The story of the Swan Maiden dates back centuries and is an expansively recognizable fairy tale in Europe, though it has spread worldwide. It has numerous surprising meanings and elements to it that some have deeply searched for. Turns out, this, “kid’s story”, is not as innocent as you may believe. The Swan Maiden has been interpreted through several objectives such as the variations of the tale, the meaning and history, and the beliefs behind the story, which sparks a much more intellectual understanding.
There are many versions of this tale, but its classic structure is as follows. The moral of the story begins with a mystical half woman half swan swimming or bathing in a body of water with several other swan maidens. They remove their magical robe of feathers and plunge into the water. The robe stands for their animal covering, being her feathers that transform this creature into a swan. Following the plunge, a man, usually a hunter, would take the robe or cloak of the Maiden he found to be the youngest and most pleasing to the eye. When the Swan Maiden would descend out of the water and look for her robe, she would not find it. Suddenly, the man would appear with the garment. The maiden would plead for the garment back, but he would not return it and would force her against her will to marry him, have children, and they would often end up very, “happy”, until one day, the wife would find the precious robe that was hidden from her and proceed to fly away and leave her family, often saying to one of her children, “Tell father that if he wishes to see me again, he must find me in the Land East O’ the Sun and West O’ the Moon” (Ashliman). Some other versions just show her flying away without ...
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... versions of this story, the couple retreat back together. Multiple assume that this was the original tale, but no one will ever know.
This classic tale has been told for ages and is said to be the most captivating of fairy tales. Editors rant, “it is hard to imagine a more visually beautiful image in folk tales than the one presented by the figures of the swan maiden and her sisters (Snyder).” It has been entertaining and raising questions for years such as, “why did the man take her? Why did the swan maiden fly away?” Turns out, many would not expect the outcome of the research. The story of the swan maiden will continue to be passed on and derived from one another and interpreted differently. Nevertheless, the main meaning of this tale involves the action of women setting themselves free from an abusive relationship and from the hardships of that time period.
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