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.

Herbert Cole for "Mr. Fox" in Rhys, Ernest, "Fairy Gold: A Book of Old English Fairy Tales"

A Tale Too Long Untold

In the process of writing the last few posts, I find my mind returning again and again to “The Story of Mr. Fox” and “The Sweetheart in the Wood,” unconsciously conflating some details, and wondering: What made her take that severed hand, when she herself was in mortal danger? What was it like, to walk home alone through the forest carrying that lump of flesh? Where was it kept between then and the dinner party? And this is what came of those wonderings.