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The Swan Queen

2006-07-14 00:19

  Once upon a time there lived and old man and an old woman. Every morning they went out to clear a nearby forest of dry twigs and leaves, and the moment they left the house a white swan would come flying there. She would fold and put aside her wings, and, turning into a maid, light the stove, cook the dinner, clean and wash everything and then fly away again.

  The old people had not a care in the world, for they returned home each day to find everything done for them. But they were filled with wonder as to who their kind helper was.

  One day the old man remained home alone. He hid behind a tub and waited to see what would happen. After a time who should come flying into the hut but a swan! She folded her wings, laid them aside, and, turning into a maid, went to the well for water, and the old man at once took the wings and brunt them.

  The maid returned with two pailfuls of water, she looked and she saw that her wings were gone! She burst out crying and wept long and bitterly, for this meant that she was parted from her mother and father and her own dear love, too. But there was nothing she could do, so stay she did with the old people.

  Now, the king himself was once out hunting near the forest not far from where they lived. He saw the maid and liked her well and he said to the old people:

  “I must have the maid for my own. Give her to me and you can have as many pieces of gold as you like.”

  There was nothing for it and so the old people gave him the maid. The king brought her to his palace and married her and in due time a son was born to them.

  One day the queen came out into the garden with her baby son and what did she see but a flock of swans come flying near. At their head flew her father, singing as he flew:

  “In that garden bright my daughter I see;

  Though she has no wings, yet a swan is she.

  Her fingers are covered with golden rings,

  To her little son a song she sings,

  From a little gold book she reads him a tale,

  A kerchief of silk behind her trails.

  A pair of white wings to her I'll throw,

  And she'll leave her son and with us she'll go!“

  The queen's heart grew heavy, the tears poured from her eyes and she sang out in reply:

  “Do not throw me the wings, for you come too late-I won't leave my son to an orphan's fate.”

  Just then the king came up to her.

  “Why are your eyes red with weeping?” asked he.

  “Our little son cried, and it made me cry, too,” the queen replied.

  On the next day her mother flew over her, and, on the days that followed, her brother and her sisters, and they all sang the same song, but the queen refused to heed any of them.

  The last to come flying over her was her own dear love, and he sang as he flew:

  “In that garden bright my beloved I see;Though she has no wings, yet a swan is she. Her fingers are covered with golden rings,To her little son a song she sings,From a little gold book she reads him a tale,A kerchief of silk behind her trails. A pair of white wings to her I'll throw,And her son she'll leave and with me she'll go!”

  The queen could contain herself no longer and sang out in reply:

  “A pair of wings throw down to me,And with you I'll fly beyond the sea!”

  The swan who was her own dear love threw a pair of wings down to her and she left her son and flew away with him. But he met his death soon after and her heart filled with sorrow again.

  As for the king her husband, he waited and waited for her, but as she did not come back, married Lauma the Witch.

  The stepmother took a dislike to her stepson and treated him badly, but the swan his mother would come flying to the palace at night, fold her wings, wash and fondle her son and then fly away again, singing:

  “The king and his wife Repose in their bed;The palace guards, too,Sleep the sleep of the dead. But all night without fail My son sobs and wails!”

  But before flying away she would full her son to sleep and he would not wake till she came back again.

  The king was filled with wonder as to why his son slept so long.

  One night he saw the swan come flying into the palace. She changed into human shape, lulled her son to sleep and then turned back again into a swan and flew away.

  The king thought and thought how to keep her with him but could not think of anything.

  Once, there came to the palace an old man, and the king asked him what he was to do in order to catch the swan.

  Said the old man:

  “Watch and see which of the windows the swan flies out of and put some tar on the sill. Her wings will be glued to it, and if you seize her with your left hand and tear them off with your right hand, she will get back her human shape again.”

  The king did as the old man said. He put some tar on the window-sill, and when the swan's wings were glued to it, seized her with his left hand and tore off her wings with his right hand, and lo! -the swan turned into his own dear queen again.

  The king had Lauma the Witch put to death and three days after that he held a great feast to which came folk from far and near.

  I was there, too, and was served mead and ale, but it ran down my beard and not a drop got in my mouth.

  A load of firewood I sold, I did;In my new bast shoes the gold coins I hid. I lost them all but you found two or three And if you're a fool you'll return them to me!

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