Swan maiden

  (Redirected from Animal wife motif)

The swan maiden is a mythical creature who shapeshifts from human form to swan form.[1][better source needed] The key to the transformation is usually a swan skin, or a garment with swan feathers attached. In folktales of this type, the male character spies the maiden, typically by some body of water (usually bathing), then snatches away the feather garment (or some other article of clothing), which prevents her from flying away (or swimming away, or renders her helpless in some other manner), forcing her to become his wife.[2]

In the Völundarkviða, Wayland Smith and his brothers marry valkyries who dress in swan skins.

There are parallels around the world, notably the Völundarkviða[3] and Grimms' Fairy Tales KHM 193 "The Drummer".[2] There are also many parallels involving creatures other than swans.

LegendEdit

Typical legendEdit

 
The hunter recognizes his bride amongst the parade of identical maidens. Illustration from Jacobs's Europa's Fairy Book by John D. Batten

The folktales usually adhere to the following basic plot. A young, unmarried man steals a magic robe made of swan feathers from a swan maiden so that she will not fly away, and marries her. Usually she bears his children. When the children are older they sing a song about where their father has hidden their mother's robe, or one asks why the mother always weeps, and finds the cloak for her, or they otherwise betray the secret. The swan maiden immediately gets her robe and disappears to where she came from. Although the children may grieve her, she does not take them with her.[4]

If the husband is able to find her again, it is an arduous quest, and often the impossibility is clear enough so that he does not even try.

In many versions, although the man is unmarried (or, very rarely, a widower), he is aided by his mother, who hides the maiden's magical garment (or feather cloak). At some point later in the story, the mother is convinced or forced to give back the hidden clothing and, as soon as the swan maiden puts it, she glides towards the skies – which prompts the quest.

Alternate openingsEdit

Romanian folklorist Marcu Beza drew attention to two other introductory episodes: (1) seven white birds steal the golden apples from a tree in the king's garden (an episode similar to German The Golden Bird), or, alternatively, they come and trample the fields; (2) the hero receives a key and, against his master's wishes, opens a forbidden chamber, where the bird maidens are bathing.[5]

Researcher Barbara Fass Leavy noted an opening episode that occurs in Scandinavian tales: a man's third or only son stands guard on his father's fields at night to discover what has been trampling his father's fields, and sees three maidens dancing in a meadow.[6]

Germanic legendEdit

In Germanic mythology, the character of the swan maiden is associated with "multiple Valkyries",[7] a trait already observed by Jacob Grimm in his book Deutsche Mythologie (Teutonic Mythology).[8] Like the international legend, their magic swan-shirt allows their avian transformation.[9]

In Germanic heroic legend, the stories of Wayland the Smith describe him as falling in love with Swanhilde, a Swan Maiden, who is the daughter of a marriage between a mortal woman and a fairy king, who forbids his wife to ask about his origins; on her asking him he vanishes. Swanhilde and her sisters are however able to fly as swans. But wounded by a spear, Swanhilde falls to earth and is rescued by the master-craftsman Wieland, and marries him, putting aside her wings and her magic ring of power. Wieland's enemies, the Neidings, under Princess Bathilde, steal the ring, kidnap Swanhilde and destroy Wieland's home. When Wieland searches for Swanhilde, they entrap and cripple him. However he fashions wings for himself and escapes with Swanhilde as the house of the Neidings is destroyed.

Another tale concerns valkyrie Brynhild.[10] In the Völsunga saga, King Agnar withholds Brynhild's magical swan shirt, thus forcing her into his service as his enforcer.[11]

A third tale with a valkyrie is the story of Kára and Helgi Haddingjaskati, attested in the Kara-lied.[12][13] A similarly named character with a swanshift appears in Hrómundar saga Gripssonar, where she helps her lover Helgi.[14][8]

Swan maiden as daughter or servant to an antagonistEdit

 
The King of Ireland's oldest son returns the swanskin to Fedelma, the Enchanter's Daughter. Illustration by Willy Pogány for Padraic Colum's The King of Ireland's Son (1916).

The second type of tale involves the swan maiden helping the hero against an antagonist. It can be the maiden's mistress, e. g., a witch, as in a tale published by illustrator Howard Pyle in The Wonder Clock,[15] or the maiden's father, e. g., the character of Morskoi Tsar in Russian fairy tales.[16][17] In this second format, the hero of the tale spies on the bird (swan) maidens bathing and hides the garment (featherskin) of the youngest one, for her to help him reach the kingdom of the villain of the tale (usually the swan-maiden's father).[18][19]

In a Gaelic story, a prince plays a round of shinty with an old man named Bodach Glas. In the third round, the old man commands the youth to find him. Not knowing of the Bodach's dwelling place, the prince's stepmother suggests he requests the help of her sons. His oldest stepbrother informs him that in a nearby lake three swans come to bathe, but in reality they are the daughters of Bodach Glas, who take off their garments to bathe. The stepbrother suggests the prince seizes the opportunity to steal the youngest maiden's clothing and force her to take the prince to her father's abode.[20] The rest of the tale follows The Master Maid, or Aarne–Thompson–Uther Index ATU 313, "The Magical Flight".

Folklorist Katharine Mary Briggs reported a similar story from Scotland, titled Green Sleeves. In it, the prince loves to gamble and one day gambles with a man named Green Sleeves, who wins the bet and in return asks for the youth as an apprentice/slave/servant. To find Green Sleeves's house, the prince fetches the swan garments of a bathing maiden, named Blue Wing, who was one of the daughters of Green Sleeves.[21] Katharine Mary Briggs, in the same book, cited The Green Man of Knowledge as another tale containing the character of the swan maiden as the daughter of the tale's nemesis (ogre, giant, wizard, fairy king, etc.).[22][a]

In the Celtic story "The Tale of the Son of the King of Ireland and the Daughter of the King of the Red Cap" (Gaelic: Sgeulachd air Mac Righ Éirionn agus Nighean Rígh a' Churraichd Ruaidh), the prince of Ireland falls in love with the White Swan of the Smooth Neck, also called Sunshine, the young daughter of the King of the Red Cap, as he saw her coming to bathe in a lake.[25]

In an Irish tale, The Story of Grey Norris from Warland, John, a king's son, plays ball three times with "an old man with a long grey beard" named Grey Norris from Warland, who wins the third round and sets the prince a task: the youth must find Grey Norris's castle by the end of the year. After some time, he rescues an eagle that informs him that three maidens will come to bathe in the water in the form of swans; he should hide the youngest's garment, because she is Grey Norris's daughter.[26]

In a Flemish fairy tale, Het zwanenmeisje van den glazen berg ("The Swan Maiden of the Glass Mountain"), a young hunter fetches the swan garment of a bathing maiden, who asks for it in return. When she wears it, she tells the hunter to find her in the Glass Mountain. After he succeeds in climbing the mountain, the youth recognizes his beloved swan maiden and asks her mother for her daughter's hand in marriage. The mother assures the human he will be able to marry her daughter, after doing three difficult chores.[27]

In an Evenk tale titled The Grateful Eagle, the hero is promised to an old man after he helped the hero's father close a magical casket. Years later, the hero finds three swan maidens bathing in the river and fetches the robe of one of then. She insists the boy returns it and tells him to pay a visit to her village, where the old man also lives. Soon after arriving, he goes to the old man's house and is attended by "a pretty maid", later revealed to be the old man's granddaughter.[28]

Other fictionEdit

The swan maiden has appeared in numerous items of fiction.

In legendEdit

In a Tatar poem, there appears the character of The Swan-Women, Tjektschäkäi, who develops an inimical relationship with hero Kartaga Mergän.[29][30][31]

19th century folkloristic publications mentioned a tale about Grace's Well, a well whose caretaker's carelessness led her to be turned into a swan by the fairies. The well was reported to be near Glasfryn lake, somewhere in Wales.[32][33]

In a Russian byliny or heroic poem, a character named White Swan (Byelaya Lebed'), whose real name may be Avdotya or Marya, appears as the traitorous love interest of the hero.[34]

In folkloreEdit

Scholarship has remarked that the Swan Maiden appears "throughout the ancient Celtic lands".[35]

On the other hand, researcher Maria Tatar points out that the "Swan Maiden" tale is "widespread in Nordic regions".[36]

Scholar Lotte Motz contrasted its presence in different geographical regions. According to her study, she appears as a fairy tale character in "more southern countries", whereas "in northern regions", she becomes a myth and "an element of faith".[37]

In Celtic traditionsEdit

Patricia Monaghan stated the swan maiden was an "Irish, Scottish and a continental Celtic folkloric figure",[35] appearing, for instance, in Armorica.[38]

British folklorist Katharine Mary Briggs, while acknowledging the universality of the tale, suggested the character seemed more prevalent in the Celtic fairy tale tradition of the British Islands.[21] Fellow British folklore collector and writer, Ruth Tongue claimed that "variants [of the Swan Maiden tale] are common in Wales".[39]

In the same vein, William Bernard McCarthy reported that in Irish tradition the tale type ATU 400 ("Swan Maiden") is frequently merged with ATU 313 ("The Master Maid", "The Magical Flight", "The Devil's Daughter").[40] In that regard, Norwegian folklorist Reidar Thoralf Christiansen suggested that the presence of the Swan maiden character in tale type ATU 313 "could be explained by the circumstance that in both cycles a woman with supernatural powers plays a leading part".[41]

In addition, Tom Peete Cross concluded that the swan maiden "figured in Celtic literature before the twelfth century", although, in this tradition, she was often confused for similar supernatural women, i.e., the Celtic fairy-princess, the forth-putting fée and the water-fée.[42]

In Irish SagasEdit

The swan is said to be the preferred form adopted by Celtic goddesses. Even in this form, their otherworldly nature is identifiable by a golden or silver chain hanging around their neck.[43]

In the Irish Mythological Cycle of stories, in the tale of The Wooing of Étaine, a similar test involving the recognition of the wife among lookalikes happens to Eochu Airem, when he has to find his beloved Étaine, who flew away in the shape of a swan.[44]

A second Irish tale of a maiden changing into a swan is the story of hero Óengus, who falls in love with Caer Ibormeith, in a dream.

In another tale, relating to the birth of hero Cú Chulainn, a flock of birds, "joined in pairs by silver chains", appear and guide the Ulstermen to a house, where a woman was about to give birth. In one account, the birds were Cu Chulainn's mother, Deichtire, and her maidens.[45]

Irish folkloreEdit

In a Celtic tale (Gaelic: Mac an Tuathanaich a Thàinig a Raineach; English: "The Farmer's son who came from Rannoch"), the farmer's son sees three swan maidens bathing in water and hides their clothing, in exchange for the youngest of them (sisters, in all) to marry him.[46]

In the Irish fairy tale The Three Daughters of the King of the East and the Son of a King in Erin, three swan maidens come to bathe in a lake (Loch Erne) and converse with a king's elder son, who was fishing at the lake. His evil stepmother convinces a young cowherd to stick a magic pin to the prince's clothes to make him fall asleep. The spell works twice, and in both occasions the swan maidens try to help the prince come to.[47] A similar narrative is the Irish tale The Nine-Legged Steed.[48]

In another Irish tale, The House in the Lake, a man named Enda helps Princess Mave, turned into a swan, to break the curse her evil stepmother cast upon her.[49]

In a Welsh Gypsy tale, Ō Grīnō Mūrš or The Green Man of Noman's Land, a youth named Jack is great at gambling, until he loses to a person named Green Man who lives in No Man's Land. The Green Man threatens the youth with decapitation if he does not find his castle in a year and a day. Jack, his life at risk, journeys on horseback to an elder woman's house, who asks the creatures where is the No Man's Land castle. The elder leads Jack to her two sisters. The third sister summons all people and all bird of the world through a horn, but the eagle is missing. The eagle is the only one who knows its location. The eagle points Jack to a distant pool where three white birds alight to bathe.[50][51]

In another tale, goddess Áine, metamorphosed into a swan, was bathing in the lake and was seen by a human duke, Gerald Fitzgerald (Gearóid Iarla) who felt a passionate yearning towards her. Aware of the only way to make her his wife, the duke seized Áine's fairy cloak. Once subdued and deprived of her magic cloak, she resigned to being the human's wife, and bore him a son.[52]

Western EuropeEdit

Flemish fairy tale collections also contain two tales with the presence of the Swan Maiden: De Koning van Zevenbergen ("The King of Sevenmountains")[53] and Het Zwanenmeisje van den glazen Berg ("The Swan Maiden from the Glass Mountain").[54] Johannes Bolte, in a book review of Pol de Mont and Alfons de Cock's publication, noted that their tale was parallel to Grimms' KHM 193, The Drummer.[55]

In an Iberian tale (The Seven Pigeons), a fisherman spots a black-haired girl combing her hair in the rocks. Upon the approach of two pigeons, she finishes her grooming activity and turns into a swan wearing a crown on her head. When the three birds land on a nearby ship, they regain their human forms of maidens.[56]

In a Belgian fairy tale, reminiscent of the legend of the Knight of the Swan, The Swan Maidens and the Silver Knight, seven swans – actually seven princesses cursed into that form – plot to help the imprisoned princess Elsje with the help of the Silver Knight. Princess Elsje, of her own accord, wants to help the seven swan sisters regain her human form by knitting seven coats and staying silent all the while for the enchantment to work.[57]

GermanyEdit

A version of the plot of the Swan Maiden happens in Swabian tale The Three Swans (Von drei Schwänen): a widowed hunter, guided by an old man of the woods, secures the magical garment of the swan-maiden and marries her. Fifteen years pass, and his second wife finds her swan-coat and flies away. The hunter trails after her and reaches a castle, where his wife and her sisters live. The swan-maiden tells him that he must pass through arduous trials in the castle for three nights, to break the curse cast upon the women.[58] The motif of staying overnight in an enchanted castle echoes the tale of The Youth who wanted to learn what Fear was (ATU 326).

In the German tale collected by Johann Wilhelm Wolf (German: Von der schönen Schwanenjungfer; English: The tale of the beautiful swan maiden), a hunter in France sights a swan in a lake who pleads not to shoot her. The swan also reveals she is a princess and, to break her curse, he must suffer dangerous trials in a castle.[59]

In a tale collected in Wimpfen, near the river Neckar (Die drei Schwäne), a youth was resting by the edge of a lake when he sighted three snow-white swans. He fell asleep and, whan he woke up, noticed he was transported to a great palace. He then was greeted by three fairy women (implied to be the swans).[60]

Eastern EuropeEdit

Czech author Bozena Nemcova published a tale titled Zlatý vrch ("The Golden Hill"), wherein Libor, a poor youth, lives with his widowed mother in a house in the woods. He finds works under the tutelage of the royal gardener. One day, while resting near a pond, he notices some noise nearby. Spying out of the bushes, he sees three maidens bathing, the youngest the loveliest of them. They don their white robes and "floating veils", become swans and fly away. The next day, Libor hides the veil of the youngest, named Čekanka. The youth convinces her to become his wife and gives her veil for his mother to hide. One day, the swan maiden tricks Libor's mother to return her veil and tells Libor must venture to the Golden Hill if he ever wants her back. With the help of a crow and some stolen magical objects from giants, he reaches the Golden Hill, where Cekanka lives with her sisters and their witch mother. The witch sets three dangerous tasks for Libor, which he accomplishes with his beloved's help. The third is to identify Cekanka in a room with similarly dressed maidens. He succeeds. The pair decides to escape from Golden Hill, as the witch mother goes hot in pursuit. Transforming into different things, they elude their pursuer and return home.[61][62]

RomaniaEdit

The character of the swan-maiden also appears in an etiological tale from Romania about the origin of the swan.[63] In the same book, by professor Moses Gaster, he translated a Romanian "Christmas carol" with the same theme, and noted that the character "occurs very often" in Romania.[64]

RussiaEdit

The character of the "White Swan" appears in Russian oral poetry and functions similarly to the vila of South Slavic folklore. Scholarship suggests the term may refer to a foreign princess, most likely of Polish origin.[65]

Another occurrence of the motif exists in Russian folktale Sweet Mikáilo Ivánovich the Rover: Mikailo Ivanovich goes hunting and, when he sets his aim on a white swan, it pleads for its life. Then, the swan transforms into a lovely maiden, Princess Márya, whom Mikail falls in love with.[66][67]

In a tale featuring heroic bogatyr Alyosha Popovich, Danilo the Luckless, the titular Danilo the Luckless, a nobleman, meets a "Granny" (an old and wise woman), who points him to the blue ocean. When the water swells, a creature named Chudo-Yudo shall appear, and Danilo must seize it and use it to summon the beautiful Swan Maiden.[68]

In a tale from the Cheremis (Mari people), collected by Arvid Genetz from an informant in District of Krasnoufimsk, Province of Perm, the swan maiden is captured by a human and marries him. However, she gains a new swan cloak by using feathers brought by other swans.[69][70] In another tale from the Mari with the title "Белая Лебедушка" ("White Little Swan"), a hunter named Toydemar captures a swan and brings it home. The swan becomes a human maiden and he marries her. One day, she is sent to fetch water and laments her fate. A swan flock flying overhead hears her plight and throws a feather to her. This goes on for some time until she has a new cloak. She flies back to the skies. Her husband witness her transformation and cries that he cannot be with her. The swan flock throws him some feathers, he becomes a bird and joins the flock in the sky.[71]

In a Kalmyk tale, Tsarkin Khan and the Archer, an Archer steals the robe of a "golden-crowned" swan maiden when she was in human form and marries her. Later, the titular Tsarkin Khan wants to marry the Archer's swan maiden wife and plans to get rid of him by setting dangerous tasks.[72]

Northern EuropeEdit

In a Danish tale (Jomfru Lene af Søndervand), three sons, Poul, Peder and Esben stand guard in their father's field to discover who has been dancing and trampling the crop in the past nights. The two elder brothers fail, but Esben Askefis finds out it was a group of swan-princesses. Esben fetches the thin, web-like veils of the maidens.[73] The tale was translated as The Lass of Söndervand, in Danish Fairy Tales, and the characters were renamed as Peter, Paul, Esbeen Ashfiest and Lena. Lena and her sisters were princesses, cursed by a witch, and used to live in castle where the field is now located.[74] A second translation of the Danish tale named it Maid Lena.[75][76]

In a Sámi folktale, Baeive-Kongens Datter[77] or Die Tochter des Beivekönigs[78] ("The Daughter of the Beive-King"), youth Gudnavirus (Askeladden) is tasked with watching his father's fields for some nights. He soon discovers the theft of their grains is due to the coming of three swan-maidens. The youth hides the clothing of the youngest, but returns it to her and both are married. His king sends him on difficult tasks, which he accomplishes with the help from his wife. But the last task, to get a golden lasso from the Kingdom of Darkness, causes her to leave him and he is forced to seek her out, in her father's kingdom (the titular Beive-King).

SwedenEdit

In a Swedish fairy tale, The Swan-Maiden, the king announces a great hunting contest. A young hunter sights a swan swimming in a lake and aims at it, but the swan pleads not to shoot it. The swan transforms into a maiden and explains she is enchanted into that form, but the hunter may help her to break the spell.[79]

In another Swedish fairy tale collected from Blekinge, The Swan Maiden, a young hunter sees three swans nearing a sound and taking off their animal skins. They reveal themselves to be three lovely maidens and he falls in love with one of them. He returns home and tells his mother he intends to marry one of them. She advises him to hide the maiden's feather garment. He does that the next day and wins a wife for himself. Seven years later, now settled into domestic life, the hunter tells the truth to the swan maiden and returns her feather garment. She changes back into a swan and flies off. The human husband dies a year later.[80][14]

Finnish folkloreEdit

The usual plot involves a magical bird-maiden that descends from heavens to bathe in a lake. However, there are variants where the maiden and/or her sisters are princesses under a curse, such as in Finnish story Vaino and the Swan Princess.[81]

Other example of multiple swan princesses can be found in the Finnish tale of prince Tuhkimo (a male Cinderella; from Finnish tuhka, "ashes") who marries a shapeshifting frog (ATU 402, "The Animal Bride" tale), but, when he burns her enchanted skin, his wife, now human, metamorphoses into a swan and flies away with her eight swan sisters (ATU 400, "The Quest for the Lost Wife").[82]

AsiaEdit

The swan maiden appears in a tale from the Yao people of China.[83]

In a tale from the Kachari, Sā-se phālāngī gotho-nī khorāng ("The story of the merchant lad"), an orphaned youth decides to earn his living in foreign lands. He buys goods and a boat, and hires some help. He and his crew arrive at another country, where an old couple lived with their pet swan. One day, the youth sees the swan transform into a maiden and becomes enamoured. He buys the swan from the old couple in hopes it will become a girl again, but no such luck. The youth pines away with longing and his mother is worried. A wise woman advises the mother and son to prepare a mixture of ashes and oil, procure a yak's tail and to pretend to fall asleep at night. The swan takes off her animal clothing and, as a human, begins to "worship her country's gods". The youth awakes, takes the plumage and tosses it in the fire. The maiden faints, but the youth uses the mixture on her and fans her with the yak's tail. She awakes and marries the human, giving birth to many children.[84]

AmericaEdit

A Native American tale has the character of the Red Swan, a bird of reddened plumage. The bird attracts the attention of a young warrior, who goes on a quest to find her.[85]

Literary fairy tales (Kunstmärchen) and other worksEdit

The Swan maiden story is believed to have been the basis for the ballet Swan Lake, in which a young princess, Odette and her maidens are under the spell of an evil sorcerer, Von Rothbart, transforming them into swans by day. By night, they regain their human forms and can only be rescued if a young man swears eternal love and faithfulness to the Princess. When Prince Siegfried swears his love for Odette, the spell can be broken, but Siegfried is tricked into declaring his love for Von Rothbart's daughter, Odile, disguised by magic as Odette, and all seems lost. But the spell is finally broken when Siegfried and Odette drown themselves in a lake of tears, uniting them in death for all eternity. While the ballet's revival of 1895 depicted the swan-maidens as mortal women cursed to turn into swans, the original libretto of 1877 depicted them as true swan-maidens: fairies who could transform into swans at will.[86] Several animated movies based on the ballet, including The Swan Princess and Barbie of Swan Lake depict the lead heroines as being under a spell and both are eventually rescued by their Princes.

 
The Swan Princess rides upon the waves of Buyan. Illustration by Boris Zvorykin.

The magical swan also appears in Russian poem The Tale of Tsar Saltan (1831), by Alexander Pushkin. The son of the titular Tsar Saltan, Prince Gvidon and his mother are cast in the sea in a barrel and wash ashore in a mystical island. There, the princeling grows up in days and becomes a fine hunter. Prince Gvidon and his mother begin to settle in the island thanks to the help of a magical swan called Princess Swan, and in the end of the tale she transforms into a princess and marries Prince Gvidon.[87]

A variant of the swan maiden narrative is present in the work of Johann Karl August Musäus,[88][89] a predecessor to the Brothers Grimm's endeavor in the early 1800s. His Volksmärchen der Deutschen contains the story of Der geraubte Schleier ("The Stolen Veil").[90] Musäus's tale was translated into English as The Stealing of the Veil, or Tale À La Montgolfier (1791)[91] and into French as Voile envolé, in Contes de Museäus (1826).[92] In a short summary: an old hermit, who lives near a lake of pristine water, rescues a young Swabian soldier; during a calm evening, the hermit reminisces about an episode of his adventurous youth when he met in Greece a swan-maiden, descended from Leda and Zeus themselves – in the setting of the story, the Greco-Roman deities were "genies" and "fairies". The hermit explains the secret of their magical garment and how to trap one of the ladies. History repeats itself as the young soldier sets his sights on a trio of swan maidens who descend from heavens to bathe in the lake.

 
Swan princess crying. Art by John Bauer (1908) for Helena Nyblom's tale Svanhammen.

Swedish writer Helena Nyblom explored the theme of a swan maiden who loses her feathery cloak in Svanhammen (The Swan Suit), published in 1908, in Bland tomtar och troll (Among Gnomes and Trolls), an annual anthology of literary fairy tales and stories.

In a literary work by Adrienne Roucolle, The Kingdom of the Good Fairies, in the chapter The Enchanted Swan, princess Lilian is turned into a swan by evil Fairy Hemlock.[93]

Irish novelist and author Padraic Colum reworked a series of Irish legends in his book The King of Ireland's Son, among them the tale of the swan maiden as a wizard's daughter. In this book, the oldest son of the King of Ireland loses a wager against his father's enemy and should find him in a year and a day's time. He is advised by a talking eagle to spy on three swans that will descend on a lake. They are the daughters of the Enchanter of the Black Back-Lands, the wizard the prince is looking for. The prince is instructed to hide the swanskin of the swan with a green ribbon, who is Fedelma, the Enchanter's youngest daughter.[94]

Male versionsEdit

The fairytale The Six Swans could be considered a male version of the swan maiden, where the swan skin isn't stolen but a curse, similar to The Swan Princess. An evil step-mother cursed her 6 stepsons with swan skin shirts that transform them into swans, which can only be cured by six nettle shirts made by their younger sister. Similar tales of a parent or a step-parent cursing their (step)children are the Irish legend of The Children of Lir, and The Wild Swans, a literary fairy tale by Danish author Hans Christian Andersen.

An inversion of the story (humans turning into swans) can be found in the Dolopathos: a hunter sights a (magical) maiden bathing in a lake and, after a few years, she gives birth to septuplets (six boys and a girl), born with gold chains around their necks. After being expelled by their grandmother, the children bathe in a lake in their swan forms, and return to human form thanks to their magical chains.

Another story of a male swan is Prince Swan (Prinz Schwan), an obscure tale collected by the Brothers Grimm in the very first edition of their Kinder- und Hausmärchen (1812), but removed from subsequent editions.[95]

Czech author Božena Němcová included in the first volume of her collection National Tales and Legends, published in 1845, a tale she titled The Swan (O Labuti), about a prince who's turned into a swan by a witch because his evil stepmother wanted to get rid of him.[96]

Brazilian tale Os três cisnes ("The Three Swans"), collected by Lindolfo Gomes, tells the story of a princess who marries an enchanted prince. After his wife breaks a taboo (he could never see himself in a mirror), he turns into a swan, which prompts his wife on a quest for his whereabouts, with the help of an old woodcutter.[97]

Folklore motif and tale typesEdit

Established folkloristics does not formally recognize "Swan Maidens" as a single Aarne-Thompson tale type. Rather, one must speak of tales that exhibit Stith Thompson motif index "D361.1 Swan Maiden",[98] which may be classed AT 400, 313,[99] or 465A.[2] Compounded by the fact that these tale types have "no fewer than ten other motifs" assigned to them, the AT system becomes a cumbersome tool for keeping track of parallels for this motif.[100] Seeking an alternate scheme, one investigator has developed a system of five Swan Maiden paradigms, four of them groupable as a Grimm tale cognate (KHM 193, 92, 93, and 113) and the remainder classed as the "AT 400" paradigm.[100] Thus for a comprehensive list of the most starkly-resembling cognates of Swan Maiden tales, one need only consult Bolte and Polívka's Anmerkungen to Grimm's Tale KHM 193[101] the most important paradigm of the group.[102]

Antiquity and originEdit

It has been suggested the romance of apsara Urvasi and king Pururavas, of ancient Sanskrit literature, may be one of the oldest forms (or origin) of the Swan-Maiden tale.[103][104]

The antiquity of the swan-maiden tale was suggested in the 19th century by Reverend Sabine Baring-Gould, postulating an origin of the motif before the separation of the Proto-Indo-European language, and, due to the presence of the tale in diverse and distant traditions (such as Samoyedic and Native Americans), there was a possibility that the tale may be even older.[105] Another theory was supported by Charles Henry Tawney, in his translation of Somadeva's Kathasaritsagara: he suggests the source of the motif to be old Sanskrit literature; the tale then migrated to Middle East, and from there as an intermediate point, spread to Europe.[106]

Another position was defended by Arthur T. Hatto, who, while recognizing a mythic look in the character and the narrative, argued for a location in sub-arctic Eurasia and America, in relation to the migration of swans, cranes, geese and similar waterfowl.[107]

Lotte Motz, in turn, remarked that the story of the swan maiden was "current in the primitive setting of north-Eurasian peoples, where water birds are of importance". That is, she argues, in areas of "archaic economic systems", the swan maiden appears in the folklore of peoples "in which water birds contribute to the economic well-being of the community", which could be affected by the migratory patterns of these birds.[108]

Each of them using different methods, i.e. observation of the distribution area of the Swan Maiden type or use of phylogenetic methods to reconstruct the evolution of the tale, Gudmund Hatt, Yuri Berezkin and Julien d'Huy independently showed that this folktale would have appeared during the Paleolithic period, in the Pacific Asia, before spreading in two successive waves in America. In addition, Yuri Berezkin and Julien d'Huy showed that there was no mention of migratory birds in the early versions of this tale (this motif seems to appear very late).[109][110]

According to Julien d'Huy, such a motif would also have existed in European prehistory and would have a buffalo maiden as a heroine. Indeed, this author finds the motif with four-legged animals in North America and Europe, in an area coinciding with the area of haplogroup X.[111]

In regards to the pigeon as the woman's animal form, scholarship notes that the common pigeon (rock dove)'s original geographic range seemed restricted to Asia Minor, India, North Africa and the Southern European countries, like Greece and Italy.[112]

Swan maiden as ancestressEdit

According to scholarship, "an ancient belief in bird-human transformation is manifest in Eurasian mythology".[113] For instance, the mythical character of the swan maiden is found "in the whole of northern Eurasia, from Scandinavia to Manchuria". As such, "a great number of populations" in these regions claim her as their totemic ancestress,[114][115][116] such as the peoples and tribes of Siberia[117] and Central Asia.[118] This narrative is attested in ethnogenetic myths of the Buryat,[119] Chukotko-Kamchatkan, Na-Dené, Bashkir and Amerindian peoples.[120] Further study suggests that this form of totemic mythology goes back to a pre-Indo-European Nostratic or even Boreal past.[120]

Professor Hazel Wigglesworth, who worked with the many languages of the Philippines archipelago, stated that the character of the mortal male is sometimes named Itung or Beletamey, and he represents a cultural hero or ancestor of the Manobo people.[121][122]

English folklorist Edwin Sidney Hartland mentioned a tale about a divine ancestress of the Bantik people (of the Celebes Island, modern Sulawesi) who comes down to Earth with her seven companions to bathe in a lake. A human male sees them coming to earth and steals the clothing of one of the maidens, thus forcing her to marry him.[123]

19th-century missionary John Batchelor collected an etiological tale from the Ainu people, about the swan maiden. According to this story, the swan - originally created as an angel - is turned into a human woman. She descends to Earth to save an Ainu boy in Takai Sara of the Nikap district. Once he grows up, they marry and father numerous children. She reveals she is a swan, sent to him to "repopulate the Ainu race".[124]

According to scholarship, "in Kazakh and Siberian variants" of the heroic tale of Edige, his mother is described as a Swan Maiden.[125] Edige (Edigu) is known as the historical founder of the Nogai Horde.[126]

A line of Russian and Mongolian scholarship suggests that the cult of the swan ancestress developed in the Altai Mountains region (or in Altai-Sayan region),[127] which would explain the common features of the ethnogenetic myths of peoples inhabiting the area, e.g., Turkic and Mongolic peoples.[128] For instance, Buryat professor T. B. Tsydendambaev (ru) supposed that the Mongol-speaking Khorin replaced their canine totem for a swan totem of Turkic origin during the 1st millennium AD.[129]

Mongolic peoplesEdit

Among the Buryat, the swan maiden ancestress marries a human man and gives birth to eleven sons,[130] the founders of the future clans of the Khori: Galzuud, Khargana, Khuasai, Khubduud, Baganai, Sharait, Bodonguud, Gushad, Sagan, Khuudai and Khalbin.[131] In this ancestor myth, the human hunter is called Hori Tumed (Хорь Тумэд); the flock of birds has nine swans, and the swan mother gives names to her 11 sons.[132] This is considered to be a "popular genealogical myth", since the protagonist shows variations in his name: Horidai Mergen, Khori, Khorildoi, Khorodoi, Khoreldoi, Khoridoi.[133] The name of legendary swan ancestress of the Khorin is given as Hoboshi (Хобоши).[134]

In one version of an ancestor myth from the Transbaikal Buryats, collected by Jeremiah Curtin in the 19th century, a hunter sees three swans alight near a lake to bathe. They take off their feathers to become young women, daughters of Esege Malan. While they are distracted, the human hunter hides the feathers of one of them, stranding her on Earth. They marry and have six children. One day, she prepares some tarasun for her husband, who, after drinking too much, is convinced by his wife to return her feathers. When she dons them, she once again becomes a swan and returns to the skies, but one of her daughters tries to stop her.[135]

A version of the Khoridai tale with the swan maiden is also attested among the Barga Mongols. The hunter Khoridai marries a swan maiden and she and another wife give birth to 11 ancestors.[136]

The hunter named Hori (and variations) most often appears as the husband of the swan maiden. However, other ethnogenic myths of the Buryats associate him as the swan maiden's son. According to scholarship, four Buryat lines (Khongodor, Horidoy, Khangin and Sharaid) trace their origins to a marriage between a human hunter and a swan woman named Khurmast-tenger (Хурмаст-тэнгэр), while the Zakamensk Buryats tell the story of three brothers, Hori, Shosholok and Khongodor, born of a swan maiden.[137]

Among the Khongodor, a genealogical myth tells that the young man Senkhele (Сэнхэлэ) marries the swan maiden (heavenly maiden, in other accounts) Khenkhele-khatan (Хэнхэлэ-хатан) and from their union 9 ancestors are born.[138][139] Similar stories are located among the Khongodor of Tunka, Alar and Zakamen.[140]

A similar myth about a swan ancestress is attested with the Oirats, about a human hunter and his wife, the swan maiden, who represents the heavenly realm (Tengri).[128][141]

In another ethnogenetic myth of the Buryat, the human ancestor is a hunter named Barγutai. One day, he sees seven maidens bathing in a lake and steals the garments of one of them. Six of the maidens wear their garments, become swans and take to the skies again, while the youngest of them is left behind, without her clothing. The hunter finds and consoles her, and they both marry. Eleven children are born of this union. She eventually regains her clothing and returns to the skies.[142]

The swan maiden appears in a tale about the origin of the Daghur people.[83] In this tale, titled The Fairies and the Hunters, a mother lives with her two sons, Kurugure and Karegure. One day, when they are away on a hunt, she is visited by two "female celestials" who take off their feather clothing. Both women help the old mother in her chores and fly away. The old mother tells her sons the story. The next time the celestial women appear, the brothers burn their feather clothings and marry them.[143]

Further scholarship also locates similar tales of the swan ancestress among the Buryat populations. In the Sharayt clan's telling, nine swan maidens fly to Lake Khangai to bathe in the river, and the hunter's name is Sharayhai.[144] In other tellings, the swan maidens number thirteen, and the meeting with the hunter occurs by the river Kalenga, the river Lena,[145] by Lake Baikal or by Olkhon Island.[146]

Turkic peoplesEdit

Scholarship points that, in some Turkic peoples of Northern Asia, the swan appears as their ancestress.[147] One example is Khubai-khatun (Хубай-хатун), who shows up in the Yakut olonkho of Art-toyon. Etymological connections between Khubai-khatun (previously Khubashi) with Mongolic/Buryat Khoboshi have been noted, which would indicate "great antiquity" and possible cultural transmission between peoples.[148]

Scholarship also lists Homay/Humai, the daughter of the King of the Birds, Samrau, in Ural-batyr, the Bashkir epic, as another swan maiden.[149] She appears in folklore as a divine being, daughter of heavenly deity Samrau, and assumes the shape of a bird with solar characteristics.[150]

The swan also appears in an ethnogenetic myth of the Yurmaty tribe as the companion of a human hunter.[151][152]

Swan maiden in shamanismEdit

According to scholarship, "an ancient belief in bird-human transformation is manifest ... in shamanic practices".[113] Professor Alan Miller suggested a relation of the swan maiden tale with narratives of Siberian shamanism, which contain stories about male shamans being born of a human father and a divine wife in bird form.[153] Likewise, scholar Manabu Waida transcribed a tale collected in Trans-Baikal Mongolia among the Buryat, wherein the human hunter marries one of three swan maidens, daughters of Esege Malan. In another account, the children born of this union become great shaman and shamanesses.[154] A similar story occurs in the Ryukyu Islands, wherein the swan maiden, stranded on Earth, gives birth to a son that becomes a toki and two daughters that become a noro and a yuta.[154]

Researcher Rosanna Budelli also argues for "shamanic reminiscences" in the Arabian Nights tale of Hasan of Basrah (and analogues Mazin of Khorassan and Jansah), for example, the "ornitomorphic costume" of the bird-maidens that appear in the story.[155]

Animal wife motifEdit

Distribution and variantsEdit

 
The swan maiden's child finds her mother's hidden featherskin. Illustration from Jacobs's Europa's Fairy Book by John D. Batten

The motif of the wife of supernatural origin (in most cases, a swan maiden) shows universal appeal, being present in the oral and folkloric traditions of every continent.[156][157] The swan is the typical species, but they can transform into "geese, ducks, spoonbills, or aquatic birds of some other species".[16] Other animals include "peahens, hornbills, wild chickens, parakeets and cassowaries".[158]

ATU 402 ("The Animal Bride") group of folktales are found across the world, though the animals vary.[159] The Italian fairy tale "The Dove Girl" features a dove. There are the Orcadian and Shetland selkies, that alternate between seal and human shape. A Croatian tale features a she-wolf.[160] The wolf also appears in the folklore of Estonia and Finland as the "animal bride", under the tale type ATU 409 "The Girl as Wolf".[161][162]

In Africa, the same motif is shown through buffalo maidens.[163][164][b] In East Asia, it is also known featuring maidens who transform into various bird species. In Russian fairy-tales there are also several characters, connected with the Swan-maiden, as in The Sea King and Vasilisa the Wise, where the maiden is a dove.

Russian professor Valdemar Bogoras collected a tale from a Yukaghir woman in Kolyma, in which three Tungus sisters change into "female geese" to pick berries. On one occasion, the character of "One-Side" hides the skin of the youngest, who cannot return to goose form. She eventually consents to marry "One-Side".[167]

In a tale attributed to the Toraja people of Indonesia, a woman gives birth to seven crabs that she throws in the water. As time passes, the seven crabs find a place to live and take their disguises to assume human form. In one occasion, seven males steal the crab disguises of the seven crab maidens and marry them.[168] A second one is close to the Swan maiden narrative, only with parakeets instead of swans; the hero is called Magoenggoelota and the maiden Kapapitoe.[169]

In mythologyEdit

One notably similar Japanese story, "The crane wife" (Tsuru Nyobo), is about a man who marries a woman who is in fact a crane (Tsuru no Ongaeshi) disguised as a human. To make money the crane-woman plucks her own feathers to weave silk brocade which the man sells, but she became increasingly ill as she does so. When the man discovers his wife's true identity and the nature of her illness, she leaves him. There are also a number of Japanese stories about men who married kitsune, or fox spirits in human form (as women in these cases), though in these tales the wife's true identity is a secret even from her husband. She stays willingly until her husband discovers the truth, at which point she must abandon him.[170]

The motif of the swan maiden or swan wife also appears in Southeast Asia, with the tales of Kinnari or Kinnaree (of Thailand) and the love story of Manohara and Prince Sudhana.[171]

Professor and folklorist James George Frazer, in his translation of The Libraries, by Pseudo-Apollodorus, suggested that the myth of Peleus and Thetis seemed related to the swan maiden cycle of stories.[172]

In folkloreEdit

EuropeEdit

In a 13th-century romance about Friedrich von Schwaben (English: "Friedrich of Suabia"),[173] the knight Friedrich hides the clothing of Princess Angelburge, who came to bathe in a lake in dove form.[174][175]

Western EuropeEdit

In a tale from Brittany, collected by François-Marie Luzel with the title Pipi Menou et Les Femmes Volants ("Pipi Menou and the Flying Women"), Pipi Menou, a shepherd boy, sees three large white birds descending near a étang (a pond). When the birds approach the pond, they transform into nude maidens and begins to play in the water. Pipi Menou sees the whole scene from the hilltop and tells his mother, who explains they are the daughters of a powerful magician who lives elsewhere, in a castle filled with jewels and precious stones. The next day, he steals the clothing of one of them, but she convinces him to give it back. He goes to the castle, the flying maiden recognizes him and they both escape with jewels in their pouches.[176]

Southern EuropeEdit

Waldemar Kaden collected a tale from South Italy (German: Der geraubte Schleier; English: "The Stolen Veil"), although he does not credit the source. It tells of a man who climbs a mountain and, aided by an old woman, fetches the garment of one of twelve dove-maidens who were bathing in the lake.[177] Kaden also compared it to Musäus's version in his notes.[178]

Portuguese writer Theophilo Braga collected a Portuguese tale named O Príncipe que foi correr a sua Ventura ("The Prince Who Wanted to See the World"), in which a prince loses his bet against a stranger, a king in disguise, and must become the stranger's servant. The prince is informed by a beggar woman with child that in a garden there is tank, where three doves come to bathe. He should take the feathery robe of the last one and withhold it until the maiden gives him three objects.[179]

A tale from Tirol tells of prince Eligio and the Dove-Maidens, which bathe in a lake.[180] Doves also appear as the form three princesses are cursed under by an evil magician, who also transformed a prince into a giant, in a Portuguese folktale.[181]

In another tale, from Tirol, collected by Christian Schneller (German: Die drei Tauben; Italian: Le tre colombe; English: "The Three Doves"), a youth loses his soul in a gamble to a wizard. A saint helps him and gives the information about three doves that perch themselves on a bridge and change themselves to human form. The youth steals the clothing of the youngest, daughter of the wizard, and promises to take him to her father. She wants to help the hero in order to convert herself to Christianity and abandon her pagan magic.[182]

SpainEdit

In a Basque tale collected by Wentworth Webster (The Lady Pigeon and her Comb), the destitute hero is instructed by a "Tartaro" to collect the pigeon garment of the middle maiden, instead of the youngest.[183]

In the Andalusian variant, El Marqués del Sol ("The Marquis of the Sun"), a player loses his bet against the Marqués and must wear out seven pairs or iron shoes. In his wanderings, he pays the debt of a dead man and his soul, in gratitude, informs him that three white doves, the daughters of the Marqués in avian form, will come to bathe in a lake.[184]

In a variant collected by folklorist Aurelio Macedonio Espinosa in Granada, a gambling prince loses a bet against a dove (the Devil, in disguise), who says he should find him in "Castillo de Siete Rayos de Sol" ("The Castle of Seven Sunrays"). A helping hermit guides him to a place where the three devil's daughters, in the form of doves, come to bathe. The prince should steal the garments of the youngest, named Siete Rayos de Sol, who betrays her father and helps the human prince.[185]

Northern EuropeEdit

In the Swedish tale[186] The Beautiful Palace East of the Sun and North of the Earth, from Smaland, three sons stand guard in a meadow that is being treaded in the past nights, and the youngest discovers the culprits are three dove-maidens.[187]

In a Norwegian tale, Farther South Than South, and Farther North Than North, and in the Great Hill of Gold, youth John of the Ashes is tasked with standing vigil on his father's wheat field, to discover who is responsible for trampling the field every night. He sees three doves who change their feathers and become maidens who trample and dance on the wheat field. He falls in love with the middle one, instead of the youngest – a scenario that occurs in almost every variant.[188]

In the Danish tale The White Dove, the youngest prince, unborn at the time, is "sold" by his elder brothers in exchange for a witch's help in dissipating a sea storm. Years later, the witch upholds her end of the bargain and takes the prince under her tutelage. As part of his everyday chores, the witch sets him with difficult tasks, which he accomplishes with the help of a princess, enchanted by the witch to become a dove.[189][190]

Central EuropeEdit

A compilation of Central European (Austrian and Bohemian) folktales lists four variants of the Swan Maiden narrative: "The Three White Doves";[191] "The Maiden on the Crystal Mountain";[192] "How Hans finds his Wife"[193] and "The Drummer".[194] Theodor Vernaleken, in the German version of the compilation, narrated in his notes two other variants, one from St. Pölten and other from Moldautein (modern day Týn nad Vltavou, in the Czech Republic).[195]

Eastern EuropeEdit

In Slavic fairy tale King Kojata or Prince Unexpected, the twelve royal daughters of King Kostei take off their geese disguises to bathe in the lake, but the prince hides the clothing of the youngest.[196][197]

In a Masurian (Poland) tale, Die goldenen Tauben ("The golden doves"), the youngest son of a farmer hold a vigil at midnight and sees three golden doves arriving to trample his father's field. The birds are enchanted princesses, and one of them gives the man a ring.[198]

In Czech tale The Three Doves, the hero hides the three golden feathers of the dove maiden to keep her in her human state. Later on, when she disappears, he embarks on an epic quest to find her.[199]

In a tale from the Chuvash people, "Альдюк" ("Aldyuk"), a poor old couple has a son named Ivan. The man brings home a goose, which takes off its goose skin and becomes a beautiful human maiden. The goose girl works as the old woman's helper. Ivan falls in love with her, they marry and give birth to a son. One day, when the goose girl is milking the cows, the old woman burns her goose coat. Some time later, a flock of geese flies over the house and begs Aldyuk to join them, but the girl says her goose coat has been burnt. The third time, the flock throws her a new feather cloak. She becomes a wan again and flies to the skies. However, she still returns three nights to nurse her baby child. The end of the tale is a happy one: she becomes human again and lives with her husband and his relatives.[200]

RussiaEdit

In the Russian fairy tale The Sea Tsar and Vasilisa the Wise, or Vassilissa the Cunning, and The Tsar of the Sea,[201] Ivan, the merchant's son, was informed by an old hag (possibly Baba Yaga, in some versions[202]) about the daughters of the Sea Tsar who come to bathe in a lake in the form of doves. In another translation, The King of the Sea and Melania, the Clever,[203] and The Water King and Vasilissa the Wise,[204] there are twelve maidens in the form of spoonbills. In another transcription of the same tale, the maidens are pigeons.[205]

In another Russian variant, "Мужик и Настасья Адовна" ("The Man and Nastasya, Princess of the Underworld"), collected by Ivan Khudyakov (ru), a creature jumps out of a well and tells a man to give him the thing he does not know he has at home (his newly born son). Years later, his son learns about his father's dealing and decides to travel to "Hell" ("Аду" or "Adu", in Russian). He visits three old women who give him directions to reach "Hell". The third old woman also informs him that in a lake, thirty-three maidens, the daughters of "Adu", come to bathe, and he should steal the clothing of Nastasya Adovna.[206]

UkraineEdit

In a "Cossack" (Ukrainian) tale, The Story of Ivan and the Daughter of the Sun, the peasant Ivan obtains a wife in the form of a dove maiden whose robe he stole when she was bathing. Some time later, a nobleman lusts after Ivan's dove maiden wife and plans to get rid of the peasant.[207]

In another Ukrainian variant that begins as tale type ATU 402, "The Animal Bride", akin to Russian The Frog Princess, the human prince marries the frog maiden Maria and both are invited to the tsar's grand ball. Maria takes off her frog skin and enters the ballroom as human, while her husband hurries back home and burns her frog skin. When she comes home, she reveals the prince her cursed state would soon be over, says he needs to find Baba Yaga in a remote kingdom, and vanishes from sight in the form of a cuckoo. He meets Baba Yaga and she points to a lake where 30 swans will alight, his wife among them. He hides Maria's feather garment, they meet again and Maria tells him to follow her into the undersea kingdom to meet her father, the Sea Tsar. The tale ends like tale type ATU 313, with the three tasks.[208]

HungaryEdit

A Hungarian tale ("Fisher Joe") tells about an orphan who catches a magical fish that reveals itself as a lovely maiden.[209] A second Magyar tale, "Fairy Elizabeth", is close to the general swan maiden story, only dealing with pigeon-maidens instead.[210] In a third tale, Az örökbefogadott testvérek ("The adoptive brothers"), the main protagonist, Miklós, dreams that the Queen of the Fairies and her handmaidens come to his side in the form of swans and transform into beautiful women.[211]

In the Hungarian tale Ráró Rózsa, the king promises his only son to a devil-like character that rescues him from danger. Eighteen years pass, and it is time for the prince to fulfill his father's promise. The youth bides his time in a stream and awaits the arrival of three black cranes, the devil's three daughters in disguise, to fetch the garments of the youngest.[212]

In another tale, Tündér Ilona és Argyilus ("Fairy Ilona and Argyilus"), Prince Argyilus (hu) is tasked by his father, the king, with discovering what has been stealing the precious apples from his prized apple tree. One night, the prince sees thirteen black ravens flying to the tree. As soon as he captures the thirteenth one, it transforms into the beautiful golden-haired Fairy Ilona.[213] A variant of the event also happens in Tündér Ilona és a királyfi ("Fairy Ilona and the Prince").[214]

In the tale A zöldszakállú király ("The Green-Bearded King"), the king is forced to surrender his son to the devil king after it spares the man's life. Years later, the prince comes across a lake where seven wild ducks with golden plumage left their skins on the shores to bathe in the form of maidens.[215]

In the tale A tizenhárom hattyú ("The Thirteen Swans"), collected by Hungarian journalist Elek Benedek, after his sister was kidnapped, Miklós finds work as a cowherd. On one occasion, when he leads the cows to graze, he sees thirteen swans flying about an apple tree. The swans, then, change their shapes into twelve beautiful maidens and the Queen of the Fairies.[216]

AlbaniaEdit

In an Albanian-Romani tale, O Zylkanôni thai e Lačí Devlék'i ("The Satellite and the Maiden of Heaven"), an unmarried youth goes on a journey to find work. Some time later, he enters a dark world. There, he meets by the spring three partridges that take off their animal skins to bathe. The youth hides the garment of one of them, who begs him to give it back. She wears it again and asks him to find her where the sun rises in that dark world.[217]

Caucasus RegionEdit

In an Azerbaijani variant, a prince travels to an island where birds of cooper, silver and gold wings bathe, and marries the golden-winged maiden.[218]

In an Armenian variant collected from an Armenian-American source (The Country of the Beautiful Gardens), a prince, after his father's death, decided to stay silent. A neighbouring king, who wants to marry him to his daughter, places him in his garden. There, he sees three colorful birds bathing in a pool, and they reveal themselves as beautiful maidens.[219]

LatviaEdit

According to the Latvian Folktale Catalogue, tale type ATU 400 is titled Vīrs meklē zudušo sievu ("Man on a Quest for the Lost Wife"). In the Lativan tale type, the protagonist finds the bird maidens (swans, ducks, doves) alighting near a lake to bathe, and steals the youngest's wings.[220]

In a Latvian folktale, a female named Laima (possibly the Latvian goddess of fate) loses her feathered wings by burning. She no longer becomes a swan and marries a human prince. They live together in the human world and even have a child, but she wants to become a swan again. So her husband throws feathers at her, she regains her bird form and takes to the skies, visiting her mortal family from time to time.[221]

LithuaniaEdit
OverviewEdit

Lithuanian folklorist Jonas Balys (lt), in his analysis of Lithuanian folktales (published in 1936), identified a specific version of the Swan Maiden in Lithuania, which he classified as 404*, Mergaitė - gulbė ("The Swan Maid"). In these variants, after the human burns the swan maiden's feather skin, they marry. However, her swan flock visits her and her swan lover throws her a new set of feathers.[222]

Fellow folklorist Bronislava Kerbelyte reports only 11 Lithuanian entries as separate tales of type AaTh 400*: the bird maiden (swan, duck, goose) loses her featherskin to a human hunter or to a human couple, but later regains it when her swan flock gives her a new set. Some tales may use an episode of type ATU 450, "Brother and Sister": the bird maiden returns to suckle her baby, her human husband discovers her and turns her back into a human.[223]

VariantsEdit

In a Lithuanian folktale, Von der Schwanenjungfrau, die des Königs Gattin wurde[224] ("About the Swan Maiden who became a King's Wife") or The Swan Queen, a white swan comes from the skies, takes off its wings and becomes a human woman. She does the chores of an elderly couple who lives in the woods, whenever they are not at home. One day, they become curious about their mysterious housekeeper. The old man hides behind a tub and waits for the housekeeper to appear. He sees the swan take off its wings and fold them. He burns the wings while the swan woman is away fetching water. When she returns to the couple's home, she discovers her wings were burnt off and she cannot return to her swan family, so she lives with the human couple. A king on a hunt sees the maiden and asks the old couple for her hand in marriage. They marry and she gives birth to a son. One day, she takes her son to the garden and sees her swan flock flying overhead. Her swan family wants to give her a new pair of wings, which she gets after a few visits from them. She abandons her human son and the king marries a witch named Lauma. Meanwhile, the swan maiden visits her own son in his sleep.[225]

In another Lithuanian variant published by Fr. Richter in the journal Zeitschrift für Volkskunde with the title Die Schwanfrau ("The Swan Woman"), a count's son, on a hunt, sights three swans, who talk among themselves that whoever is listening to them may help them break their curse. The count's son comes out of a bush and agrees to help them: by fighting a giant and breaking the spell a magician cast on them.[226]

Northern EurasiaEdit

In a tale from the Samoyed people of Northern Eurasia, an old woman informs a youth of seven maidens who are bathing in a lake in a dark forest.[227] English folklorist Edwin Sidney Hartland cited a variant where the seven maidens arrive at the lake in their reindeer chariot.[4]

Philosopher John Fiske cited a Siberian tale wherein a Samoyed man steals the feather skin of one of seven swan maidens. In return, he wants her help in enacting his revenge on seven robbers who killed his mother.[228]

In a tale attributed to the Tungus of Siberia, titled Ivan the Mare's Son (Russian: "Иван Кобыльников сын")[229][230] - related to both Fehérlófia and Jean de l'Ours -, a mare gives birth to a human son, Ivan. When he grows up, he meets two companions also named Ivan: Ivan the Sun's Son and Ivan the Moon's Son. The three decide to live together in a hut made of wooden poles and animal skins. For two nights, after they hunt in the forest, they come home and see the place in perfect order. On the third night, Ivan, the Mare's Son, decides to stay awake and discovers that three herons descending to the ground and taking off their feathers and wings to become maidens. Ivan, the Mare's Son, hides their bird garments until they reveal themselves. Marfida, the heron maiden, and her sisters marry the three Ivans and the three couples live together. The rest of the story follows tale type ATU 301, "The Three Stolen Princesses": descent into underworld by hero, rescue of maidens, betrayal by companions and return to the upper world on eagle.[231]

In an olonkho (epic narrative of the Yakut or Sakha people) titled Yuchyugey Yudyugyuyen, Kusagan Hodzhugur, obtained from Olonhohut ('storyteller', 'narrator') Darya Tomskaya-Chayka, from Verkhoyansk, Yuchugey Yudyugyuyen, the elder of two brothers, goes hunting in the taiga. Suddenly, he sees 7 Siberian cranes coming to play with his young brother Kusagan Hodzhugur, distracting him from his chores. The maidens possibly belong to the Aiy people, good spirits of the Upper World in Yakut mythology.[232] When they come a third time, the elder brother, Yuchugey, disguises himself as a woodchip or a flea and hides the bird skin of one of the crane maidens. They marry. One day, she fools her brother-in-law, regains her magical crane garment and returns to the Upper World. Hero Yuchugey embarks on a quest to find her, receiving help from a wise old man. Eventually, he reaches the Upper world and finds his wife and a son in a yurt. Yuchugey burns his wife's feathers; she dies, but is revived, and they return to the world of humans.[233][234][235] This narrative sequence was recognized as very similar to a folk tale.[234][235]

In a Mongolian tale, Manihuar (Манихуар), a prince on a hunt sees three swans take off their golden crowns and become women. As they bathe in a nearby lake, he takes the golden crown of one of them, so she can't turn back into her bird form. He marries this swan maiden, named Manihuar. When the prince is away, his other wives threaten her, and Manihuar, fearing for her life, convinces her mother-in-law to return her golden crown. She turns back into a swan and flies back to her celestial realm. Her husband goes on a quest to bring her back.[236]

Scholar Kira van Deusen collected a tale from an old Ul'chi storyteller named Anna Alexeevna Kavda (Grandma Nyura). In her tale, titled The Swan Girls, two orphan brothers live together. The older, Natalka, hunts game for them, while the youngest stays at home. One day, seven swans (kilaa in the Ulch language) land near their house and turn into seven human women. They enter the brothers' house, do the chores, sew clothes for the younger sibling and leave. He tells Natalka the story and they decide to capture two of the maidens as spouses for them.[237]

Middle EastEdit

 
The swans take flight from the ornate pavilion, leaving their sister behind. Illustration from Hassan of Bassorah by John Batten.

The tale of the swan maiden also appears in the Arab collection of folktales The Arabian Nights,[238] in "The Story of Janshah",[239] a tale inserted in the narrative of The Queen of the Serpents. In a second tale, the story of Hasan of Basrah (Hassan of Bassorah),[240][241] the titular character arrives at an oasis and sees the bird maidens (birds of paradise) undressing their plumages to play in the water.[242]

A third narrative is the tale of Mazin of Khorassan (or Mazin of Khorassaun),[243] supposedly not included in Antoine Galland's translation of the collection: an orphaned dyer, Mazin is invited to a castle where there is a magnificent garden. One afternoon, he rests in the garden and sees the arrival, through the air, of seven maidens wearing "light green silk" robes. He is later informed the seven are sisters to a queen of a race of female genii who live in a distant kingdom.[244] The story of Mazin was noted to be quite similar to Hassan of Bassorah, albeit with differences during the quest.[245]

An Arab tale (Histoire d'Ours de cuisine) begins akin to the swan maiden story: a king owns a fountain in his garden where a maiden with a feathery robe likes to bathe. One night, the king, taken with passion for the girl, fetches her garments from a nearby tree and intends to make her his bride. She consents, on the condition that the king blinds his forty queens.[246]

In another Middle Eastern tale, a king's son finds work with a giant in another region and receives a set of keys to the giant's abode, being told not to open a specific door. He disobeys his master and opens the door; he soon sees three pigeon maidens take off their garments to bathe in a basin.[247]

South AsiaEdit

A story from South Asia also narrates the motif of the swan maiden or bird-princess: Story of Prince Bairâm and the Fairy Bride, when the titular prince hides the clothing of Ghûlab Bânu, the dove-maiden.[248][249]

Central AsiaEdit

In a Tuvan tale, Ösküs-ool and the Daughter of Kurbustu-Khan, poor orphan boy Ösküs-ool seeks employment with powerful khans. He is tasked with harvesting their fields before the sun sets, of before the moon sets. Nearly finishing both chores, the boy pleads to the moon and the sun to not set for a little longer, but time passes. The respective khans think they never finished the job, berate and whip him. Some time later, while living on his own, the daughter of Khurbustu-khan comes from the upper world in the form of a swan. The boy hides her clothng and she marries him, now that she is stranded on Earth. Some time later, an evil Karaty-khan demands that the youth produces a palace of glass and an invincible army of iron men for him - feats that he accomplishes thanks to his wife's advice and with help from his wife's relatives.[250]

East AsiaEdit

According to professor Alan Miller, the swan maiden tale is "one of the most popular of all Japanese folktales".[153] Likewise, scholar Manabu Waida asserted the popularity of the tale "in Korea, Manchuria and China", as well as among "the Buryat, Ainu and Annamese".[154]

ChinaEdit

In ancient Chinese literature, one story from the Dunhuang manuscripts veers close to the general Swan Maiden tale: a poor man named T'ien K'un-lun approaches a lake where three crane maidens are bathing.[251][252]

A tale from Southeastern China and near regions narrates the adventures of a prince who meets a Peacock Maiden, in a tale attributed to the Tai people.[253] The tale is celebrated amongst the Dai people of China and was recorded as a poem and folk story, being known under several names, such as "Shaoshutun", "The Peacock Princess" or "Zhao Shutun and Lanwuluona".[254][255][256]

In a Chuan Miao tale, An Orphan Enjoyed Happiness and His Father-in-law Deceived Him, but His Sons Recovered Their Mother, an orphan gathers wood in the forest and burns the dead trees to make way for a clearing. He also builds a well. One day, seven wild ducks light on the water. The orphan asks someone named "Ye Seo" about the ducks, who answers the youth they are his fortune and the he must secure a "spotted feather" from their wings. The next day, the youth hides near the well when the ducks arrive and plucks the spotted feather, which belongs to an old woman. He goes back to Ye Seo, who tells him he needs to get a white feather, not a spotted one, nor a black one. He fetches the correct feather this time and a young woman appears to become his wife. They marry and she gives birth to twin boys. For some time, both children cry everytime their mother is at home, until one day she asks them the reason for their sadness. They explain that their human father is hiding their mother's feather somewhere in the house and wears it on his head when she is not at home. She finds the feather, puts it on her head and flies away from home. The boys' human father scolds them and sends them to seek their mother.[257]

In a tale from the Hui people, recorded in 1981 in Xinjiang, Horse Brother, the Cultivator, an old woman has an old horse that brings home a boy. She decides to adopt him and call him Horse Brother. Years later, after he becomes a great archer, he shoots an arrow at a rock and a fat man comes out of it which he names Stone Brother; he shoots at an elm tree and a slim man comes out of it which he names Elm Brother. The trio journey together and settle at the foot of Bogota Mountain. They build a house and cultivate the land, but lament on the lack of wives for them. On one occasion, after they return from a hunt, they see that the meal has been prepared and the house clean. They take turns to see who is behind this: both Stone Brother and Elm Brother fall asleep; Horse Brother discovers it its three pigeons that descend and become three maidens with white garments. Horse Brother convinces them to become their wives. The tale continues as a creature Nine-heads Master slowly drains their blood during some time and is defeated by Horse Brother.[258]

In a tale from the Monguor people, collected from a Li Songduo in Huzhu, Black Horse Zhang, an old couple own a black mare that gives birth to a pack of flesh. They open it and find a human baby inside. They raise it as their son and name him Black Horse. Years later, he leaves home with arrow and a sword and travels the world. On his wanderings, he sees a column of smoke coming out of a stone. He shoots an arrow at a gap in the stone and a man comes under it. They become friends and he names the man Stone or Elder Brother. The same happens to a man living under a tree; this one they call Second Brother Wood. The trio decide to live together and build a cottage. Meanwhile, on the eighth day of the 4th lunar month, three fairy maidens from Heaven, seeing the beauty of the human world, decide to visit in the form of white dove. They alight by the men's cottage, prepare de food and clean the house, and flay away as doves. Soon after, the three hunters arrive home and, wondering at the mysterious housekeeper, try to discover their identity. Only Black Horse Zhang stays awake and discovers the maidens. The three fairy maidens marry the three hunters. One day, they are instructed to always give food to the cat, but they forget to do so, and the animal puts out the fire by sprinkling water with its tail. The fairy maidens go out to borrow coal from some nearby house. The third fairy sees in the distance a cave with some smoke coming out of it. She visits the cave and asks for some coal from its occupant, an old white-haired woman. The old woman agrees to give it, in return for the fairy to plant some rape seeds on her way back. After the exchange, she does as asked and the rape seeds grow into trees all the way to the fairies' house, creating a trail for the old woman to follow. The woman turns into a nine-headed demon, sucks the blood of the fairies, and hides in its cave. Black Horse Zhang and his companions work together to kill the monster.[259]

In a Minhe Mangghuer tale, collected from Lü Jinliang with the name Madage or Old Brother Horse, an old woman with no sons plants a millet and watches over it. In a dream, she is told that near the horse trough a winter pear will fall down, which she shall eat to bear a son. However, her horse eats it and gives birth to a son. The old woman raises the son as her own and sends him to school. He is humiliated by other students and decides to make his own path in the world. He leaves home with a bow and arrows. He shoots at a tree and at a rock; a man comes out of each. They strike a friendship and Madage calls the one from the tree Shu'erge ("Second Brother Tree") and the one from the stone Shitouge ("Brother Stone"). They settle down near a sacred cave where there are three cuckoos. The trio alternate in the night shift. They notice that the three cuckoos become human maidens, so the trio burn their feather cloaks and marry them.[260]

TibetEdit

In an Eastern Tibetan (Amdo) variant, The Mare's Boy, a mare gives birth to a human boy who is adopted by an old woman. He grows up and strikes a friendship with two other human companions. During a heavy storm, the trio take shtlter in a nearby cave, on August 15. They see three pigeons enter the cave and become three goddesses. The women say their prayers, return to their pigeon bodies and fly away. The same event happens in the next two years. On the third year, Mare's Boy and his companions burn the pigeon bodies to force the goddesses to retain their human forms. They marry the three goddesses, who alert the humans spouses that disease will come to afflict the men and animals in the area. Times passes; the human hunters notice the goddesses are becoming pale and thin. One day, they wait outside the hut; they see a kite flying by and becoming a copper-nosed creature or witch. It sucks on the goddesses' blood and flies away again. What follows is a journey to the underworld through a hole or opening in pursuit of the hurt kite. Once in the underground world, Mare's Boy kills the witch and her son and saves a Garuda's nest, who agrees to take him back to the surface.[261]

AfricaEdit

According to scholar Denise Paulme, in African tales, the animal spouse (a buffalo or an antelope) marries a human male already married to a previous human wife. The man hides the skin of the supernatural spouse and she asks him never to reveal her true name. When the husband betrays the supernatural wife's trust, the animal wife takes her skin back and returns to the wilderness with her children.[262]

A tale collected from the Swahili (Kisa Cha Hassibu Karim ad Dini na Sultani wa Nyoka, or "The Story of Haseebu Kareem ed Deen and the King of the Snakes") also falls under the widespread tale of the Bird Maiden. A boy is born to a couple, but he is only named when he grows up: Haseebu Kareem ed deen. Some time later, he meets the King of Snakes in a gathering of people. One of them tells he is Jan Shah, son of sultan Taighamus, and recalls a story about finding three maidens - daughters of a sultan of the genii - bathing in a pond, and falling in love with the youngest, named Seyedati Shems.[263]

Variants collected in Cape Verde by Elsie Clews Parsons (under the title White-Flower) show the hero plucking the feather from the duck maiden to travel to her father's house.[264]

In a Kabylian tale collected by ethnologist Leo Frobenius with the title Die Taubenfrauen ("The Dove Maidens"): a young hunter journeys and meets two women who invite him to live with them as their brother. One day, two doves land near their house and become maidens. They turn the man to stones, turn back to doves and fly away. The next time they land, the hunter's adopted sisters hide the dove garments and golden jewellery of one of the dove maidens, in return for changing their brother back. The dove maiden does. The sisters give the garments to the hunter. The dove maiden marries the hunter and bears him a son. Some time later, he wants to visit his mother in his home village. He takes his dove wife and son. The hunter gives his mother the dove wife's belongings and explains she must never let her leave the house and to hide the garments and jewellery. One day, the dove maiden goes out for a bit and a harvester becomes entranced by her beauty. The man tells the dove wife she must marry him. The dove wife begs her mother-in-law to give her belongings so she may escape. After getting the garments, she turns into a dove, takes her son and flies over to the village of Wuak-Wuak. The hunter returns home and goes after her. He fools three people fighting over magical objects, steals them and teleports to Wuak-Wuak. There, he finds his wife and son, but his dove wife explains the whole village only has females and if they see him, her sisters will devour him.[265]

Oceania and Pacific OceanEdit

The character of the swan maiden (and her variants) is spread among the many traditions of Oceania and the Pacific Ocean, such as in Micronesia.[266] In this region, the bird maiden may be replaced for a sea creature, such as a fish,[267] a dolphin (in Yap and Kei Islands), or a whale (in Puluwat and Satawal).[268]

There have been collected at least thirty-three variants from Papua New Guinea, published in local newspaper Wantok Niuspepa, in a section about traditional tales.[269] Sometimes the swan garment is replaced by a cassowary skin or a bird-of-paradise.[270] For instance, the tale of The Cassowary Wife was stated by anthropologist Margaret Mead to be the local version of the Swan maiden.[271]

Professor Sir James George Frazer mentioned a tale of the Pelew Islands (Palau), in the Pacific, about a man who married a shapeshifting maiden by hiding her fish tail. She bore him a daughter, and, in one occasion, happened to find her fish tail and returned to the ocean soon after.[172]

AmericasEdit

Indigenous peoplesEdit

In a tale of the Musquakie people, some male youths bathe and play in the water while some beautiful girls approach them. One of the male youths gets one of the girls and the others, frightened, turn into black-headed ducks and fly away.[272]

Some tales from the Algonquins also tell of a young, unmarried hunter who approaches a lake where otherworldly women come to bathe to acquire the supernatural spouse.[273][274]

In a tale of the Cochiti people, a coyote (possibly the Coyote of legend) helps a youth in getting a wife: one of three pigeon girls who bathe in a lake.[275] In a variant, the coyote leads the youth to three dove maidens.[276]

In a tale from the Tewa, collected by Elsie Clews Parsons, the youth Powitsire hunts a deer, which suggests the boy find a wife and reveals that three duck girls come to bathe in a nearby lake.[277] In a second Tewa story (a retelling, in fact), the son of the cacique wishes to travel to the Land of Parrots to obtain a parrot. His mission is successful and he returns home with a "Parrot Girl" that helps him on the homeward journey. When he arrives at his parents house, the Parrot Girl becomes a beautiful human girl and marries him.[278]

Charles Frederick Hartt claimed that a tale from the "Paitúna" contains a version where the bird maiden is a parrot. She is found by a human male and becomes the mother of a new tribe.[279]

Eskimo: The Goose WifeEdit

As cited by Lotte Motz, researcher Inge Kleivan compared several Eskimo narratives of the bird/goose wife and produced a hypothetical proto-form. In these tales, the goose wife leaves her human husband and travels to the "Land of Birds". Whenever the husband finds her, she is already married to another bird person.[280]

William L. Sheppard traced the geographical distribution of the tale of the Man who Married Sea Fowl according to the available literature. Versions are found in the following regions and groups: Greenland, Labrador, Baffin, Iglulik, Netsilik, Copper, North Alaska, Northwest Alaska, Bering Strait, Mainland Southwest Alaska, Koniag, Siberian Yupik, and Chukchi.[281]

Professor Waldemar Bogoras collected and published a tale from Northeastern Asia, collected among the Chukchi people. In this tale, the bird-wife is a goose. The hunter hides her goose-skin and marries her. The goose wife, however, is secretly visited by a flock of geese that throws her a new bunch of feathers to replace her lost feather skin. When the human hunter finds his wife, she is already married to another husband (a glaucus gull in one tale, an eagle-shaman in another). Bogoras also noted its resemblance to the Eskimo tale of "Ititaujang".[282]

Danish scholar Hinrich Johannes Rink collected an "Eskimo" tale from Greenland, which he titled The Man who mated himself with a Sea-Fowl. The bird maiden is described as a "bird" or "sea-fowl" at the beginning of the tale, and as a gull at the end.[283]

Author Margaret Lantis published a version of the bird-wife from Kodiak Island and compared it to tales from Baffin Land and from Greenland.[284]

Franz Boas collected a tale from the "Central Eskimo" (Cumberland Sound), with the title Ititaujang (or Itajung), after its main character. Ititaujang goes to the "land of the birds" and finds himself a wife there, by hiding the maiden's boots. She reluctanly marries the human hunter and goes to live in his hut. She gives birth to a son and gathers enough feathers for herself and the boy to fly back to her original home in "the land of the birds".[285][286] As the tale continues, on the way to his wife, hunter Ititaujang meets a man named Ixalu'qdjung chopping a piece of red wood with his hatchet.[287] According to Boas's research, to the Aivilik, the tale of Ititaujang also belongs to the Kiviuq Cycle, as the episode of Kiviuq meeting the "Salmon Man" during the quest for his wife.[288]

A. L. Kroeber collected a tale titled The Man who married a Goose, from Smith Sound. In this tale, the human hunter finds a goose woman and steals her garment. He marries her and she bears two children. Years into their marriage, the goose woman gathers feathers for herself and her children, they become geese and fly away. The human hunter meets a man named Qayungayung, carving boats and creating sea animals with every wood splinter. Qayungayung agrees to take the man to his wife across the water.[289]

Ethnologist Vilhjalmur Stefansson collected two tales of goose wives from two Copper Inuit tellers. In both tales, the hunter has stolen the garments of a grey goose maiden. He marries her and she begets him a certain number of children (one in the first version, three in the second). She prepares makfeshift wings for her and her children and they leave behind the human father (on the second tale, only a child remains with the father).[290]

The goose wife also appears in tales of the Inuit hero Kiviuq. In these tales, Kiviuq (also Keeveeok, and variations) marries a woman whose goose skin he has stolen or hidden. She bears him children, but decides to fashion a pair of wings for her to return to the skies.[291][292][293] In a version collected by Kira Van Deusen, Kiviuq finds three maidens bathing, all three having cast their water bird skins: "a sandhill crane, a loon, and a Canada goose".[294]

In a version from Baffin Land, the human hunter, named Itiqtaujaq, steals the boots of a goose maiden and marries her. She does not adapt to ordinary human life and collects feathers to make a new pair of wings for herself and her son. Both depart with the wings and Itiqtaujaq follows after them. The hunter meets a person named Eqaluqdjuq, who is carving a piece of wood and every wood chip falls into the water to become salmon.[295]

F. A. Golder collected a tale from Kodiak Island (more especifically, from Unga Island), with the title The Grouse-Girl. In this tale, two male hunters live in a hut together, one older and lame, and the other young. One day, a grouse lands near the young hunter, but he shoos it away three times. Then the bird sits near the older one, who gives him food. As they continue hunting game for themselves, they return home and see the place clean and tidy. Suspecting someone is entering their house, the old hunter hides while the other is hunting, and sees the grouse taking off its skin and becoming a woman.[296][297]

In an Alaskan tale titled "Женщина-утка" ("The Duck Wife"), in Taphaka a man and his wife insist that their son finds a wife. He leaves home in search of one. He travels on his kayak to another region. He sees a group of maidens bathing and captures one as his wife. He offers her some game, but she refuses. He brings her to his parents. She bears him a son and a daughter, and refuses to eat meat, preferring to eat herbs to sate her hunger. Her mother-in-law notices the strange habit of hers and mocklingy suggests she might be a duck. The wife feels insulted and storms off their house with her two children. Her husband comes home and questions his mother about his wife's absence. He deduces she has gone off and goes after her. On his way, he meets two men and gain an ax and a pair of pants made of sealskin. When he reaches the margin of a lake, he sleeps for a while. When he wakes up, a fox is at his side. The fox takes off its coat, becomes a man and asks him about his destination. The fox-man directs him to a mountain where "the dead" roam about, and beyond that a village, where the largest house with herds of deer belongs to his wife. He crosses the mountain and reaches the village, where his son - now an adult - sees him and goes home to warn his mother. The hunter enters the house and the wife doubts that he is her husband. After some explaining, the hunter sits down to eat with his family: small berries and little fishes, no seal or deer meat - a diet for ducks. At the end of the tale, after a third child is born to them, the hunter departs with his child and wife back to his land, and leaves his elder son and daughter there.[298]

In a Greenlandic tale, "Жена-гусыня" ("The Goose Woman"), a woman lives with her grandson. One day, on his wanderings, he sights a group of women (geese) bathing, some clothes tossed aside. He takes them all. The women leave the lake and ask for their clothes back: he returns to everyone but two, a small girl and an older girl. Choosing the older girl as his wife, he returns the clothes to the younger. He marries the goose woman and she gives birth to two eggs, that hatch two boys. The old woman ponders about the strange behaviour of her great-grandchildren: they peck at the leather walls of the hut to look for pebbles, and gather feathers found on the beach. Ond day, the goose wife leaves home with her sons and does not return. The human husband asks his grandmother her whereabouts. He goes after her on a long journey. One time, he finds a giant man cutting a tree with an axe; the splinters falling into the water and becoming trouts. The strange man, named Kayunayugsyuak, tells the hunter he saw three birds cross the water. The man helps him cross the water to the other side, and finds the land of geese, where his wife and sons live.[299]

Pacific NorthwestEdit

Anthropologist John R. Swanton collected several tales of the Goose Wife from the Haida and the Tlingit, and summarized their common points: the hunter captures two geese maidens, eventually marrying one or both; the goose maidens, now human, are given food when the "goose tribe" flies over them; they return to the skies and the human husband goes after them.[300]

In a Tlingit tale collected by Swanton from Sitka, Alaska, The Brant Wives, a KîksA'di finds two women bathing in a pond, and steals their bird garments to force them to marry him. Both women, who are two brants, agree to marry him. They live together. When spring comes, the brant wives see a flock of brants flying and ask them for food. When the flock returns and flies south, both wives go with them. Their human husband follows them.[301] A second tale, The Brant Wife, was collected from Wrangell, Alaska.[302]

Swanton also published a Haida tale, collected from a Walter McGregor of the "Sealion-town people", with the title He who hunted birds in his father's village. In this tale, a chief's son hunts about and finds two women bathing in a lake. He takes their geese garments and withholds them until the youngest maiden agrees to marry him. He returns the goose skin of the oldest and she flies back to the skies. The chief's son marries the youngest goose maiden and hides her featherskin in a tree just before the village entrance. Some time later, the goose wife begins to yearn for her former life, takes the skin back and flies away from her human husband. When he wakes up, he questions everyone in the village of her whereabouts, and decides to go after her.[303]

South America: The Vulture WifeEdit

In a tale from Guyana, The man with a vulture wife, a young hunter comes across a large house where people were playing sports and dancing to music. In reality, they were vultures that shed their skins to decorate the place. The youth becomes entranced by one of the maidens and captures her. Their marriage is not a happy one, and the tale ends on a darker note.[304] A similar tale is attested from the Warao people, in Venezuela.[305]

Dutch cartographer Claudius de Goeje transcribed a tale from the Arawak, about a medicine man named Makanahoro. In this tale, Makanahoro disguised himself as a carrion deer to attract vultures. He manages to capture a female king vulture who has taken off her vulture plumage and makes her his wife. Some time later, Makanahoro goes with his wife to visit her family in the sky, but his in-laws try to test his mettle by forcing him on some tasks. Makanahoro accomplished the tasks (which vary according to the account) with the help of animals.[306][307] De Goeje reported similar tales from nearby indigenous populations: the Kaliñas, the Macusis, the Warau (Warao), the Taulipangs, the Tembes and the Chané-Chriguanos.[308][309]

Latin AmericaEdit

In two Argentinian variants, Las tres palomas hijas del diablo ("The three pigeon daughters of the devil") and Blanca Flor, the prince is a gambler who bets and loses against a devil antagonist. To find the devil's house, a donor tells him he should steal the garments of the three daughters of the devil, who come to bathe in the form of doves.[310]

MexicoEdit

In a Mexican tale, Blanca Flor ("White Flower"), youth Juan loves to gamble and wins the devil's favor to grant him unbeatable luck for the period of five years. When the date is due, the youth must find the devil "in the Plains of Berlín at the Hacienda of Qui-quiri-qui". He goes on a pilgrimage and asks three hermits (the king of fishes, the king of animals of the earth and the king of birds of the air) its location. The eagle, answering its sire's question, knows where it is. The eagle carries Juan to the Plains of Berlín and informes that three doves, the devil's three daughters, will come to bathe.[311]

In a tale collected by John Bierhorst from a Yucatec Mayan source, with the title The Bird Bride, something is destroying his father's fields, and he tasks his three sons to guard it. A little toad appears to all three brothers and begs for some food, but only the youngest agrees to share his. The little toad and the youth discover the culprit: a bird - an enchanted maiden - comes to eat in the cornfield. The toad disenchants the maiden and she marries the youth.[312]

BrazilEdit

In a tale collected by Sílvio Romero in Rio de Janeiro (Cova da Linda Flôr), a king gambles with another monarch. He loses everything and consults with a hermit on how to proceed. The hermit advises to kill a special kind of bird from which a piece of paper will drop with instructions: three princesses, daughters of the monarch, in the form of ducks bathe in a lake, and the king should take the duck skin of the youngest (whose name is Cova da Linda Flôr).[313]

Marco Haurélio, contemporary writer and folklorist, collected two versions in Brazil wherein the hero steals the bird-maiden's clothes: Guime e Guimar (Guime e Guimar), published in the book Contos Folclóricas Brasileiros (Brazilian Folk Tales), in which the princess is enchanted in a paw,[314] and Guimar e Guimarim (Guimar and Guimarim), published in the book Vozes da Tradição (Voices of Tradition),[315] both classified under type 313A in the Aarne-Thompson-Uther Index (The Girl as Helper in the Hero's Flight).

Non-bird maidensEdit

Despite the near universality of the tale of the swan maiden (or maiden who transforms into any other kind of bird), there are tales where the human male still holds the maiden's garments, but the narrative does not mention whether she transforms or not.

In a tale titled The Iron Eagle, a young hunter reaches the sandy shores on the edge of a forest. He then sees three maidens arriving in a flash of light to take a bath "in the golden sunrise". The hunter steals their clothing, unaware that one of the maidens is "The Daughter of the Sun". In exchange for her garment back, she will grant one out of four wishes.[316]

Western EuropeEdit

The tale of the swan maiden is believed to be attested in Lady Featherflight, a tale obtained from an English storyteller (an old aunt).[317] Lady Featherflight helps the hero against her giant father and both escape (ATU 313 The Magical Flight).

Emmanuel Cosquin collected a French tale titled Chatte Blanche (English: "White Cat"), where the hero Jean is informed that "Plume Verte", "Plume Jaune" and "Plume Noir" come to bathe in the lake in the Black Forest, and is tasked with getting the robes of "Plume Verte".[318]

On his comments on English fairy tale Lady Featherflight,[319] W. W. Newell commented that in the French counterpart of the story, La Plume Verte (English: "The Green Feather"), the name is an indication of her status as bird-maiden.[320] However, it has been noted that, as it happened in both versions, the swan maiden's feathery cloak was replaced by the garment, yet a reminiscence of it is retained in their names.[321]

A similar occurrence appear in a fairy tale from Brittany, La Demoiselle en Blanc ("The Lady in White"), collected by Paul Sébillot: the young man sees three human maidens bathing, and nearby there are three dresses, a white one, a gray one and a blue one.[322] It has been noted that the tale contains a nearly identical episode of the maidens bathing, instead of the bird-maidens.[323]

In another Brittany tale, collected by François-Marie Luzel, Barbauvert, ou Le Prince qui Joua la Tête et la Perdit ("Green Beard, or The Prince that gambled his head and lost it"), prince Charles, son of the king of France, gambles and loses a bet against Barbauvert. The man asks the prince to find his castle. Charles meets a hermit that tells him that three maidens will come in three golden chairs and will descend near a lake. One of them is Koantic, the youngest daughter of the Green Beard and who will help the prince with her father's tasks.[324]

In Irish tale Yellow Lily, the son of the king of Erin gambles his head against the cruel Giant of Loch Lein, and must travel to the giant's castle after losing the bet. During his travels, he meets an old woman in a hut who informs that the three daughters of the giant, Blue Lily, White Lily and Yellow Lily, will come to bathe in a near lake, and the he should steal the garments of the youngest, Yellow Lily.[325][326]

In another Irish tale The King's Son in Erin and the King of Green Island, collected by Jeremiah Curtin and later published by Séamus Ó Duilearga, the son of the king of Erin loses to a small gray man and he orders him to find his castle in Green Island within a year and a day. After a long journey, an eagle directs him to the three daughters of the king of Green Island and steals the bracelet of the youngest of them. He returns it to her, they fall in love and she agrees to help him in her father's tasks.[327]

Northern EuropeEdit

In a Norwegian variant, a stranger named "the ninth Momorius" helps the hero and he has to find his house as payment. The hero meets one of the sons of Momorius, and he directs him to his youngest sister, who lives by a lake. When he arrives, the hero steals the clothes of Momorius's daughter and asks her help. Norwegian folklorist Reidar Thoralf Christiansen recognized that the stealing of the sister's clothes was "clearly a much worn down use of the Swan-maiden incident".[328]

Southern EuropeEdit

In a Galician tale, Brancafrol, a gambling youth bets and loses his soul, and receives a deadline to surrender his soul to the winner. After giving alms to an old lady, she informs him of three magical maidens bathing in the sea: two Moorish women, and a Christian woman, who have set their dresses on the shore (the Moorish women's green ones and the Christian woman's white one).[329]

Francisco Maspons y Labrós collected a Catalan variant titled Lo castell del Sol ("The Castle of the Sun"), where a young count bets and loses his wealth and must find his way to "The Castle of the Sun". Not knowing of its location, he is helped by an old lady and her sons, who tell of a lake where three maidens come to bathe. When escaping from her family, the count calls his wife "Rosa florida".[330]

Central EuropeEdit

In an Austrian (Tirol) tale collected by Joseph and Ignaz Zingerle, Der gläserne Berg ("The Glass Mountain"), a forester's son, while hiding in the bushes, sees three maidens bathing, and fetches their cloaks. Later, the maidens arrive at his house and ask for their garments back. He returns to two of the maidens, retaining the youngest's and marrying her. The couple live quite happily until, one day, the husband forgets to lock the cabinet where he hid her cloak garment, and she finds it. The maiden writes him a note saying that, if he loves her, he should seek her in "The Glass Mountain".[331]

In a Swiss tale from Unterengadin, Der Glasberg oder Das Glasschloss ("The Glass Mountain or the Glass Castle"), a youth and his widowed mother live in a house in the wood. One day, he is cutting some wood, when he sees ten flying maidens alighting near a lake and taking off their wings to bathe. The youth is astonished by such a sight. The next day, he watches the scene and convinces himself the maidens are real, intending to take one of them, the youngest, as his wife. The third time, he digs a hole and hides in it to steal the maiden's wings as soon as she descends. He is successful and the maiden is presented to his mother as his wife. He hides the clothing in a locked compartment and gives the key to his mother, but one day she forgets to lock it. So the maiden regains her wings and tells the old woman that her son should find her "in the Glass Mountain". The youth, now inconsolable, goes on a quest to get her back. He visits the abode of the Moon, the Sun and the Wind and obtains their help. He finally reaches the Glass Mountain and meets his mother-in-law, who asks him to perform three tasks, the last of which is to recognize his wife from her nine identical sisters. He is also successful. Soon after, the pair escapes from the Glass Mountain (ATU 313, "The Magic Flight") and returns home.[332]

Eastern EuropeEdit

In a Polish tale by A. J. Glinski, O nahajce wykonajce, butachsamoskokach, czapce niewidce, i ogórze miedzianej[333] ("The Princess of The Brazen Mountain"),[334] the hero is a prince who steals the pair of wings of the titular princess and proposes to her. On their wedding day, she is given back the wings and flies back to the Brazen Mountain.[335]

In a tale collected by Francis Hindes Groome (The Witch) from a Polish-Gypsy source, the prince dreams of a place where lovely maidens were bathing. He decides to travel the world to find this place. He does so and hides the wings of the youngest maiden. After his wife escapes, he follows her to her family's home, and must work for her sorcerous mother.[336]

In Russian folktale Yelena The Wise, the titular princess and her maid, both possessing wings, were made prisoners by a six-headed serpent, until they were accidentally released by Ivan, the soldier. Ivan informs the six-headed serpent of her escape and the monster says the princess is cunning. Hot on her trail, he uses a flying carpet to reach a beautiful garden with a pond. Soon after, Yelena and her maid arrive and take off their wings to bathe.[337]

In a Wallachian tale collected by Arthur and Albert Schott, Der verstoßene Sohn, a youth shoots a raven, which falls in the snow. The striking image makes the boy long for a bride "of white skin, red cheeks and hair black as a raven's feathers". An old man tells him of such beauty: three "Waldjungfrauen" ("forest-maidens") will come to bathe in the lake, and he must secure the crown of one of them. He fails twice, but succeeds in his third attempt. The youth and the forest maiden live together for many years, she bears him two sons, but, during a village celebration, she asks for her crown back. When she puts on her head, she begins to ascend in flight with their two children and asks her husband to come find them.[338]

GreeceEdit

In a Greek fairy tale from Epiros, first collected by Johann Georg von Hahn (Von dem Prinzen und der Schwanenjungfrau)[339] and translated by Reverend Edmund Martin Geldart (The Prince and the Fairy), a king's son opens a trapdoor in the mountain and arrives at another realm. He sees a palace in the distance, where an old man is trapped. He releases the old man who gives him the keys to the apartments. Behind a closed door, three fairies come to bathe in "a hollow place filled with water".[340] Von Hahn also collected similar stories from Ioannina and Zagori, and called the swan maiden-like character "Elfin".[341]

AsiaEdit

In a tale collected from a Dagur source, in China, a man tells his three sons of a dream he had: a white horse that appeared, circled the sun and vanished into the sea. His sons decide to find this horse. The youngest succeeds in capturing the horse, but it says it will feel lonely away from its home, so the horse decides to bring one of his sisters with him. The youth and the horse await at the beach for the arrival of ten fairies, who take off their clothes to play in the sea. Soon enough, the youth seizes the clothing of the youngest.[342]

In a tale collected in the Konkani language, The Bird Princess and the Boy, a king with seven sons asks them a question: who are they most afraid of? The older six boys answer: "the king", which pleases him. When the youngest says he most fears God, the king whips him eight times and abandons him in the forest. The boy wanders about and reaches an old lady's cottage. He works as a goatherd and is warned about not going beyond the garden. He disobeys and sees a lake where two princesses are bathing, their dresses that allow them to fly cast off nearby. He steals the dress of one of them but the maiden regains it. On the second day, he manages to steal the clothing of the second one and hide beneath the house floor. A king dies and three elephants carry the crown to the boy. He marries the flying princess. When the old lady dies, the princess finds the magical clothing and flies back to her kingdom. On his way there, the boy rescues frogs, mongooses and flies, whose help he uses to fulfill three tasks before winning back his wife.[343]

AfricaEdit

In an Algerian tale, La Djnoun et le Taleb, the taleb Ahmed ben Abdallah arrives at the edge of a lake and sees a beautiful Djnoun bathing in the water. He soon notices the "dove-skin" of the maiden and hides it. They marry and raise a family with several children. One day, one of their children finds their mother's magical garment and delivers it to her.[344]

AmericaEdit

In a tale collected from the Sahaptin, a boy becomes poor. Later, he plays cards with a Black storekeeper. The boy wins the Black man's store and livestock. He then bets himself: if he loses, he becomes the boy's servant. The Black man wins back the store and the livestock, and the boy as his servant, but the Black man dismisses him and tells the boy to go to a place across the river. An old woman stops him from crossing the river and tries to help the boy by "ask[ing] different things": the dishes, the spoons, the cat, the rooster and the geese. The woman translates what the geese informed: the boy must seek some bathing maidens and he must secure the "blue-green garters" of the last bathing girl.[345]

In a Jamaican tale, Jack and the Devil Errant, protagonist Jack loses a bet against the titular Devil Errant and is ordered to find him in three months. An old man helps him by informing that the Devil Errant's three daughters will come to bathe in a lake, but he should only steal the clothing of the youngest.[346]

In another Jamaican tale, with a heavy etiological bent and possibly starring legendary trickster hero Anansi, the protagonist, a young man, wins against a "headman" (an African king) and the youth's nurse warns him that the king may be planning some trap. The nurse, then, advises the youth that he should take "the river-road" and reach a stream where the king's youngest daughter will be bathing. He steals the clothing twice: the first time, the youth lies that a thief was nearby; the second time, that a gust of wind blew them away.[347]

A tale was collected in 1997, from a 65-year-old Belizean storyteller, Ms. Violet Wade, that focuses on the backstory of the maiden's father. In this story, Green Seal, an orphaned prince becomes a king, rescues a princess and marries her. Years later, they have three daughters (one of which Green Seal), to whom the king, a wizard, teaches magic. The three maidens fly to a river to bathe and a poor boy, Jack, steals Green Seal's clothes. They agree to marry, but first Jack must perform tasks for her father.[348]

The celestial maiden or heavenly brideEdit

A second format of the supernatural wife motif pertains to tales where the maiden isn't a shapeshifting animal, but instead a creature or inhabitant of Heaven, a Celestial Realm, or hails from the place where the gods live.[c] Western works commonly translate these characters as "fairies" or "nymphs".

Japanese folklorist Seki Keigo names this story "The Wife from the Upper World", in his index of "Types of Japanese Folktales".[350] Similarly, scholar Kunio Yanagita titled it The Wife from the Sky World.[351] Professor Alan L. Miller calls it "The Divine Wife", which can also refer to the Swan Maiden tales.[352] East Asian scholarship also names this group of tales as The Legend of the Winged Robe (or Tale of the Feathered Cloak) and Celestial Wife.[353]

DistributionEdit

Korean scholarship supposes that the bird wife and the animal transformation were replaced by a human-looking supernatural woman with a pair of wings or a magical garment in regions that lacked contact with swans, for instance, India, Southeast Asia, Korea and Japan.[354]

India and South AsiaEdit

According to scholarship, the motif of the celestial bride whose clothes are stolen by a mortal warrior is popular in Indian literary and oral tradition.[355]

The motif of the swan maiden is also associated with the Apsaras, of Hinduism, who descend from Heaven or a Celestial Realm to bathe in an earthly lake.[356][357] One example is the ancient tale of apsara Urvasi and king Pururavas.[103][104] In another tale, cited by folklorist Edwin Sidney Hartland, five apsaras, "celestial dancers", are transported by an enchanted car to take a bath in the forest.[4]

A folk song collected from the state of Chhattisgarh, The Ballad of flower-maid Bakaoli, contains the episode where a male (Lakhiya) is informed by a sadhu about the seven daughters of Indra Rajá (one of which is Bakaoli) who bathe in a lake.[358]

A tale of Dravidian origin tells the story of Prince Jagatalapratapa, who has an encounter with the daughter of Indra and her maids in a grove in forest.[359] A second story of The Dravidian Nights Entertainment, by Natesa Sastri, shows the episode of the prince stealing clothes from a celestial maiden, as part of the prince's search for a special flower.[360]

A story obtained from Santal sources (Toria the Goatherd and the Daughter of the Sun) tells of goatheard Toria. After the Daughters of the Sun descend to earth on a spider's thread, the maidens invite Toria to join them in their leisure in water. The goatherd, then, convinces the girls to see who can stay underwater for so long. While they are distracted, Toria hides the clothing of one of them – the one he found most lovely – and flees home with it.[361][4]

In a Bengali tale, from Dinajpur (The Finding of the Dream), prince Siva Das receives a premonitory dream about a maiden. Some time later, he is informed by a sage that, on a night of full moon, five nymphs descend from the sky to play in a pond, and one of them is the maiden he saw in a dream, named Tillottama.[362]

In a tale from the Karbi people, Harata Kunwar, the youngest of seven brothers, flees for his life from home, after his brothers and father threaten to take his life, and takes refuge with an old lady. After doing his chores, he plans to take a bath in the river, but was told not to go upstream. He does so and sees the six daughters of the King of the Great Palace descending from the heavens and undressing their clothings to bathe and frolic in the water.[363][d]

In an Indian tale of unknown source, The Perfumer's Daughter, the prince's wife asks for her ring and flies off to unknown parts. Burdened with grief, the prince wanders the world until he finds an old ascetic master. The ascetic tells the prince that, on the full moon night, his wife and her handmaidens will descend from the heavens to bathe in the lake, and the youth must acquire his wife's shawl.[365]

The Indian folktale collection Kathasaritsagara contains at least two similar tales involving Apsaras: the tale of Marubhúti who, instructed by a hermit, steals the clothing of one of some heavenly nymphs who came to bathe in the river, and the hermit becomes the mortal husband of the Vidyadhara.[366] In a second story, deity Bhairava commands Thinthákarála to steal the garments of the Apsaras that were bathing in "the holy pool of Mahákála". After the deed is done, the Apsaras protest and beg for their garments to be returned, but the youth sets a condition: he will return them in exchange for the youngest Apsara, Kalávatí, daughter of Alambushá, to become his wife.[367]

In another Indian tale, The Wood-seller and the Seven Fairies, the wood-seller takes a moment to rest in the forest, and soon sees seven fairies bathing a well. He soon steals their garments and asks for their help in order to impress a visiting queen he wishes to marry.[368]

Southeast AsiaEdit

Professor Margaret Kartomi stated that "countless versions" of the tale of the human male who marries one of seven heavenly females (or angels) after stealing her clothing appear in "insular and mainland Southeast Asia".[369]

MainlandEdit

In a tale from Laos, The Faithful Husband, Chow Soo Tome, a lord, sees seven winged nymphs bathing. They notice his presence and flee, except one. They marry and his mother hides her wings, so she cannot fly back. The head chow sends Soo Tome to war and the nymph, out of sorrow, asks her mother-in-law for her wings back. She dons her wings and flies back to her father's kingdom of Chom Kow Kilat. Chow Soo Tome discovers his wife fled and goes on a quest to win her back.[370][371]

In a Vietnamese tale, a woodcutter finds the spring where the fairies (Nàng tiên) come to bathe. He hides the clothes of the youngest fairy and marries her. The youth hides the garment in the rice shed, but his wife finds it and goes back to the upper world. However, she leaves her child with her comb, as a memento.[372][373]

MaritimeEdit

According to linguist Sidney Herbert Ray, the Sanskrit word vidyādhari was borrowed into the Malayo-Polynesian languages of the region. Thus, it appears as bidadari in Malay and Makassar and as widadari in Javanese, both denoting a nymph or fairy.[374]

MalaysiaEdit

In the story (hikayat) of Hikayat Inderaputera, prince Inderaputera (Indraputra) travels the world in other to find a cure for a king's childlessness. He obtains information from a peri that Princess Gemala Ratna Suri and her seven nymph attendants will come in seven days to bathe in the lake, and he should steal the flying jackets of the maidens to advance in his quest.[375][376][377]

In another Malay hikayat, Prince Malim Deman has a vision in a dream about a holy man pointing to a place upstream where he can find a wife. There he will find seven heavely maidens who descended to the mortal realm to play in the pond of the fairy woman Ninek Kebayan. The prince meets Ninek Kebayan, who helps him steal the clothing of the most beautiful of the heavenly maidens, Puteri Bongsu (Poeteri Boengsoe), and make her his wife.[378] In another version, provided by a "respected ancestor" named Bujang XI, protagonist Malin Deman marries Dewa Indurjati. Otherwise, the tale shows the same ending, with the celestial maiden regaining her clothes and returning to the skies.[379]

A similar plot can be found in another hikayat, named Hikayat Malim Dewa, where prince Malim Dewa marries the heavenly nymph (princess) Poetroë Boengthoe, whose magical garments he stole to prevent her return to the celestial abode.[380]

PhilippinesEdit
OverviewEdit

The narrative of the swan maiden or heavenly wife was noted to be found "all across the Philippines",[381] being told in the following ethnic groups, according to professors Hazel Wrigglesworth and Richard Dorson: Tinguian, Amganad Ifugao, Kallahan Keley-i, Casiguran Dumagat, Mamanwa, Binukid, Ata of Davao, Dibabawon, Sindangan Subanon, Siocon Subanon, Ilianen Manobo, Livunganen Manobo, Sarangani Manobo, Maguindanao, and Tausug.[382]

Regional talesEdit

In the tale Kimod and the Swan Maiden ("Pitong Maylog"), from the Mansaka (Philippines), Kimod, a young hunter, captures the garments of one bathing maiden and marries her. Some time later, the maiden discovers its hiding place: inside her husband's blowgun. She wears it again and rejoins her sisters in the skyworld. Kimod, then, goes on a quest to bring her back.[383][384][385] According to Herminia Q. Meñez, versions are reported to have been found in other groups in Mindanao and northern Luzon.[386]

Other variants from Filipino folklore include:[387] The Seven Young Sky Women;[388] Magbolotó, a tale from the Visayan.[389] A version of the tale was also found in the oral narratives of the Agta people of the Philippines (How Juan got his Wife from Above).[390]

IndonesiaEdit
OverviewEdit

The heavenly maidens are also known in Indonesia as Bathing Beauties or The Seven Nymphs, tales wherein a male character spies on seven celestial maidens (Apsaras) bathing in an earthly lake.[391][e] Indonesian scholarship states that the tale is "widespread in almost all parts of Indonesia": North Sumatra, Maluku, Bengkulen, East Kalimantan, Madura, West Sulawesi, Java and Bali.[393] In that regard, professor James Danandjaja acknowledged this wide diffusion, but emphasized the existence of the story "among the ethnic groups that were influenced by Hindu-Buddhist and Han (Chinese) cultures".[394]

Regional talesEdit

One famous version from Indonesian history is titled Jaka Tarub and Seven Apsaras (id), from the island of Java,[395][396] starring legendary Javanese hero Jaka Tarub,[397][398] who marries the heavenly nymph (Bidadari) Dewi Nawang Wulan.[399][400][401] This story is said to be popular on this island,[402] especially in East and Central Java.[394]

Similar tales were collected from North Sulawesi and Minahasa Peninsula (formerly known as Celebes Islands). One is the tale of Kasimbaha and Utahagi:[403] Kasimbaha fetches the garments of Utahagi, a "heavenly nymph" who was bathing in a lake, and, later, after his wife returns to her celestial abode, he climbs a special tree to ascend to the heavens and find her again.[404][405][406] A second tale is interesting in that it differs: instead of bathing in a lake, the heavenly maidens descend to Earth and steal the yams of a human farmer named Walasindouw.[407]

In Bengkulu, in the island of Sumatra, the legend of Malin Deman is quite close to the motif of the "Celestial Wife": hero Malin Deman steals the wings and the clothes of the youngest of "Seven Angels" who have come to the terrestrial plane to bathe. They soon marry and have a child, but, years later, she returns to her celestial realm.[408] Another Sumatran tale is the story of Lidah Pahit and Puyang Bidodari (Putri Bungsu).[409]

Amongst the Karo people of Indonesia, the tale of hero Si Mandupa tells of his marriage with one of seven anak dibata ("children of divinity") by stealing her clothing. Some time later, her husband gives back her clothes and she flies back to heaven, which prompts an arduous quest to bring her back home.[410]

In a Madura tale, Aryo Menak (id), the titular hero marries one of seven "angels", named Tunjung Wulan. One day, the angel wife tells her husband not to visit her in the kitchen whenever she is cooking. He breaks this prohibition and she departs back to her sisters.[411][412]

In a tale from the Aceh region, Malim Dewa (id), published by M. J. Melalatoa and translated by Krishna, orphaned youth Malim Dewa ventures through a thick forest near the Pesangan river, in search of a golden-bodied maiden he saw in a dream. He dreams of seven golden-bodied maidens bathing and frolicking in a river nearby, then he wakes. He soon meets an old lady named Inen Keben, who reveals that the seven maidens bathe in Atu Pepangiren on Mondays and Thursdays, and tells him if she secures her garment, she shall remain on earth. The plan works and the maiden, named Putri Bensu, is taken by Inen as another companion. Malim and Putri Bensu meet in person, marry and have a son, named Amat Banta. One day, the child plays with the ashes in Inen's hut and Putri Bensu discovers her stolen garment. She dons it again and leaves the hut with the child back to the skies.[413]

In a tale from South Kalimantan, Telaga Bidadari, a man named Awang Sukma becomes a datu (a title of rulership). One day, when playing on his flute, he notices a noise nearby and goes to investigate. He sees seven angels or nymphs bathing in a lake (Sungai Raya or Bidadari Lake). He falls in love with the youngest and steals her garment. When it is time to depart, six of the women wear their clothes, but not the youngest, Putri Bungsu. They leave her there, but she is found by Awang Sukma. They marry and have a daughter named Kumalasari. Their happiness is short-lived when Putri Bungsu finds her stolen garment in the garden and flies back to the heavens.[414][415]

A similar story is reported to act as a foundational myth of the historical kingdoms of North Maluku: a man named Jafar Sadek arrives from Arabia to the coast of Tarnore. There, he sees seven bathing maidens (heavenly maidens), and falls in love with the youngest, named Nur Safa. He steals her winged robe and strands her on Earth. He hides her clothing, marries her and she bears him three sons and four daughters. One day, Nur Safa finds her garments and flies back to the skies, leaving her family behind. Jafar Sadek learns of her disappearance and is taken by an eagle to the Sky Realm. There, he meets his father-in-law and is put to a test: he must identify Nur Safa amid a parade of identical maidens.[416][417]

A story from the Bugis people attests the descent of seven celestial nymphs to bathe in an earthly lake, and a man that steals the garments of the youngest to make her his wife.[418]

Other tales are attested in the many traditions of the archipelago:[419][394] from the Island of Halmahera, the episode of "stealing maiden's clothing while in a bath" occurs as part of the quest of the youngest of seven brothers for a remedy for his father;[420] from the Island of Bali, the story of Rajapala and vidyadhari Ken Sulasih, parents of hero Durma;[421] the heroic poem Ajar Pikatan, narrating the quest for celestial maiden Suprabha;[422] The Legend of Pasir Kujang, from West Java;[394] Raja Omas and Mahligai Keloyang.[423]

East AsiaEdit

East Asian folkloric traditions also attest the occurrence of similar tales about celestial maidens.

A tale from Lew Chew sources tells of a farmer, Ming-Ling-Tzu, who owns a pristine fountain of the purest water, when he sights a maiden fair bathing in the water source and possibly soiling it.[424]

KoreaEdit

The Korean version of the "Celestial Bride" story corresponds to the folktale of The Fairy and the Woodcutter (Korean: Seonnyeowanamukkun or 선녀와 나무꾼).[425][426][427] Scholarship separates four kinds of narrative, according to the continuation of the story: (1) the celestial maiden escapes and never returns; (2) the husband reaches the celestial realm through a vine or another type of ladder to the upper world; (3) the husband reaches the upper realm and is forced to perform tasks for his wife's family; (4) the husband returns to Earth because he misses his mother. The third narrative is considered to be the most collected type of the tale in Korea.[428] Another classification focuses on the fate or decision of the celestial wife: she is stranded on Earth forever; she finds her flying garment and returns to the Heavens; she still finds the garment, but decides to stay for the sake of her child(ren).[429]

Regional talesEdit

A local version the "Cowherd and Weaver" story, titled Weaver and Herdsman: Chik-Nyo and Kyun-Woo, is related to the Chilseok festival.[430]

In the tale Son-Nyo the Nymph and the Woodcutter, a woodcutter lives at the foot of the Diamond Mountain, in Gangwon Province. In the woods, he hides a deer from a hunter. In gratitude, the deer tells she is the daughter of the Mountain God and directs the woodcutter to a pool where seven nymphs, the son-nyo, will bathe. He steals the robe of one of them and marries her. Years later, after the birth of their third child, the maiden insists on wearing her robe to show her children. The husband returns the robe and she flies back to the skies with the children. Dismayed, the deer tells him of a way to reach the skies: by entering a bucket they use to draw water from Earth. He does and reaches the Heavens to be with his wife and children. However, after a while, the woodcutter begins to feel homesick and wants to visit his mother, but his wife warns him that he might not return.[431] This tale is classified as type 400.[432]

ChinaEdit

Another related tale is the Chinese myth of the Cowherd and the Weaver Girl,[433][434] in which one of seven fairy sisters is taken as a wife by a cowherd who hid the seven sisters' robes; she becomes his wife because he sees her naked, and not so much due to his taking her robe.[435][436] In some versions of the story, the Cowherd character has a brother and a sister-in-law, and a buffalo guides the youth to the place where the heavenly maidens are bathing (either the Weaver Maiden alone, or a group of maidens).[437]

A similar story is the tale of Tian Xian Pei,[438][439] also known as "The Fairy Couple"; "The Marriage of the Fairy Princess" or "Dong Yong, the Filial Son".[440] According to professor Wilt Idema, there is a sequel to the story of Dong Yong, where his son, Dong Zhong, discovers his mother is the heavenly fairy who will come down to earth to bathe in the Anavatapta Pond. He is instructed to steal his mother's magical robe.[441]

Chinese literature attests an untitled version in Soushen Ji, as the fifteenth tale in Volume 14.[442][443]

JapanEdit

OverviewEdit

In the Japanese legend of Hagoromo, it is a heavenly spirit, or Tennin, whose robe is stolen.[444] This is also known as the Celestial Maiden or Tennin Nyoobo narrative,[445] and some tales even cross over with the legend of the Tanabata.[446][447] Professor Hazel Wigglesworth wrote that there were 46 versions of the tale collected in Japanese oral sources, and the oldest register of the tale is present in the Fudoki, an ancient book on provincial and oral accounts.[121]

Comparative scholarship on the Japanese variants points that at the beginning of the story, the human male goes near a lake for a variety of reasons (a prayer to the gods for a wife; a vision sent in a dream; a grateful animal points him the way). Over the course of the story, the human partner reaches the celestial realm where his wife and her family live. Once there, he is forced to perform tasks before they reunite. At the end of the narrative, the husband breaks a taboo (he should not eat a certain melon/gourd, but he does and is washed away) and he and his celestial wife are separated, only to reunite again during the night of July 7.[448]

Regional talesEdit

James Danandjaja related the Japanese tale of Amafuri Otome ("The Woman who came from the Sky"), as a similar tale of the unmarried mortal man, named Mikeran, who withholds the kimono from a bathing lady in exchange for her becoming his wife. He also compared it to the Swan Maiden and to the myth of The Cowherd and the Weaver.[449] As the tale continues, Mikeran fashions a thousand straw sandals to reach the sky world and find his wife. When he meets his parents-in-law, the father-in-law forces him to perform some tasks, and tricks the human with cutting a thousand watermelons in one day. The human's sky wife knows it is a trap, but he does it anyway and is washed away by a flood created from the watermelons. Thus, they can only meet on the night of the Tanabata festival.[449]

Tales collected from Ōmi Province (Ika no Woumi) and Suruga Province (Miho Matsubara) are close to the human husband/swan spouse narrative, whereas in a story from Tango Province (Taniha no Kori) it is an elderly couple who strand the celestial maiden on Earth and she becomes their adopted daughter to keep them company.[450] In addition, versions collected from Omi Province also show that the celestial maiden or divine fairy character became entwined locally with Shinto deity Sugawara no Michizane.[451]

A heavenly maiden with a hagoromo (a robe or garment) has also been proclaimed as ancestress of the Kirihata family. In this ancestor myth, the forefather is named Tayu Kirihata, who marries a celestial maiden.[452]

Northeast AsiaEdit

The Northeast Asia region (more specifically, Manchuria) also records the tale of the swan maiden, but in the form of the "Heavenly Maiden". In a published tale, the heavenly maiden descends to earth to bathe in a lake, marries a human man and becomes "the primeval ancestress of the Manchu".[158]

In one version of the origin of the Dörbed, a hunter climbs up Nidu Mountain, where a lake is located. When he approaches the body of water, he sees four "goddesses" playing in the water. He returns home to fetch a net, and climbs the mountain again. Lying in wait to spring a trap, he uses the net to capture one of the goddess while the other escaped back to the heavens. The goddess and the human marry, but later they must part, and she returns to her heavenly realm. Once there, she realizes she is pregnant, and descends to earth to give birth to her child, a boy. She sets a cradle for him on the tree branches and a bird to look after the child. Now finished, she flies back to the heavens.[453]

MelanesiaEdit

In a tale from the island of Efate, the "people of the sky" descend to earth to fish during the night, drop their white wings (inlailaita or "thin sails") on the shore, and leave before dawn. One day, a man witnesses their coming and, after they land, hides a pair of wings in the stem of a banana plant. After the sky-people finish their activities, they depart to the skies, except one woman, who was the owner of the pair of wings. She and the man marry and have two boys, Maka Tafaki and Karisi Bum. The human/sky girl relationship turns sour. Later, she regains the wings and returns to the skies. Their tale continues as the brothers reach the sky land years later and visit their grandmother. The tale also serves to explain the introduction of several types of yams among human populations.[454]

In a tale from New Hebrides, a man named Tagaro spies on winged women, named either Banewonowono ("web skin", possibly referring to bat-like wings), or Vinmara ("dove skin"), who descend to bathe in a lake. The man takes the wings of one of them. One day, when gathering yams, Tagaro's brothers scold her and she cries, her tears washing away the soil that covered the hiding place of her wings. She puts them on and returns to the skies.[455][456][457]

In a similar story from Maewo Island (Aurora Island), in Vanuatu (The Winged Wife), the hero's name is Qat. In this version of the story, the maiden from the sky has "bird-like" wings. After she is stranded on Earth, Qat's mother scolds her, she cries and finds her hidden pair of wings. She returns to the sky realm and her husband, Qat, goes after her.[458][459]

In a tale from New Guinea, originally collected by Jan de Vries and translated into Hungarian with the title A tíz égi asszony ("The Ten Celestial Women"), an old woman lived near a coral reef in Tidore, where ten women from heaven come to bathe. One day, a shipwrecked sailor is rescued by the old woman and told about the ten beautiful women that come to bathe. The man decides to spy on them. He decides to marry the youngest, so he hides her wings before she flies back to the skies (as the old woman advised) and gets her as his wife. She bears him two sons. While he away fishing for his family, the celestial wife finds her stolen pair of wings and returns to the skies. He asks he bird to help him reach the Sky Realm. There, he has to identify his true wife from a queue of identical sky woman, which he does. The man, then, is given an empty bamboo cane, filled with many types of cereal grains, and he must find the barley grains - a task he accomplished with the use of feathers. At last, he and his wife return to Earth, and their four sons become rajahs of Djilolo, Bahtjan, Ternate and Tidore.[460]

AfricaEdit

Southeast AfricaEdit

The narrative of the Sky-Maiden was collected in song form from the Ndau people, titled Legend and Song of the Sky-Maiden: the daughter of a powerful chief who lived in the sky and her attendants go down to Earth to bathe, and it becomes a dare amongst the royal princes to see who can fetch her plume/feather – the symbol of her otherwordliness. The victor is a poor man who, as a subversion of the common narrative, gets to live with his sky-wife in her abode.[461] A version of the tale in narrative form was given as The Sky-People (Vasagole) by Franz Boas and C. Kamba Simango in the Journal of American Folk-Lore.[462]

In Tshinyama's Heavenly Maidens, two winged maidens descend from the heavens to an earthly watering hole – an event witnessed by a mortal man.[463]

MadagascarEdit

In a Malagasy tale, obtained from Vàkin-Ankarãtra (The way in which Adrianòro obtained a wife from Heaven), the hero Adrianoro is informed that three maidens bathe in a lake, and tries to set a snare (trap) for them by shapeshifting into fruits or seeds.[464]

East AfricaEdit

Researcher E. Dora Earthy reported tales from the Lenge people about the "maidens from heaven": they marry mortal men and, depending on the tale, either escape back to Heaven or decide to remain with them.[465]

North AmericaEdit

In a Yuchi tale, A Hunter Who Captured a Woman from the Sky, collected in 1931, a man was hunting when he saw something descending from heavens carrying people with it, some pretty women among them. He captured and married one of the women.[466]

In a Creek tale from Alabama, The Celestial Skiff, recorded in 1929, a group of people descend from the sky in a canoe. At one time, a man manages to capture one woman of that group and has many children with her. Years later, the woman tries to climb onto the canoe to return to the sky.[467]

The Star Wife or Star WomenEdit

A third occurrence of the supernatural spouse from above is the Star Women. Scholars see a possible relation of this character with the Swan Maiden legend.[468]

Native AmericanEdit

The motif of the Star Maiden can be found in Native American folklore and mythology,[469] as the character of the Star Wife:[470] she usually descends from heaven in a basket along with her sisters to play in a prairie or to bathe in a lake, and a mortal male, entranced by her figure, plans to make her his own. It is later discovered that she is a maiden from the stars or a star herself who came down to Earth.[471][472][473]

In a Sioux legend, the human hunter marries the Star Wife and fathers a son. Mother and child escape to the Star-realm, but begin to miss the human father. Her father suggests they bring him there to reunite the family, and they do so.[474]

In a third variation, an inversion occurs: the hunter is taken in a basket to the Star-country in order to live with his Star Wife. However, he begins to miss his human mother. So, with the aid of a pair of red swan's wings for him and his wife, they return to the human world.[475]

In a tale attributed to the Wyandot people, seven Star Sisters (the Pleiades) descend to Earth in a basket. One day, a human hunter captures the youngest by her girdle while their sisters escape in the basket. The maiden promises to become the hunter's wife, but before that he must accompany her to the sky ("the Sun's lodge").[476]

In a tale from Canada, The Daughters of the Star, hunter Waupee, the White Hawk, manages to capture a maiden who descended from the sky in a wicker basket along with eleven other maidens.[477]

PeruEdit

In a Peruvian tale collected by ethnologue John Bierhorst [de] with the title The Boy who Rose to the Sky, a youth is sent to guard his family's potato plantation from whoever is stealing their yield. At night, three stars descend from the sky in form of glowing maidens. The youth captures one of them as the others escape, and makes her his wife. After some time, the star maiden flees from her human husband and returns to her sky realm. Still on Earth, the human husband decides to follow her and convinces a condor to take him there, by feeding the bird with two llamas on the way to the heavens. The llama meat is not enough to feed the condor, and the youth slices a bit of his leg to feed his transport on the last leg o of the journey. He meets his star wife once again, but has to return to earth after his wife expels him.[478]

PhilippinesEdit

In a tale collected from the "Nabaloi" (Ibaloi people, an indigenous ethnic group in the Philippines), The star wives, the stars themselves descend from heaven and bathe in a lake in Batan. The local males hide the stars' clothing, which allow the stars to fly, and marry them. Eventually the men grow old, but the stars retain their youth, regain their clothings and return to the skies.[479]

In another tale, from the Tinguian (Itneg people), in the Philippines, the star maiden Gaygayoma descends from the sky with other stars in a sugar-cane field to eat the produce. The plantation belong to a human named Aponitolau, who had a mortal wife, Aponibolinayen. One night, he goes to the fields to check on the bamboo fence and sees many stars, "dazzling lights" falling from the sky, and one that "looked like a flame of fire" who left her garment near the fence. The human farmer Aponitolau frightens the many stars, which return to the skies, and sits on the maiden's garment. She introduces herself as the daughter of Bagbagak and Sinag, two celestial beings, and reveals she wishes to take him as her husband.[480]

In a similar tale, among the Bontoc Igorot ("The Stars"), the stars descend to eat a sugar-cane plantation that belongs to a human farmer. The human captures the star maiden and marries her. After bearing him five sons, she spends her time sewing back her wings to wear them and return to the sky.[481]

Other supernatural womenEdit

EuropeEdit

Balkans: Vilas and SamovilasEdit

Similar characters to the Swan Maiden are attested in Greek and Balkanic traditions. These figures are known in South Slavic areas (namely, Slovenian, Slovak, Serbian and Croatian) as víla, in Bulgarian as samodiva and in Macedonian as samovila - all of them described as beautiful, otherworldly maidens who dance in groups in the forests.[482][483][484] In South Slavic folklore, these female beings can be forced to marry mortal men if they are able to secure a maiden's clothes, wings or accessories, which grants their magical powers. After the marriage, the fairy maiden either regains or discovers the stolen belonging, wears it and departs, leaving her human family behind.[485]

Romanian folklorist Marcu Beza noted that a story about a shepherd stealing a fairy maiden's clothes, marrying her and she later asking for them back "spread all over the Balkans", barring minor differences: the shepherd is described as a skilled flute player, and the garments are replaced by a kerchief, a veil, or a scarf.[486]

Commenting on a South Slavic tale collected by Friedrich Salomo Krauss, Walter Puchner noted the motif of the theft of the Vila (Neraida, in Greece)'s clothes occurred all over the Balkans.[487]

Scholarship draws attention to the fact that the Balkanic vilas are associated with the colour white, either in her clothes or in her physical appearance.[488][489] Likewise, British classicist H. J. Rose compared the Vila, who wears white garments, to the Greek neraidas: they are described as ἁσπροφὀραις ("bearing white clothes"), an inversion of the usual naked depiction of Greek nymphs of old.[490]

Scholars on the cultural history of the Balkan region have argued that these fairy- or nymph-like characters (Vilas, Samovilas, Samodivas, and Nereids) "in many respects" mirror similar figures of Graeco-Thracian origin,[491][492] and possibly originate from the belief in female nature spirits.[493][f]

BulgariaEdit

The counterpart to the Swan Maiden in the Bulgarian tale corpus is the Samodiva: ambivalent (both helpful and malevolent) ethereal maidens of great beauty, who appear in mountains and forests near water courses.[495] Their robes or wings can be stolen by humans to entrap them in the mortal realm.[496] As such, the international type ATU 400, "The Man on a Quest for the Lost Wife", is known in the Bulgarian Folktale Catalogue, organized by Liliana Daskalova, as "Самодива-Невяста" ("The Samodiva Bride").[497][487]

In a Bulgarian folk song, The Samodiva married against her will, three girls, not related to each other, doff their magical garments to bathe, but are seen by a shepherd that takes their clothing. Each girl separately try to plead and convince the youth to return the clothing. He does so – but only to the first two; the third maiden he chose to wed after she revealed she was an only child. After the wedding, the village insists she dances for the amusement of everyone else, but the samodiva says she cannot dance without her garment. Once her husband delivers her the clothing, she flies away.[498]

North MacedoniaEdit

Romanian author Marcu Beza reported a version of the tale "among the Vlach" of (then) Macedonia. In this story, a shepherd named Gógu plays his pipe, as a gathering of nymphs or fairies appear to dance to the song near a pool or a fountain. The ethereal maidens either take off their rings, counting them one by one, or their garments. In the version with the garments, the shepherd steals the maiden's garments and forces her to marry him. Some time after the wedding, during a celebration in the village, the maiden asks for her raiment back. She puts it on and vanishes back to the skies.[499] He also stated that this version is parallel to a Romanian tale titled Ion Buzdugan, collected by fellow folklorist I. C. Fundescu.[500]

In another Macedonian tale, The Shepherd and the Three Vilas (Ovčar i tri vile), a poor shepher takes his sheep to graze in the woods and spies on three maidens bathing. For three days, he spies, and on the third day, he steals their garments to convince one of them to marry him. The maidens reveals they are vilas, magical spirits of great power, and it will do him no good to marry one. Still, he insists on marrying one of them, and chooses the youngest. The young vila's sisters regain their garments and fly away, leaving the other maiden to her fate. She marries the young shepherd. One year later, during a celebration on the village, the local women invite the vila to dance with them the kolo. Since vila can only dance with their complete outfits, the vila wife asks his husband for it back. After the dance, the vila wife begins to ascend to the skies, but begs her husband to search for her in the village of Kuškundaljevo.[501] This tale was previously published by linguist August Leskien in German with the title Der Hirt und die drei Samovilen ("The Shepherd and the three Samovilas"), and sourced as from Bulgaria.[502] In regards to the location "Kuškundaleo", Leskien supposed the name was of Turkish origin, but his colleague professor Stumme presumed that the name was a compound term in Slavic, meaning "The Bird Catcher Village".[503]

RomaniaEdit

I. C. Fundescu collected a Romanian variant titled Ion Buzduganu: youth Ion works as a goatherd and walks into the forest one day. There, he sees three maidens bathing in a pool of crystalline water. He steals the garments of the first two maidens, who begs him to give it back. He gets the clothes of the third and youngest and makes her his wife. During a celebration in the village, the maiden asks for her garments back, so the people can see her dance. When she puts it, she says to her husband Ion he must seek her out, then disappears. Ion, now, has to go on a quest to win her back.[504]

Eastern EuropeEdit

In The Youth and the Vila, the youngest son, who is considered a fool by his two elder brothers, manages to pluck the golden hairs of a vila who has been eating the silver pears of his father's garden.[505] In a second tale, The Vila in the Golden Castle, a father asks his three sons to guard his flower garden at night, because swans have been eating the flowers (in reality, the vilas were). The youth plucks the hairs of one of the vilas, and she lives with him for a week, before she departs to the Golden Castle. The youth goes after her and, after reaching the Golden Castle, has to work for her old Vila mother before he marries her daughter. The tale ends with the youth and the vila escaping from the old Vila by throwing a magical object behind them (a comb that becomes a river).[506]

Greece: NeraidaEdit

The neraida appears in modern Greek folktales as a kind of supernatural wife, and gives its name to the homonymous type in the Catalogue of Greek Folktales: ATU 400, "The Neraïda".[507] She has been compared to the nymph, the female character of ancient Greek mythology.[508][509] She is said to inhabit water sources (rivers and wells),[510] similar to their ancient mythical counterpart, the Nereids (water nymphs).[511][512] However, in modern speech, the term also encompasses fairy maidens from mountains and woodlands.[513]

Greek folklorist Nicolaos Politis amassed a great amount of modern folkloric material regarding the neraida.[514] In modern tales from Greek tellers, the neraidas are said to dance at noon or at midnight; to have beautiful golden hair; to dress in white or rose garments and to appear wearing a veil on the head, or holding a handkerchief. Due to their beauty, young men are drawn to the neraidas and steal their veils or kerchiefs to force their stay in the mortal realm. The women marry these men, but later regain their piece of clothing back and disappear forever.[512][515][516] Greek scholar Anna Angeloupoulos terms this storyline The Stolen Scarf, one of four narratives involving the neraida. Also, this sequence is "the most frequent and stable introductory episode" in Greek variants of tale type 400.[517]

In a tale from Greece, a human goatherd named Demetros dances with ten fairies three nights, and in the third night, on a full moon, he dances with them and accidentally touches the handkerchief of Katena. Her companions abandon her to the mortal world and she becomes Demetros's wife, bearing him a daughter. For seven years, Demetros has hidden the handkerchief, until his wife Katena asks him for it. She takes the handkerchief and dances with it in a festival, taking the opportunity to return home and leave her mortal husband. Years later, their daughter follows her mother when she turns fifteen years old.[518]

Another introductory episode of the Greek variants is one Angeloupoulos dubbed The sisters of Alexander the Great. This refers to a pseudo-historical or mythological account about Alexander the Great and a quest for a water of life that grants immortality. His sister (or sisters) drinks it instead of him, is thrown in the sea and becomes a Gorgona, a half-human, half-fish creature with power over the storm who can sink boats and become birds. They approach ships to ask if Alexander still lives, and can only be appeased if answered positively. In one tale, a youth on a ship captures a gorgona three times (or three gorgonas) and beats her until she promises not to threaten any more ships. The youth then arrives on a deserted island and sees three birds that become human (or flying maidens) and steals their garments.[519][520] Richard MacGillivray Dawkins suggested that the modern Gorgona was a merging of three mythological characters (the Sirens, the Gorgons and the Scylla), and reported alternate tales where Alexander's sisters are replaced for his mother or a female lover.[521][g]

Middle East and Caucasus: The PeriEdit

It has been noted by Western writers that the character of the Peri (or Pari) of Persian and Islamic mythology, as a supernatural wife, shares similar traits with the swan maiden, in that the human male hides the Pari's wings and marries her. After some time, the Pari woman regains her wings and leaves her mortal husband.[523][524] Scholar Ulrich Marzolph (fa) indicates an Indo-Persian origin for the character, who was later integrated into the Arab fairy tale tradition.[525] The peri appears in Asia Minor, Central Asia, and was brought by the Turkic expansion to the Balkans, specifically to Bulgaria and (then) Macedonia.[526]

ArmeniaEdit

In the Armenian folktale Kush-Pari or The Bird-Peri, a prince seeks the titular Kush-Pari, a Houri-Pari or "Fairy-Bird" ("a nymph of paradise in the shape of a bird", "a golden human-headed bird ... radiant as the sun"), as a present to the king he serves. After being captured, the Kush-Pari reveals to the king she transforms into a maiden after undonning her feather cloak and proposes she becomes his queen after his servant rescues her maid and brings back the fiery mares. Kush-Pari intends to use the fiery mares' milk for a special ritual: the king dies, but the prince survives, who she marries. At the end of the story, her new husband tells his wife that his father is blinded, but she reveals she was the cause for his blindness.[527][528][529] Author Leon Surmelian noted that this Houri-Pari was a "fiery creature", a maiden of great beauty.[530]

IranEdit

In a Persian story, The Merchant's Son and the Peries, the peris of lore take off their garments and assume human form to bathe in the water, until a young man gets their clothes to force one of them to be his wife. The peris try to convince him not to, as they are "creatures of fire" and he, a human, is "made of water and clay".[531]

In the tale Prince Yousef of the Fairies and King Ahmad or its Russian translation by professor Mahomed-Nuri Osmanovich Osmanov [ru], "Юсуф — шах пери и Малек-Ахмад" ("Yusuf, the Shah of the Peris and Malek-Ahmad"), a prince named Malek-Ahmad marries his sisters to three animals (a lion, a wolf and an eagle), and leaves home. He takes shelter with a Div-family. The Div-matriarch gives Malek-Ahmad a set of keys and forbids him to open two doors. He does anyway: behind the first door, he releases a prisoner named Yusuf, the Shah of the Peris, who flies back to Mount Qaf; behind the second, he finds a garden where three doves become maidens by taking off their clothes. Malek-Ahmad hides the clothing of the youngest dove-maiden (identified as a "Peri" in the story), while her sisters depart. Malek-Ahmad marries the dove-maiden and she bears two sons. Some time later, they reach a village where he celebrates his wedding with the peri. However, his peri-wife notices that some luti intend to kill him and his sons and kidnap her, so she convinces him to return her belongings. The peri-wife puts on the garments, begs her husband to come find her on Mount Qaf and flies away with her children. After a long journey, he reaches Mount Qaf, where he finds his peri wife, his sons and her brother Yusuf, the Shah of the Peris.[532][533]

Popular cultureEdit

Literature and fantasy novelsEdit

Russian Romantic writer Vasily Zhukovsky developed the theme of the bird maiden in his poem "Сказка о царе Берендее" ("The Tale of Tsar Berendey" (ru)), published in 1833. The tale tells the epic story of mythical Tsar Berendey who is forced to promise his son, Ivan Tsarevich, to evil sorcerer Koschei. Years later, Ivan Tsarevich reaches the shores of a lake and sees thirty grey ducks diving in the lake. In fact, they are the daughters of Koschei, and one of them is Marya Tsarevna.[534]

Modern writer Rosamund Marriott Watson, under the nom-de-plume Graham R. Tomson, wrote a ballad from the point of view of an Inuit hunter who marries the grey gull maiden and laments her departure.[535][536]

Victorian novelist and translator William Morris wrote his poetic ouvre The Earthly Paradise, in which there is a narration by a bard of the romance between a human and a swan maiden, comprising an episode of the poem The Land East of the Sun and West of the Moon.[537][538][539]

Folklorist Lafcadio Hearn adapted the Inuit legend of the bird wife (gull maiden) for his book Stray leaves from strange literature.[540]

Pop culture appearances include modern novels of the fantasy genre such as Three Hearts and Three Lions and the "swanmanes" in the Anita Blake series (such as Kaspar Gunderson). They are also called swan mays or swanmays in fantasy fiction and Dungeons and Dragons. In the Mercedes Lackey book Fortune's Fool, one swan maiden (named Yulya) from a flock of six is kidnapped by a Jinn.

Film and animationEdit

The animal bride theme is explored in an animated film called The Red Turtle (2016).

Princess Pari Banu from the 1926 German silhouette animation film The Adventures of Prince Achmed appears very similar to a swan maiden, having a peacock skin that transforms her and her handmaids, though she is referred to as a fairy or genie, in the original 1001 Nights.

Modern appearances of the swan maiden include television such as Astroboy Episode 5.

An episode of children's television programming Super Why adapted the tale of the Swan Maiden.

The tale The Green Man of Knowledge was adapted into an episode of the series Animated Tales of the World.[541]

The second movie of Inuyasha features the celestial robe/hagoromo coveted by a beautiful woman who claims to be an immortal heavenly being named Kaguya, who is based on the Princess of the Moon in The Tale of the Bamboo Cuter.

Eastern mediaEdit

The anime/manga Ceres, Celestial Legend (Ayashi no Ceres) by Yu Watase is a similar story about an angel whose magic source is stolen as she bathes and she becomes wife to the man who stole it. The story follows one of her descendants, sixteen-year-old Aya Mikage, now carrying the angel's vengeful spirit who has been reborn inside her. The Progenitor of the Mikage family and Ceres' human husband and the one who had stolen and hidden her celestial robe (hagoromo), thus stranding her on Earth, has been reborn within Aki Mikage, Aya's twin brother.

The manhwa Faeries' Landing translates the Korean folktale of The Fairy and the Woodcutter to a modern setting.

Video gamesEdit

The theme is also explored in modern fantasy video game Heroine's Quest.

The eleventh installment of hidden object game series Dark Parables (The Swan Princess and the Dire Tree), published by Eipix mixes the motif of the swan maidens and the medieval tale of The Knight of the Swan. The sixteenth installment, Portrait of the Stained Princess, introduces the Knight of Swan himself, enchanted to never reveal his true name to his beloved.

In the videogame LOOM by Lucasfilm the main character belongs to a tribe of spellcrafters (the weavers) able to switch between human and swan form. The spell to become a swan achieved later in the game.

See alsoEdit

FootnotesEdit

  1. ^ On a related note, scholarship stated that the color green is associated with supernatural beings in British and Celtic traditions, and also the color of clothing for the fairy folk in these regions.[23][24]
  2. ^ The swan maiden has also been compared to the "Donkey-Girl" or "Donkey-Maiden" of Hausa folklore, in Africa.[165][166]
  3. ^ "The origin of the "Swan-maiden" is closely connected with the "heavenly nymph", but it is not exactly the same (...)"[349]
  4. ^ Its collectors supposed this story originated from an Indian source, since the hero's name reminded them of Sarat-Kumar.[364]
  5. ^ As remarked by Indonesian scholarship, the number of nymphs or heavenvly maidens vary according to region: three, five, eight, nine, ten, twelve, even 39 or 41.[392]
  6. ^ Éva Pócs treats them as remnants of ancient fairy cults of Southern Europe.[494]
  7. ^ In another article, Dawkins claims the oldest version of the tale involves Alexander's daughter, later versions replacing her for his sister.[522]

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ "Literary Sources of D&D". Archived from the original on 9 December 2007. Retrieved 23 February 2007.
  2. ^ a b c Thompson (1977), p. 88.
  3. ^ Thompson (1977), 88, note 2.
  4. ^ a b c d Hartland, E. Sidney. "THE PHYSICIANS OF MYDDFAI." The Archaeological Review 1, no. 1 (1888): 25. Accessed 6 April 2021. http://www.jstor.org/stable/24707779.
  5. ^ Beza, Marcu. "The Sacred Marriage in Roumanian Folklore". In: The Slavonic Review 4, no. 11 (1925): 324-325. Accessed September 3, 2021. http://www.jstor.org/stable/4201965.
  6. ^ Leavy, Barbara Fass. In Search of the Swan Maiden: A Narrative on Folklore and Gender. NYU Press, 1994. p. 198. http://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt9qg995.9.
  7. ^ Gimbutas, Marija; Miriam Robbins Dexter (1999). The Living Goddesses. University of California Press. p. 194. ISBN 0-520-22915-0.
  8. ^ a b Grimm, Jacob (1880). Teutonic Mythology. Vol. 1. James Steven Stallybrass (tr.). W. Swan Sonnenschein & Allen. pp. 426-427.
  9. ^ Benoit, Jérémie (1989). "Le Cygne et la Valkyrie. Dévaluation d'un mythe". Romantisme. 19 (64): 69–84. doi:10.3406/roman.1989.5588.
  10. ^ Cox, Marian Roalfe. An introduction to Folk-Lore. London: Charles Scribner's Sons. 1895. p. 120.
  11. ^ Chantepie de La Saussaye, P. D. The Religion of the Ancient Teutons. Translated from the Dutch by Bert J. Vos. Boston; London: Ginn & Company. 1902. pp. 311–312.
  12. ^ Hertz, Wilhelm. Gedichte. Hoffman und Campe. 1859. pp. 190–201.
  13. ^ Leland, Charles Godfrey. Legends of the Birds. New York: H. Holt & co. 1874. p. 6 (footnote nr 1).
  14. ^ a b Grimm, Jacob (1880). Teutonic Mythology. Vol. 1. James Steven Stallybrass (tr.). W. Swan Sonnenschein & Allen. p. 427.
  15. ^ Pyle, Howard; Pyle, Katharine. The Wonder Clock: Or, Four & Twenty Marvellous Tales, Being One for Each Hour of the Day. New York: Printed by Harper & Brothers. 1915 (1887). pp. 231–240.
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Further readingEdit

  • Leavy, Barbara Fass (1994). "Urvaśī and the Swan Maidens". In Search of the Swan Maiden. NYU Press. pp. 33–63. JSTOR j.ctt9qg995.5.
  • Leavy, Barbara Fass (1994). "Swan Maiden and Incubus". In Search of the Swan Maiden. NYU Press. pp. 156–195. JSTOR j.ctt9qg995.8.
  • Leavy, Barbara Fass (1994). "The Animal Bride". In Search of the Swan Maiden. NYU Press. pp. 196–244. JSTOR j.ctt9qg995.9.
  • Burson, Anne (1983). "Swan Maidens and Smiths: A Structural Study of "Völundarkviða"". Scandinavian Studies. 55 (1): 1–19. JSTOR 40918267.
  • Grange, Isabelle (1983). "Métamorphoses chrétiennes des femmes-cygnes: Du folklore à l'hagiographie". Ethnologie Française. 13 (2): 139–150. JSTOR 40988761.
  • Hartland, E. Sidney. The science of fairy tales: An inquiry into fairy mythology. London: W. Scott. pp. 255–332.
  • Holmström, H. (1919). Studier över svanjungfrumotivet i Volundarkvida och annorstädes (A study on the motif of the swan maiden in Volundarkvida, with annotations). Malmö: Maiander.
  • Kleivan, Inge. The Swan Maiden Myth Among the Eskimo. København: Ejnar Munksgaard. 1962.
  • Kobayashi, Fumihiko (2007). "The Forbidden Love in Nature. Analysis of the "Animal Wife" Folktale in Terms of Content Level, Structural Level, and Semantic Level". Folklore: Electronic Journal of Folklore. 36: 141–152. doi:10.7592/FEJF2007.36.kobayashi.
  • Kovalchuk, Lidia (2018). "Conceptual Integration of Swan Maiden Image in Russian and English Fairytales". The European Proceedings of Social and Behavioural Sciences: 68–74. doi:10.15405/epsbs.2018.04.02.10. {{cite journal}}: Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  • Mänchen-Helfen, Otto (1936). "Das Märchen von der Schwanenjungfrau in Japan". T'oung Pao. 32 (1): 1–14. doi:10.1163/156853236X00010. JSTOR 4527075.
  • Newell, W. W. (1893). "Lady Featherflight. An English Folk-Tale". The Journal of American Folklore. 6 (20): 54–62. doi:10.2307/534281. JSTOR 534281.
  • Newell, W. W. (1903). "Sources of Shakespeare's Tempest". The Journal of American Folklore. 16 (63): 234–257. doi:10.2307/533373. JSTOR 533373.
  • Peterson, Martin Severin (1930). "Some Scandinavian Elements in a Micmac Swan Maiden Story". Scandinavian Studies and Notes. 11 (4): 135–138. JSTOR 40915312.
  • Petkova, G. (2009). "Propp and the Japanese folklore: Applying morphological parsing to answer questions concerning the specifics of the Japanese fairy tale". doi:10.5167/uzh-23802. {{cite journal}}: Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  • Tawney, Charles Henry. The ocean of story, being C.H. Tawney's translation of Somadeva's Katha sarit sagara (or Ocean of streams of story). Book 8. London, Priv. print. for subscribers only by C.J. Sawyer. 1924–1928. Appendix I. pp. 213–234.
  • Thomson, Stith. Tales of the North American Indians. 1929. pp. 150–174.
  • Tuzin, Donald F. The Cassowary's Revenge: The life and death of masculinity in a New Guinea society. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. 1997. pp. 68–89.
  • Utley, Francis Lee; Austerlitz, Robert; Bauman, Richard; Bolton, Ralph; Count, Earl W.; Dundes, Alan; Erickson, Vincent; Farmer, Malcolm F.; Fischer, J. L.; Hultkrantz, Åke; Kelley, David H.; Peek, Philip M.; Pretty, Graeme; Rachlin, C. K.; Tepper, J. (1974). "The Migration of Folktales: Four Channels to the Americas [and Comments and Reply]". Current Anthropology. 15 (1): 5–27. doi:10.1086/201428. JSTOR 2740874. S2CID 144105176.
  • Wrigglesworth, Hazel J. The Maiden of Many Nations: the Skymaiden Who Married a Man From Earth. Manila: Linguistic Society of the Philippines, 1991.
  • Young, Serinity. Women who fly: goddesses, witches, mystics, and other airborne females. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 2018. ISBN 978-0195307887
  • Agundes Garcia, J. Luis. "Cuentos de tradición oral (Parte I)". In: Revista Folklore, nº 212, pp. 39–47, 1998.
  • 홍성용 and 이시준 [Hong Seongyong; Lee, Si-Jun]. "일본의〈천인각시〉설화 유형에 관한 통시적 고찰 - 한국의〈나무꾼과 선녀〉설화와 의 비교를 시야에 넣고" [Diachronic Consideration on Japanese〈A Heavenly being wife〉Tale type - Focus on comparison with Korean 〈A fairy and a woodman〉]. In: 외국문학연구 no. 61 (2016): 527–548. UCI: G704-000727.2016..61.021
  • Bao Hasi. "The Comparative Study of Mongolian and Manchu Swan Maiden Myth". In: Journal of Inner Mongolia Normal University (Philo) Year 2012, Issue 4. pp. 63–70.
  • 장두식 [Dusik Chang]. "몽골의 「백조 소녀」형 설화의 전승양상 연구" [A Study on the transformation pattern of Mongolian 'Swan Maiden' type folktales]. In: 몽골학 15 (2003): 137–156. UCI : G704-000803.2003.15..004
  • 이지희 [Lee Jihee]. "滿族의 천녀 시조모와 ‘天女之子’형 시조신화" [On a heavenly mother of Manchu primogenitor and ‘a heavenly maiden's son’ type myth]. In: 중국문학연구 no. 44 (2011): 1-26. UCI: G704-000480.2011..44.006

External linksEdit