Since enough time has passed, today I wanted to take a look at the original Swan Lake story, but before I jump in to it we have a few quick housekeeping things. First of all, Wild Swans is free TODAY to celebrate the first day of summer and Father’s Day, so pick up a copy if you don’t have one already! Also the next short story for Swan Lake has been unlocked! In Search of a Hero: PDF.
Okay, on to the summary. Swan Lake is a bit of a new venture for me because it is not, in fact, a fairy tale, but a ballet. Even so, I knew from when I first thought up of the series that I wanted to include Odette from Swan Lake. This is probably because I grew up with the cartoon movie “the Swan Princess” and Odette was one of my all-time favorite princesses. But long before that movie existed, there was the ballet.
Swan Lake was composed by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky in 1875-76–making it the most modern story I’ve adapted. Though many now consider Swan Lake a classic/well-known ballet, when it first debuted it was a pretty big failure. (Based on what I’ve read, it was mostly due to the dancers who played the main roles) It wasn’t until it was “revived” in 1895 that it begin to enjoy some popularity. (As a Tchaikovsky fan, I think it’s important to note that Tchaikovsky’s original score was changed for that revival, and this very same revival is the one that is now usually seen on stage.)
Now because it’s a ballet, there are no speaking roles in Swan Lake, which meant I got to be really free handed with how I interpreted some of the stuff. The basic gist of the story, though, is as follows.
Prince Siegfried is partying hard with his childhood friend, Benno, when his mother waltzes in and tells him he needs to get married. The Playboy prince is super bummed, and decides to go hunting when he sees the flock of swans flying overhead. Prince Siegfried and his hunting party follows swans all the way to the lake. There the prince get separated from his friends, but finds the swans. Just as he begins to take aim at them with his bow, they transform into beautiful maidens.
Siegfried meets the most beautiful of all the swan maidens, Odette, the Swan Queen. She explains to him that she and her friends are victims of a curse cast on them by the evil sorcerer Von Rothbart. By day, they must be swans, and at night they can turn into humans again if they are by the lake. Of course, the spell can be broken (one of the many reasons why Swan Lake fits in so perfectly with the rest of my fairytales) but only if one who has never fallen in love before swears to love Odette forever.
Von Rothbart comes around to break up the party and gets in a fight with Siegfried, but eventually he leaves. Siegfried and Odette spend time together, and fall in love. (Because that wasn’t predictable.)
Prince Siegfried’s mother throws a party, intending that Siegfried will choose his future bride at it. Siegfried is totes not interested because he’s in love with Odette, but he sits up and takes notice when von Rothbart arrives in disguise with his daughter, Odile, transformed to look exactly like Odette. Because Siegfried has known Odette for exactly one day (no joke, it seriously happens in one day, as fairytales have to take place in a 24-hour window or it’s not dramatic enough) he mistakes Odile for Odette, and dances with her. Although Odette appears to him in a vision (yeah, I don’t get that part either) Siegfried announces to his courts that he is in love with Odile and intends to make her his wife. Von Rothbart reveals his trick, and Siegfried, horrified with his actions, rushes back to the lake.
Odette is heartbroken by Siegfried’s betrayal, and resigns herself to death for all of two seconds until Siegfried shows up and reaffirms his love for her. Von Rothbart drops by (I gotta say I’m weirdly fond of him, he is the only fairy tale character I know of who has impeccable timing) and demands that Siegfried honor his vow and marry Odile. Siegfried refuses and declares that he would rather die with Odette, so naturally the happy couple decide to jump into the lake? This manages to break von Rothbart spell, so all the other swan maidens are free of the curse. The broken curse affects von Rothbart’s power, and he is killed as a result, and the swan maidens watch as Siegfried’s and Odette’s spirits ascended to heaven together.
Not gonna lie, the ending reminds me a lot of the ending from the original version of the Little mermaid. Now, while I do mock the original story, you have to remember that I do this only because I love it just as I love all the other fairy tales I have taken apart and criticized. In preparation for writing the book, I watched quite a few clips of the ballet. I actually watched clips from around the world; New York, London, Moscow; Swan Lake is popular, and after seeing it I can definitely see why. (Just sayin’, I think Tchaikovsky did an awesome job at the music!)
Now, I think it’s important to add that while there is no original fairy tale for Swan Lake, there is a German fairy tale (the stolen veil) and a Russian folktale (the white duck) that supposedly were source material for Tchaikovsky’s ballet. In doing research for my version of Swan Lake, I looked up both of those fairy tales, and it is true that pieces of them bear structural resemblances to Swan Lake, but it’s my opinion that neither of them are nearly as dramatic as the ballet.
I’m going to end it here, but I hope you enjoy the new short story! (It’s the one about Rothbart!!!) Thanks for reading, and have a lovely day.