A Thing About Swans
I’m delighted to have Lilian Darcy stop by for a guest post…I hope you enjoy the swans!
Doranna, thanks so much for having me on your blog, to talk about…
Anybody else out there have a thing about swans?
Just pause a minute before you answer this. Chances are, swans are more deeply embedded in your psyche than you thought.
For example, I myself didn’t realize I was afflicted this way until I sat back and thought about childhood fairy tales and classical ballet and my contemporary women’s fiction novel All Dressed Up with its beautiful, swan-like ballet/bridal dress on the cover, and most importantly the swan theme running through my newest book Saving Gerda.
European literature and history is full of significant and symbolic swans. Google swans, and you get 29,000,000 hits. Okay, so some of them are for a Sydney-based Australian Rules football team, and others for an American post-punk band. And this is interesting, too, because, seriously… Swans and football? Swans and punk music? Well, okay, if you want.
On Google Images you get… and I really can’t believe this, but that’s what Google tells me… 49,300,000 hits. Picture after picture. Beautiful, graceful, romantic, quirky.
Here’s some slightly dry stuff about swans:
They are the largest member of the duck family.
There are six or seven species.
The male is called a cob and the female a pen.
In Australia, swans are black.
Their egg incubation takes 35 to 45 days.
Here is what I really want you to know about them:
Their pair bonding is monogamous and often lasts for life. So many of those Google images of swans show a cob and his pen forming a heart with their mirror-imaged white necks. Because of this, they are often a symbol of love and fidelity.
They appear in countless songs and poems and myths and stories. In the Greek myth of Leda and the Swan, Zeus came to the Queen of Sparta in the form of a swan and together they conceived Helen of Troy. In an Irish legend called the Children of Lir, a stepmother transforms her stepchildren into swans for nine hundred years. In a Finnish epic, anyone who kills a swan will perish and be sent to the underworld.
“Swan Lake” is one of the best-known ballets ever created, and the re-imagined version directed and choreographed by Matthew Bourne, with an all-male chorus, is now the longest running ballet ever, in both the London West End and on New York’s Broadway.
“The Six Swans,” one of the hundreds of fairy tales recorded by the Grimm brothers, is at heart a story of love and fidelity. For six years without speaking or laughing a young woman must sew shirts out of nettles for her six brothers, in order to release them from an enchantment which has turned them into swans.
I love the swan on the cover of Saving Gerda. For me, it evokes all those feelings about sacrifice and courage, faithfulness and love and beauty – the things that the book is about, at heart. What makes us brave? Why is beauty important? What does fidelity really mean?
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