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.