Thousands of years ago, mythological stories gave nature spirits the fanciful name of nymph. The term nymph is a very broad umbrella for a large group of young women, but the word and the image it conjures has survived thousands of years and is still tossed around today.
What is a Nymph?
According to the original mythology (Greek with a smattering of Roman for the mythology buffs out there), nymphs are the physical representation and spirit behind various aspects of nature. There are water nymphs, and flower nymphs, and tree nymphs, and meadow nymphs, and the list just keeps going.
There is some debate about whether these nymphs always fell into the above categories, but most scholars think the ancient folk simply called them nymphs and were done with it. The people that came along later made up categories such as Naiads, or freshwater nymphs, and Nereids, sea nymphs, to suit their purposes.
What do Nymphs Look Like?
There isn't an exact answer to this question. Nymphs are shown many ways throughout art and mythology, but most often, they are beautiful, high-spirited young women. Occasionally, nymphs might be represented with a sort of camouflaged appearance heavily covered the piece of nature they represent.
For example, a wood nymph might have something of a green, barky appearance, but the most classical depiction is simply of flirtatious, beautiful young women much like you and me. Try your hand at designing a modern nymph here on The Doll Palace.
What do Nymphs Wear?
In many cases, Nymphs don't actually wear much of anything, but in more modest depictions, they wear the traditional outfits of their time. Many nymphs wear loose fitting cloth robes, or chitons, with their long hair loose and flowing. Others simply stay modest in well-draped pieces of material. Dress up any doll to resemble a nymph, it's simply a matter of style.
What do Nymphs Do?
The oldest nymphs stayed bound to their aspect of nature, sometime so closely that if a tree died, the nymph associated with the tree died, too. That is not to say that the nymph was inside the tree. In fact, the nymphs needed to be unrestrained physically because they also spent a great deal of time escaping the romantic attention of certain satyrs like Pan, and gods such as Zeus and Dionysus.
Nymphs are flirtatious vixens, and are highly desirable by many of the ancient Greek males. Many nymphs consorted with and had children with gods, and those children became some of the Greek heroes such as Achilles. While some nymphs are immortal, others only live very long lives.
Is a Nymph…?A Mermaid?
No. Mermaids came along about 2000 years after nymphs, and mermaids most closely resemble Sirens in vocal stylings – although the original Sirens were vultures with women's heads.
An Elf? No. Elves aren't even in the same genre. Nymphs are nature spirits much like elves, but nymphs are considerably older and less fantastical.
A Goddess? Kind of. Some myths use nymphs and minor goddesses interchangeably, but nymphs should never be confused with the major goddesses like Aphrodite and Artemis. In fact, nymphs are often these goddesses' ladies in waiting or servants.
Real? You be the judge. Mythology, as we know it today, was a heavily practiced religion for thousands of years. They sure believed it back then….