The Six Swans
By the Brothers Grimm and Cornerstoregoddess
Once upon a time, a King, for a set of unusual reasons, agreed to marry a witch’s daughter. Because he didn’t trust her around his seven children (whose origins remain mysterious), he hid them deep in the forest, which would bring social services to his moat door today. His wife had assorted witch powers, handed down through her mother and, for an unusual set of reasons, made six shirts of white silk and sewed a magical charm into each. The next day she paid a visit to the safe castle in the forest.
When the children saw someone approaching, the six boys ran outside, probably bored senseless from being confined to a safe castle. The queen threw the shirts over their heads, which sounds like a potential Olympic event. And, bring magical and all, as soon as the shirts touched their skin, they were turned into swans.
The Queen didn't realize that her husband also had a daughter, who had no doubt stayed inside being responsible. And when she realized her brothers were gone, and possibly swans, she ran set off to rescue them.
After walking miles and furlongs and other units of measure, she came to a small hut. Inside she found six small beds. Taking the tale of the Three Bears to heart, she crawled beneath one and fell asleep. At sunset, she woke to a rustling sound. She peeked out to see six swans fly in the window.The swans then blew (or honked) on each other and their swan skins dropped away, revealing her six brothers.
Her brothers warned her that the hut belonged to vicious robbers who would kill her, and, being unarmed swans, they would be unable to protect her. They could only retain their human form for 15 minutes each night, and then it was back to Swan Lake.
In order to set them free, she would have to take a six year vow of silence. And during that time, she was to sew six shirts of starwort. If she spoke even one word, the spell would never be broken.
With that they turned back into swans and flew out the window.
The sister spent the rest of the night hiding in a tree and wondering how to sew with starwort. By morning she had a plan, and began to gather starwort, and sew.
She did not speak or laugh. She just sewed.
One day, as she sat sewing in her tree, the King of that particular forest was out hunting. He coaxed her down, took her home, and tried to find out who she was and what she was doing. She, of course, did not answer.
The King, touched by her beauty, and perhaps her silence, promptly fell in love with the mysterious maiden. He dressed her up, fed her fabulous meals, dressed her in beautiful clothes, showered her with gifts, and married her. During all that time, she spoke not a word.
The King’s mother was not as smitten as the King. After a year, when the maiden gave birth to her first child, the King’s mother stole the baby and smeared blood on the maiden's face, claiming she had devoured her baby. The King did not believe this and protected his bride, who just kept sewing.
A year later she bore a second child. The King’s mother used the same tactic. But when the third baby disappeared, the King had no choice. She was to be burned at the stake.
Execution day, coincidentally, was the last day of the six years of silence. The shirts were ready, except for one, which was still missing a sleeve. When the maiden was led to the stake, she took the shirts with her. She climbed onto the pile of wood. Just as the fire was about to be lit, she looked up to see six swans flying toward her.
Using a trick similar to that of her father's wife, she threw the shirts to them. As soon as the shirts touched them, their swan feathers fell off and the brothers were returned to their human form. The youngest son, who was hitby the shirt with only one sleeve, had a swan’s wing where his arm should be.
The wept and honked with joy. Finally their sister spoke. She told the King that she was falsely accused, and told him what his mother had done. The wicked mother brought the babies out of hiding. As punishment, she was burned at the stake, which had handily been constructed earlier that day.
But the King and the Queen, and three children, and six brothers went straight into therapy and lived happily ever after… and often went to the lake to feed the swans there. Because sometimes a swan is an ugly duckling, and sometimes it’s your brother, and sometimes it’s just a swan. You never know.
The six swans on this bracelet could be anything.