Warwick Goble The Feathered Robe Illustration Green Willow and Other Japanese Fairy Tales

Seeking the Swan Maiden

Have you ever heard that an adult swan can break a person’s arm?

Disappointingly enough, that’s a myth.

But in the past few days, I’ve learned that swan-maidens are absolutely capable of breaking a mind. There are just so many variants, so many connections between stories, so many different directions to take.

But I used some restraint and included just a few of the variants I found, some main themes, and a good number of illustrations — a more pleasant version of my own journey in pursuit of the swan maidens.

Poem: The Selkie’s Complaint

Since it’s National Poetry Month and also crunch time in my classes, I thought I’d get in a quick post with a poem of my own. I actually wrote this seven years ago (!!!!), though I’ve tweaked it a little. It’s based off a bit of lore I came across online, that one way to summon a selkie (specifically, a male one) is to shed seven tears into the sea.  

Fittingly enough, I composed it in the shower.


The Selkie’s Complaint

Down on the strand where no one would follow
I knelt in the sand, wetting my knees,
and into the water I dropped seven sorrows;
with the last, a man arose from the sea.

Clad to the waist in tumbling wavelets,
he held me in place with well-oiled eyes.
A hint of annoyance lit his dark gaze,
as might be reserved for a bothersome fly.

His mouth when it opened let out a voice
raspy and thick, unused to speech,
but the words themselves held clear enough meaning:
“This soup is already too salty for me.”



I’ll get more in-depth about selkies — what they are, the tales told about them, and so on — in my next post.