Six Swans | Modern Interpretations

The story of Six Swans and its themes have appeared in literature and other forms of art. This page provides a small discussion of some of the better known treatments by authors and other artists.Novels produced by romance publishers are not listed on this page, but can be found on Romance Novels: Fairy Tale Romances at Six Swans.

Modern Interpretations

A Tale Dark and Grimm by Adam Gidwitz

Gidwitz, Adam. A Tale Dark and Grimm. New York: Dutton Juvenile, 2010. Buy the book in ebook or hardcover or paperback.

NOVEL: Reader, beware!

Warlocks with dark spells, hunters with deadly aim, and bakers with ovens retro-fitted for baking children lurk within these pages.

But if you dare,

Follow Hansel and Gretel as they walk out of their own story and into the wilds—where magic, terror, and a little bit of humor shine like white pebbles lighting the way.

Come on in. It may be frightening, and it’s certainly bloody, but, unlike those other fairy tales you know, this one is true.
Once upon a time, you see, fairy tales were awesome.

In this mischievous and utterly original debut, Hansel and Gretel walk out of their own story and into eight other classic Grimm–inspired tales. As readers follow the siblings through a forest brimming with menacing foes, they learn the true story behind (and beyond) the bread crumbs, edible houses, and outwitted witches.

Fairy tales have never been more irreverent or subversive as Hansel and Gretel learn to take charge of their destinies and become the clever architects of their own happily ever after.


Seventh Swan by Nicholas Stuart Gray

Gray, Nicholas Stuart. The Seventh Swan. London: Dennis Dobson, 1962. Buy the book in paperback.

NOVEL: Presents the story of the brother left with a wing instead of an arm after his sister rescues him with his brothers.


Jarrett, David . Witherwing. New York: Warner Books, 1979. Buy the book in paperback.

NOVEL: Fantasy.

Wild Swans by Peg Kerr

Kerr, Peg. The Wild Swans. New York: Warner Books, 1999. Buy the book in paperback.

NOVEL: Two different interweaving stories that mirror each other in theme and character study. The first story starts in 1689 England, where 15-year-old Eliza finds her 11 brothers turned into enchanted swans. Rejected by her father, Eliza is flown to America by her brothers. There, Eliza has a chance of saving her brothers, until she is accused of witchcraft-and now must fight for her own life. In the second story, Elias, a young man living with AIDS in the 1980s, is also rejected by his family and must learn to live life on the streets. With his new companion Sean, Elias finally finds personal acceptance amid the ostracism of a scorning public. Like Eliza before him, Elias struggles to understand the needless suffering he must endure.

Goose Chase by Patrice Kindl

Kindl, Patrice. Goose Chase. New York: Houghton Mifflin, 2001. Buy the book in hardcover or paperback.

NOVEL: "Her name is Alexandria Aurora Fortunato, and she is as lovely as the dawn. But that is only one of her problems. There's also the matter of those three magical gifts of treasure bestowed on her by a mysterious old woman. And King Claudio the Cruel wants to marry her for her beauty and her wealth, and so does his rival, Prince Edmund of Dorloo. Those are two more problems. And, worst of all, she is locked in a tower, with a grille of iron bars and several hundred tons of stone between her and freedom. Some days Alexandria wishes she looked like a pickled onion. Clearly the only thing to do is escape -- and, with the aid of her twelve darling goose companions, that's precisely what Alexandria does."

Daughter of the Forest by Juliet Marillier

Marillier, Juliet. Daughter of the Forest. New York: Tor, 2000. Buy the book in hardcover or paperback.

NOVEL: A beautiful retelling of the Celtic "Swans" myth, Daughter of the Forest is a mixture of history and fantasy, myth and magic, legend and love... To reclaim the lives of her brothers, Sorcha leaves the only safe place she has ever known and embarks on a journey filled with pain, loss and terror. When she is kidnapped by enemy forces and taken to a foreign land, it seems that there will be no way for Sorcha to break the spell that condemns all that she loves. But magic knows no boundaries, and sorcha will have to choose between the live she has always known and a love that comes only once.

Marillier is also the author of Heart's Blood (Beauty and the Beast) and Wildwood Dancing (Twelve Dancing Princesses).

The Swan Kingdom by Zoë MarriottThe Swan Kingdom by Zoë Marriott

Marriott, Zöe. The Swan Kingdom. Cambridge, MA: Candlewick, 2008. Buy the book in hardcover.

NOVEL: Retells The Wild Swans. From the publisher: "Shadows fall across the beautiful, lush kingdom after the queen is attacked by an unnatural beast, and the healing skills of her daughter, Alexandra, cannot save her. Too soon the widowed king is spellbound by a frightening stranger, a woman whose eyes reflect no light. In a terrifying moment, all Alexandra knows disappears, including her beloved brothers, leaving her banished to a barren land. But Alexandra has more gifts than she realizes as she confronts magic, murder, and the strongest of evil forces, and is unflinchingly brave as she struggles to reclaim what is rightfully hers."

Birdwing by Rafe Martin

Martin, Rafe. Birdwing. New York: Arthur A. Levine, 2005. Buy the book in hardcover.

NOVEL: "Once upon a time, a girl rescued her six brothers from a spell that had turned them into swans. But one boy, Ardwin, was left with the scar of the spell's last gasp: one arm remained a wing. And while Ardwin yearned to find a place in his father's kingdom, the wing whispered to him of open sky and rushing wind. Marked by difference, Ardwin sets out to discover who he is: bird or boy, crippled or sound, cursed or blessed. But followed by the cold eye of a sorceress and with war rumbling at his kingdom's borders, Ardwin's path may lead him not to enlightenment, but into unimaginable danger."

Swan's Wing by Ursula Synge

Synge, Ursula. Swan's Wing. London: Bodley Head, 1984. Buy the book in paperback.

NOVEL: From the book cover: "The Countess Almira was not a witch but she ruled the City with a firm hand and a cold hear, and the songs that praised her icy beauty claimed that even the snow fell at her command.

"She had an appetite for wonders and marvels, for oddities and freaks of nature--so when her gaze fell upon Lothar, the handsome, desperate young lord with a swan's wing in the place of one arm, she immediately wanted him for her own. Lothar's heart turned numb under her cold gaze, and he forgot his companions, his quest--forgot everything but the while beauty of the Countess. And a new song went around the streets and bawdy houses of the city."

Princess of the Wild Swans by Diane Zahler

Zahler, Diane. Princess of the Wild SwansNew York: HarperCollins, 2012. Buy the book in hardcover
 or ebook.

NOVEL: From the publisher: "Princess Meriel's brothers have been cursed. A terrible enchantment has transformed the handsome princes into swans who swim on a heart-shaped lake that lies just beyond the palace walls. To rescue her beloved brothers, Meriel vows to finish a seemingly impossible task. But she must act quickly! Once first frost reaches the lake, the princes will have to fly south -- or perish."

Wolf at the Door edited by Datlow and Windling

Link, Kelly. "Swans." A Wolf at the Door. Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling, eds. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2000. Buy the book in hardcover or paperback.

Once Upon a Crime

Lutz, John. "Swan Song." Once Upon A Crime. Ed Gorman and Martin H. Greenberg, eds. New York: Berkeley Prime Crime, 1998. Buy the book in hardcover or paperback.


Snow White, Blood Red

Stevermer, Caroline and Ryan Edmonds. "The Springfield Swans." Snow White, Blood Red. Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling, eds. New York: Avon, 1995. Buy the book in hardcover or paperback.


My Swan Sister:  Fairy Tales Retold

Vaz, Katherine. "My Swan Sister." My Swan Sister: Fairy Tales Retold. Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling, eds. New York: Simon and Schuster, 2003. Buy the book in hardback or paperback.


The Poets' Grimm edited by Beaumont and Carlson

Greger, Debora"Ever After." The Poets' Grimm: 20th Century Poems from Grimm Fairy Tales. Jeanne Marie Beaumont and Claudia Carlson, editors. Ashland, OR: Story Line Press, 2003. p. 207. Buy the book in paperback.

McAdams, Janet"The Sister of the Swans." The Poets' Grimm: 20th Century Poems from Grimm Fairy Tales.Jeanne Marie Beaumont and Claudia Carlson, editors. Ashland, OR: Story Line Press, 2003. p. 38. Buy the book in paperback.

Miner, Carrie. "The Seven Swans." (no external link available at this time)

I have listed primarily classical compositions of music using the themes of this fairy tale in either ballet, opera or some other musical style. I have also provided links to popular recordings of the music when available at The advantage to these links is that you can listen to samples of the music at no charge.

None so far!


To learn more about these films, please visit the
Internet Movie Database.


The Seven Swans (1917). J. Searle Dawley, director. USA.

Marguerite Clark .... Princess Tweedledee 
William E. Danforth .... The King 
Augusta Anderson .... The Wicked Queen 
Edwin Denison .... The Lord High Chancellor 
Daisy Belmore .... The Witch 
Richard Barthelmess .... Prince Charming


Sieben Raben (1937). Ferdinand Diehl, director. Germany. USA Title: The Seven Ravens.


Jim Henson's The Storyteller DVD

Three Ravens (1987). Part of Jim Henson's The StorytellerTV series. Paul Weiland, director. United States. 
Buy the movie on DVD.


Sedmero krkavcu (1993). Ludvík Ráza, director. Czech Republic. USA Title: Seven Ravens.

"The story of the film is based on the classical tale about seven naughty sons, whom their mother cursed in anger and thus turned into ravens. When their youngest sister grew up, she decides to find her brothers and to free them. However, she falls in love with a young Prince." (

Stories From My Childhood, Vol. 1: The Snow Queen (1999)

Stories From My Childhood: Wild Swans (1998). Also known as: Mikhail Baryshnikov's Stories From My Childhood.
Buy the movie on DVD.

ANIMATED SHORT from PBS TV SERIES: The Wild Swans features the voices of Cathy Moriarty, JoBeth Williams, and James Coburn.

The PBS series, Stories From My Childhood, features animated shorts from Russia's Soyuzmultfilm Studios, one of the most celebrated animation factories of the 20th century. Mikhail Baryshnikov was co-executive producer of the new English versions, featuring well-known actors' voices. This TV series and the subsequent DVDs collect several of Soyuzmultfilm's most dazzling adaptations of European folklore. These versions are often more accurate than the American film versions of the same tales. Most of the films were originally produced in the 1950s and '60s.

Birdwing by Rafe Martin

Seven Swans (2005). Den Serras, director. USA.

Nika Serras .... Elise 
Lyndsay Griffin .... Swan Witch 
C. Hawthorne O'Flaherty .... Sebastian 
Joe Allen Price .... Marion 
Jon Powell .... Adam 
Jim Baudino .... Cygnus 
John Baudino .... Cygnus

LIVE ACTION SHORT: From IMDB: "A 30-minute, all greenscreen, all motion collage, dark fairy tale like nothing you've seen before. Elise is on a routine deer hunt in the forest with her father and six brothers when she is confronted by a beautiful lady in white, the Swan Witch. Thus begins the undoing of all Elise has known. Her father is tragically killed trying to protect his family from this mysterious woman, who later returns, transforms her brothers into swans and steals them away. She leaves Elise with the knowledge, however, that she is the boys' mother. Utterly alone, Elise decides to take action, buries her father, and sets out on the road. She encounters her friend Sebastian and his father Marion who take her to a medicine woman named Baba. Here Elise learns what she must do to rescue her brothers - either kill the Swan Witch to break the spell or eat from a poisonous apple, which will grant her any wish. Marion agrees to take her to the witch, only to leave Sebastian and Elise on the road soon after, claiming the witch is too dangerous for any of them to handle. Struggling with her great personal loss and the knowledge of the witch's own valid reasons for her deeds, Elise must decide to what extremes she is willing to go in pursuit of family, duty, and revenge. At the final confrontation between the two women, a surprise act of selflessness brings everything to an unsettling balance." Read more about it on the Seven Swans website and on IMDB.



Gray, Nicholas Stuart. The Seventh Swan. London: Dennis Dobson, 1962. [Currently available from London: Josef Weinberger, 1962.]

FULL-LENGTH PLAY: This play has grown around the theme of Hans Christian Andersen's The Wild Swans. The youngest swan, grown up and transformed once more into a man, is still left with a swan's wing. Could he ever feel human again? Could he forget the freedom of the sky? Here, set in 16th Century Scotland, is his story. With a magical mixture of witchcraft and high adventure, the exploits of Alasdair, Fenella and the mercenary Ewen are funny, exciting and tragic. Their dealings with cattle-rustlers, with a Spaewife, with the revolting and evil Bocan makes for an entertaining cocktail for children and adults alike.


Kidd, Virginia. Happily Ever Once Upon. New York: Samuel French.

FULL-LENGTH PLAY: Parody. After twenty years of marriage, Cinderella and Prince Charming have some problems: the Enchanted Kingdom teeters on the brink of bankruptcy. Cinderella's fairy godmother is blackmailing her, the Prince's adviser has one arm and one swan's wing and an unfortunate habit of breaking everything he encounters, and Red Riding Hood has set her cap for the Prince. Though hoping Rumplestilskin can spin gold from straw, the Prince fears he may have to make the Enchanted Kingdom a tourist attraction. Cinderella resolves their difficulties by confronting her godmother and opening the Kingdom to writers who promise them royalties from their stories.

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