Just like Beauty and the Beast, The Wild Swans is based on a fairy tale. The difference, though, is that I pulled material and content from several similar/identical fairy tales instead of basing it off one as I did in Beauty and the Beast.
The fairy tales I used were: The Wild swans, The Six Swans, and The Seven Ravens. I drew most heavily from The Wild Swans and The Six Swans–which are almost completely identical although the number of brothers the heroine has varies. (In the Wild Swans she has eleven. In the Six Swans she has six.) The Six Swans was first recorded by the Brothers Grimm, where as The Wild Swans was recorded by Hans Christian Andersen. The Six Swans is considered a German fairy tale, and The Wild Swans is Dutch.
Both stories star a princess who makes shirts out of a nasty, prickly plant to free her brothers from a curse placed on them by their wicked step mother. Both stories also involve a king from another country stumbling on the princess, falling in love with her, and taking her home. In both stories the princess marries the king, but the one to accuse her of witch-craft differs. In the Six Swans it is the king’s evil mother, in The Wild Swans it is an archbishop. Finally, in both stories the climax is when the princess is almost burned at the stake but finishes the shirts in time to free her brothers just as her husband tries to free her. In both stories the youngest brother is left with a swan wing because the princess didn’t have enough time to finish the last sleeve of his shirt. After that everyone lives happily ever after in the kingdom of the Princess’s husband.
(It was to my chagrin that both stories ended there. I didn’t understand why the brothers didn’t head back home and free their country–I can’t imagine a queen who is so jealous that she turns her step-sons into birds would be a benevolent, much less just, ruler.)
The Seven Ravens follows a similar pattern (Girl finishes impossible task to break the curse on her brothers) but the big thing I took from that story was the seven brothers. Eleven brothers was going to be too many characters, but when I first tried for six brothers someone was missing. After I read The Seven Ravens I knew I had to create one more brother: Erick.
When crafting the settings and surroundings, I more closely alined Elise’s story with The Six Swans since Arcainia’s culture is German based. Just like Elle and Severin’s Loire is French to honor the original Beauty and the Beast fairy tale, Arcainia is German to honor The Six Swans. The character names, the things they eat, even the organization of the army all have medieval German influences.
Next week we’ll take a look at some of the things I did differently from the original fairy tales. Until then, Champions, enjoy your weekend!