History of creation
The tale “The Wild Swans” was written by 33-year-old Andersen in 1838 and was included in the collection “Fairy Tales Told for Children.” When creating the tale, Andersen relied on the tales of the Brothers Grimm and the Irish legend of a sister and two brothers turned by a stepmother into swans.
Literary direction and genre
“The Wild Swans” is one of the most romantic in the broad sense of the word fairy tales of Andersen. The basis of this literary tale is a folklore plot. It plays out the folklore motifs of an evil stepmother, a sorceress, an agreed and mutilated beautiful stepdaughter, children turned by a curse into birds, an enchanted beauty who is in love with a poor girl of the king. Andersen rethinks folklore plots, filling the classical idea of any tale about the victory of good over evil with psychological and philosophical meanings.
Romantic trends coincide in many respects with the canon of a fairy tale. The action takes place in a distant country, in which swallows fly away for the winter. All 12 children of the king are exiles. The country where the swan princes live is far away, but as beautiful as the homeland. Not only the stepmother, but also the father does not accept children. The exclusivity of the characters is emphasized by their unusual appearance: swans with crowns on their heads and magically stained Elisa. Magic separates heroes from ordinary people. Swans are beautiful and noble birds, but this feature of the brothers makes them helpless. Silence is not ugliness, Eliza remains beautiful, but she cannot justify herself. Thus, the heroes of the tale are similar to romantic heroes who confront not only evil, but also the crowd incited by the evil. In the finale, people take the side of heroes, this is already according to the laws of a fairy tale.
Theme and issues
“The Wild Swans” is one of Andersen’s most touching tales. This is a tale of love and hate. Even years do not weaken the love of Eliza and the brothers, and the father refuses Eliza at the first slip of the tongue. The stepmother hates her husband’s children for no reason. The king of a distant land loves Eliza for her beauty and kind heart, not caring about her origin. But he is forced to submit to the will of the people. This is the problem of choosing between feeling and duty.
The plot and composition
The plot of the author’s tale, despite the abundance of folklore motifs. The exposition is a story about the happy life of the princes and Eliza in their native castle. The plot begins with the arrival of an evil stepmother. Unlike a folk tale, there are several climaxes, so the reader follows the plot with unflagging attention. Eliza happily avoids her stepmother’s witchcraft. Finding her brothers, she almost dies with them on a tiny island in the middle of the ocean, where they are forced to land at sunset, already turning into people.
Another climax occurs when Eliza finds herself in a castle without her shirts and loses hope of saving her brothers. The main climax is related to the execution of Eliza as a witch. In the denouement, good conquers evil, and the transformation of firewood logs into blooming roses is God’s miracle, confirming the innocence of the princess.
According to the law of a fairy tale, Eliza has a magical assistant – a fairy from the air castle of Fata Morgana, which tells how Eliza can save her brothers.
Heroes of a fairy tale
The heroes of the tale, in contrast to folk heroes, resemble ordinary people. The princes go to school and write with a stylus on the boards, even though they are diamond and the boards are gold. Eliza sits on a small bench and looks at pictures in a book, even though the book is half the kingdom. In her impoverished period of her life, Eliza plays with a sheet in which she pierced a hole, as peasant children do.
The royal children are so bright and pure that even witchcraft is powerless against them. The stepmother wanted to convert the princes into black mute birds, but they became wild swans, and this appearance corresponded to their nature.
Eliza is even cleaner than the brothers. She is more beautiful than roses and more devout than the hymnals. Both the flowers and the book themselves acknowledge this. The Queen is unable to convert Eliza into a swan. With the help of enchanted toads, the stepmother is going to turn Eliza into a dull and lazy, ugly and malevolent. But the inner purity of the girl did not allow witchcraft to take place. Eliza did not even notice the toads. They turned into red roses, which symbolized her piety and innocence. Against such qualities, only physical dirt is suitable, which misleads the king, but not a dog or swallows.
Eliza’s piety is reflected in her affairs. She not only trusts God, knowing that he will not leave her, feed her, but also knows how to be grateful, even props up the branches of the apple tree with chopsticks.
Eliza lives in harmony with the elements, whether it be a dense forest, the ever-diverse sea or sky. She knows how to love with sacrificial love, for the sake of her brothers she is ready to die and sincerely loves the good king.
The handsome king who found Eliza in a forest cave is kind and fair. He falls in love with Eliza at first sight, and from that moment he guards the “lovely child”. He does not believe the archbishop’s libel, doesn’t try to “raise” a forest beauty, but takes care of her happiness by arranging a room that looks like a forest cave, allowing Eliza to do a strange thing – weaving nettle shirts.
Only with his own eyes saw Eliza in the cemetery among the witches sitting on the graves, the king agreed to give her to the people. But God’s court prevented the execution of the popular sentence.
Andersen, like many brilliant creators, had the ability to foresee the future. This ability in a fairy tale manifested itself in detail. Elise dreams of a book with live pictures.
This is not even a movie or a computer game. This is like holograms. Such books were described by Joan Rowling in the wizarding world of Harry Potter.
An exciting sharp plot with several climaxes is combined with the romantic landscape of a summer night or morning forest, a choppy sea. Andersen’s images are bright and distinctive: the waves heave like the breasts of a sleeping child (comparison), the trees weave the branches with the branches of the brothers (personification), the waves work, grinding the boulders (personification).