The Wild Swans


The Wild Swans is one of HCA’s earliest,  longest and most beautiful stories.  It talks about the human being’s ability to silently sacrifice him/herself for others.  As a Christian, HCA embeds this fairy tale with a strong trust in Providence, thus bring into light the religious aspect of the human being.

Although the story is titled “The Wild Swans”, it centres around Eliza, the youngest child of a King and the only character in the whole tale with a name.  Eliza’s brothers (11 in all) were transformed into swans and banished by their new stepmother who in fact is a witch.  The princes could only recover their human form during the night.   The only way to save her brothers, Eliza had to suffer great pains without uttering a single word and also without the possibility of defending herself when she is condemned to death in the final part of the story.

Eliza, as well as her brothers, is the characterization of virtue.  She is innocent, strong, loving and pious.  She is also very intelligent for she is able to extract moral lessons from different elements of nature. To this, we have to add the fact that there is no evidence of Eliza’s defects.  She is therefore considered as feminine perfection.

HCA also reveals the victory of good over evil for at some point, Eliza’s stepmother tries to cast a spell on her but fails.  Another interesting aspect is that, Eliza is the weakest person of the group but is the only one able to put an end to the spell.

Eliza’s brothers, are also the representation of the virtuous, although there is no large description of them.  The fact that they turn into swans is the result of it.  Swans have been long associated with grace and beauty as well as royalty or nobility.

Eliza’s father represents a person with a weak mind for after his remarriage he submits to the lies his new wife tells about his own sons – even though, as a father, he should know them very well.  This character has no will and is easily influenced without even questioning himself the truthfulness of what is being said to him.  He accepts everything without question.


Overall, Andersen gives us an insight of the different aspects of the human character, making it, personally,  one of my most beloved stories.



About María Gómez de la Torre

I'm a school teacher and I'm also a storyteller. I enjoy reading new children stories and commenting about them. I specially love dragon tales and stories about fairies. I love people commenting on my thoughts so please feel free to do so - as long as it's positive ;o)

5 responses »

  1. For a Spanish speaker, it is hard to read good versions of HCA’s stories. Truly, “The Wild Swans” is a compelling tale where the feminine character is the strongest and deepest of all. Although the biography does not tell us, it is presumed that HCA must have come from a religous background, because his stories always touch the moral side of human nature. This one in particular is about loyalty, trust and hoping beyond hope, virtues all of us should learn to share, especially in view of the latest developments in the world.

  2. Great observations about this story! The Grimm Brothers’ story of the Six Swans or the Irish Swans of Ballycastle or other variants are most likely the roots of HC Andersen’s literary tale. I tell a Grimm version and find it to be a trance story, in which the listeners sit absolutely still within the center of the tale.

  3. Beautiful story indeed, the way the author narrates it makes one see beyond the raw events and see the scense instead. I enjoyed your adaptation very much. it remind me of another adaptation, one for a TV show: “The Story Teller” in the chapter named “the Three Crows”

  4. Your insights are very good! I was also impressed at the mean-spirited common people of the story who mistook the princesses silence and constant knitting of shirts as a sign that she was bewitched and thus must be put to death. Andersen, having grown up as a rather social outcast, was always keenly sensitive to the odd person, misfit or non-conformist in the community.

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