as I’m aware it’s privately owned and unfortunately not open to visitors.
Near St Goarshausen is a rock called the Lorelei. There’s a German legend of a siren associated with the rock who lures sailors to their deaths and it was this story along with Hans Christian Anderson’s The Little Mermaid that The River Maid is based on.
Although some things might actually have happened, I have taken huge liberties with history. I wanted to tell a story, not write a historically accurate novel, but I think all good stories need to have some truth to them at their heart.
I like to think that had there been a mermaid called Lorelei, then the events of the story could have happened just as they did in the book.