Continuing with the Shapeshifters World Tour, I've crossed the channel from Scotland to Eastern Europe to explore the myth of the Swan Maidens.
As with most myths we've explored before, there are a variety of swan maiden myths spread across various cultures from Scandanavia to Germany to Japan. However, the majority of myths about Swan Maidens appear to be European in origin.
|From Europa's Fairy Book|
The myth is most popularly portrayed by the ballet, Swan Lake with one crucial difference. The man and maiden in this ballet are truly in love and sacrifice themselves in order to stay together.
I especially enjoyed the variety of swan maiden stories contained on this website - http://www.pitt.edu/~dash/swan.html#contents.
What I find intriguing about this and some of the other shapeshifting myths is how a magical creature could make themselves so vulnerable as to shed the key to their freedom and then leave it lying around where a covetous human can steal it away from them. I guess when you're a magical creature, you can be as careless as any human, but it seems odd.
If you remove the stupidity factor (sorry, shapeshifters, but I'm calling a spade a spade here), the other fact that captures my imagination is that many of these shapeshifter myths seem to feature beautiful females being captured by human males and forced into marriage/motherhood. Consider selkies, kitsunes, and now swan maidens.
In light of this forced slavery, I am hard-pressed to be upset by the fact that when these females regain possession of their stolen skins, they leave the male without a backward glance. (Okay, there is the issue of their abandonment of their children, but since they are usually magical creatures only temporarily human, the concept of human attachment cannot apply). Heck, I'm surprised the females don't turn on the males in retribution, but perhaps the small, gentle or defenseless animal personas are not pure happenstance, eh? Seals? Swans? Foxes?
What do you think? Heartless Hussies or Escaping Victims?
Well, that's all for this month. Next month will be the final stop on our Shapeshifter World Tour and will bring us back to the Americas with an exploration of Skinwalkers.
Please feel free to leave me your thoughts about some of the questions I've raised or about the Shapeshifter World Tour in general. Or just say hello.
Denise Golinowski is a reader and writer of fantasy and romance. Collector's Item has been released by The Wild Rose Press exclusively on the Kindle and will be available in all electronic formats on May 17th, 2013!
Her first enovella, The Festival of the Flowers: The Courtesan and the Scholar is also available through the Wild Rose Press. You can visit her blog at Golinowski's Gambol.