The challenge of the Swan Maiden

Swan Maidens are peculiar creatures. In many ways they are the embodiment of natural female energy: pure, wild and natural and very beautiful. They have the power to change their shape from a beautiful pure white swan into a beautiful woman. In folktales, men who witness this transformation are invariably struck by a spell causing them to fall in love and they will do anything to win and keep this love, but the Swan Maiden will eventually challenge and test that love. If the man passes he wins the Swan Maiden and happiness in life, if he fails he gets death. This is a version of a folktale that originated in Sweden and was recorded by Herman Hofberg.

Swan princess by John Bauer – Public Domain

Three swans

There was once a young man who often went out on his own hunting. On one particular occasion which happened to be on a Thursday evening, he espied three magnificent white swans flying directly overhead. From their altitude and manner of flight he guessed they were preparing to land on the water of a nearby strand of a river. He had never seen such magnificent swans before and decided to follow them. As he had suspected that was where they landed and to his absolute astonishment took off their gleaming white feathery skins revealing three beautiful maidens underneath.  Read more Continue reading

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For the love of a Swan Maiden

Under love’s spell

Swan Maidens feature in many legends and folktales around the world and often share common components. There is often a hunter involved who falls in love with a shape-shifting creature that changes from a pure white swan to a beautiful human female. While she is in human form the hunter wins the Swan Maiden by stealing and withholding her clothing. She changes from a swan to a maiden by taking off a white feathery outer skin, or robe like garment. Without her clothing she often loses her power to shape shift into a swan and also appears to fall in love with the hunter and marries him often having children. When her clothing is returned to her she regains her power to change into a swan. and flies off back to her homeland leaving her husband and children behind despite years of domestic bliss.

The Swan Princess by Mikhail Aleksandrovich Vrubel – Public Domain

The hunter

There once was a hunter who lived in the forest in a little cottage. He lived with his wife and they had enjoyed many happy years together. The hunter loved his wife very much but sadly one day she fell ill and passed away. This made the hunter very sad and he often went out for long walks on his own grieving for his much loved wife. Sometimes he felt so lonely that he fell to wondering if he should take another wife to keep him company. He did not because he believed he could never love another wife as he had loved his first so he continued to lived alone.

Nevertheless, in his loneliness he took to roaming deep into the forest. One day in a state of extreme depression he wandered much further into the heart of the forest than he had ever been before and came across a small hut made out of straw and twigs.   Read more
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The European folktale of the Hunter and the Swan Maiden

The Swan Maiden in folklore is a creature that can transform from a swan to a human and back to a swan when needed. There are also male versions of the creature in some folktales. Many other folktales from around the world have the central motif of a swan, or other types of bird or animal, that transforms from a bird or beast into a human and back again.

The male figure is often a hunter and by stealing and with holding her clothing while she bathes wins her for a wife. For some people the stealing and withholding of the clothing represents the stealing of her power and her imprisonment. At the same time the very sight of the Swan Maiden in human form appears to put a spell on the hunter who falls in love with her. He must have her for his wife and when she does find her clothing and her power is returned he must seek her out and bring her back.

Public Domain

Public Domain

In this tale the hunter goes to great lengths and faces great danger to track down and win back his Swan Maiden. This appears to impress the Swan Maiden who readily consents to returning leaving her world to return to his to be his wife again. In other similar folktales the hunter who loses his Swan Maiden and does not fight to find and keep her not only loses her, but his happiness and usually dies a lonely death pining for his loved one.The hunter

In the forest there lived a hunter who made his living by hunting the birds and the animals of the forest. He would often set off in the evening setting traps or stalking deer and not return to his home until dawn the next day.

One evening he went to a lake hidden deep in the forest where he knew there were lots of wild ducks that he could catch. As the sun was going down he heard the air reverberate to the sound of powerful wings. Thinking a flock of ducks was coming he quickly hid in the undergrowth and waited.  Read more

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