The Swan Maidens

: Europa's Fairy Book

There was once a hunter who used often to spend the whole night

stalking the deer or setting traps for game. Now it happened one night

that he was watching in a clump of bushes near the lake for some wild

ducks that he wished to trap. Suddenly he heard, high up in the air, a

whirring of wings and thought the ducks were coming; and he strung his

bow and got ready his arrows. But instead of ducks there appeared

seven mai
ens all clad in robes made of feathers, and they alighted on

the banks of the lake, and taking off their robes plunged into the

waters and bathed and sported in the lake. They were all beautiful,

but of them all the youngest and smallest pleased most the hunter's

eye, and he crept forward from the bushes and seized her dress of

plumage and took it back with him into the bushes.

After the swan maidens had bathed and sported to their heart's

delight, they came back to the bank wishing to put on their feather

robes again; and the six eldest found theirs, but the youngest could

not find hers. They searched and they searched till at last the dawn

began to appear, and the six sisters called out to her:

"We must away; 'tis the dawn; you meet your fate whatever it be." And

with that they donned their robes and flew away, and away, and away.

When the hunter saw them fly away he came forward with the feather

robe in his hand; and the swan maiden begged and begged that he would

give her back her robe. He gave her his cloak but would not give her

her robe, feeling that she would fly away. And he made her promise to

marry him, and took her home, and hid her feather robe where she could

not find it. So they were married and lived happily together and had

two fine children, a boy and a girl, who grew up strong and beautiful;

and their mother loved them with all her heart.

One day her little daughter was playing at hide-and-seek with her

brother, and she went behind the wainscoting to hide herself, and

found there a robe all made of feathers, and took it to her mother. As

soon as she saw it she put it on and said to her daughter:

"Tell father that if he wishes to see me again he must find me in the

Land East o' the Sun and West o' the Moon;" and with that she flew


When the hunter came home next morning his little daughter told him

what had happened and what her mother said. So he set out to find his

wife in the Land East o' the Sun and West o' the Moon. And he wandered

for many days till he came across an old man who had fallen on the

ground, and he lifted him up and helped him to a seat and tended him

till he felt better.

Then the old man asked him what he was doing and where he was going.

And he told him all about the swan maidens and his wife, and he asked

the old man if he had heard of the Land East o' the Sun and West o'

the Moon.

And the old man said: "No, but I can ask."

Then he uttered a shrill whistle and soon all the plain in front of

them was filled with all of the beasts of the world, for the old man

was no less than the King of the Beasts.

And he called out to them: "Who is there here that knows where the

Land is East o' the Sun and West o' the Moon?" But none of the beasts


Then the old man said to the hunter: "You must go seek my brother who

is the King of the Birds," and told him how to find his brother.

And after a time he found the King of the Birds, and told him what he

wanted. So the King of the Birds whistled loud and shrill, and soon

the sky was darkened with all the birds of the air, who came around

him. Then he asked:

"Which of you knows where is the Land East o' the Sun and West o' the


And none answered, and the King of the Birds said:

"Then you must consult my brother the King of the Fishes," and he told

him how to find him.

And the hunter went on, and he went on, and he went on, till he came

to the King of the Fishes, and he told him what he wanted. And the

King of the Fishes went to the shore of the sea and summoned all the

fishes of the sea. And when they came around him he called out:

"Which of you knows where is the Land East o' the Sun and West o' the


And none of them answered, till at last a dolphin that had come late

called out:

"I have heard that at the top of the Crystal Mountain lies the Land

East o' the Sun and West o' the Moon; but how to get there I know not

save that it is near the Wild Forest."

So the hunter thanked the King of the Fishes and went to the Wild

Forest. And as he got near there he found two men quarrelling, and as

he came near they came towards him and asked him to settle their


"Now what is it?" said the hunter.

"Our father has just died and he has left but two things, this cap

which, whenever you wear it, nobody can see you, and these shoon,

which will carry you through the air to whatever place you will. Now I

being the elder claim the right of choice, which of these two I shall

have; and he declares that, as the younger, he has the right to the

shoon. Which do you think is right?"

So the hunter thought and thought, and at last he said:

"It is difficult to decide, but the best thing I can think of is for

you to race from here to that tree yonder, and whoever gets back to me

first I will hand him either the shoes or the cap, whichever he


So he took the shoes in one hand and the cap in the other, and waited

till they had started off running towards the tree. And as soon as

they had started running towards the tree he put on the shoes of

swiftness and placed the invisible cap on his head and wished himself

in the Land East o' the Sun and West o' the Moon. And he flew, and he

flew, and he flew, over seven Bends, and seven Glens, and seven

Mountain Moors, till at last he came to the Crystal Mountain. And on

the top of that, as the dolphin had said, there was the Land East o'

the Sun and West o' the Moon.

Now when he got there he took off his invisible cap and shoes of

swiftness and asked who ruled over the Land; and he was told that

there was a King who had seven daughters who dressed in swans'

feathers and flew wherever they wished.

Then the hunter knew that he had come to the Land of his wife. And he

went boldly to the King and said:

"Hail O King, I have come to seek my wife."

And the King said, "Who is she?"

And the hunter said, "Your youngest daughter." Then he told him how he

had won her.

Then the King said: "If you can tell her from her sisters then I know

that what you say is true." And he summoned his seven daughters to

him, and there they all were, dressed in their robes of feathers and

looking each like all the rest.

So the hunter said: "If I may take each of them by the hand I will

surely know my wife"; for when she had dwelt with him she had sewn the

little shifts and dresses of her children, and the forefinger of her

right hand had the marks of the needle.

And when he had taken the hand of each of the swan maidens he soon

found which was his wife and claimed her for his own. Then the King

gave them great gifts and sent them by a sure way down the Crystal


And after a while they reached home, and lived happily together ever