Fairy Tale Friday- The Wild Swans

This week’s fairy tale is the well known The Wild Swans. It centres around a king who has eleven sons and one daugher, named Elisa. The king marries an evil queen (don’t they always?) who sends Elisa to live with peasants. She curses the boys so that they become wild swans.

When Elisa turns fifteen, she returns to the palace. The queen is still pretty evil and kisses three toads, putting them into Elisa’s bath in order to turn her into a lazy, ugly and evil girl. However, dear Elisa is so pure that the spells don’t affect her. The toads turn into poppies. The queen’s next plan is to smear her with dirt and walnut juice to turn her black. Elisa’s father does not recognise her, so she leaves the palace.

Elisa wanders into the forest and bathes in a pool until she turns back to her recognisable self. Elisa meets a woman who tells her that there are eleven swans bathing nearby. Elisa finds them and realises they are her swan brothers who turn back into boys at midnight. They explain to her that they are swans during the day and humans at night. They live across the sea in another land, and so they weave a basket so they can bring Elisa with them.

During a dream, a fairy comes to Elisa and explains how she could break the curse on her brothers. She has to pick nettles and knit eleven shirts from the fibers. The catch is that Elisa must not speak a word during the task otherwise it’ll kill all eleven of her brothers. Poor Elisa’s hands burn as she is stung by the nettles.

Elisa hears dogs and hunters. They come towards her, bringing the king. He decides to bring her with him to the palace. As Elisa can’t talk during the task, she says nothing. The king marries her (Wait, what?!) and she continues her task of weaving shirts, working at night. Elisa has to sneak out for more material, and the archbishop becomes suspicious. The king starts to spy on Elisa. He’s convinced she’s a witch so is condemned to burn at the stake. She just finishes the last shirt as she’s being brought to the stake. Her brothers fly over the crowd and Elisa throws the shirts up at them.

The eleven swans turn back into humans, except for the youngest brother, who still has a swan’s wing instead of an arm as Elisa didn’t have time to finish the sleeve. Elisa can now talk, so she protests her innocence. Her brothers can now back up her story. The king realises he was wrong!

Next Fairy Tale- The Snail and The Rose Tree


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