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The Swan Maidens
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
maidens 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 until 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
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 away.
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 until 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 until he felt
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."
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 knew.
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 Moon?"
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.
the hunter went on, and he went on, and he went on, until 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 Moon?"
none of them answered, until 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 dispute.
"Now what is it?" said the hunter.
father has just died and he has left but two things, this cap which,
whenever you wear it, nobody can see you, and these shoes, 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 shoes. 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 wishes."
So he took the shoes in one hand and the
cap in the other, and waited until 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, until 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
Then the hunter knew that he had come to the Land of his
wife. And he went boldly to the king and said, "Hail, oh 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.
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.
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 Mountain.
And after a while they reached home, and lived happily together ever afterwards.