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This story is suitable for children age 6 to 8 approx.
Six swans.Part 1
By The Brothers Grimm.
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Start of Story
A king was once hunting in a great wood, and he hunted the game so
eagerly that none of his courtiers could follow him. When evening came
on he stood still and looked round him, and he saw that he had quite
lost himself. He sought a way out, but could find none. Then he saw an
old woman with a shaking head coming towards him; but she was a witch.
'Good woman,' he said to her, 'can you not show me the way out of the
'Oh, certainly, Sir King,' she replied, 'I can quite well do that, but
on one condition, which if you do not fulfil you will never get out of
the wood, and will die of hunger.'
'What is the condition?' asked the King.
'I have a daughter,' said the old woman, 'who is so beautiful that she
has not her equal in the world, and is well fitted to be your wife; if
you will make her lady-queen I will show you the way out of the wood.'
The King in his anguish of mind consented, and the old woman led him
to her little house where her daughter was sitting by the fire. She
received the King as if she were expecting him, and he saw that she was
certainly very beautiful; but she did not please him, and he could not
look at her without a secret feeling of horror. As soon as he had lifted
the maiden on to his horse the old woman showed him the way, and the
King reached his palace, where the wedding was celebrated.
The King had already been married once, and had by his first wife seven
children, six boys and one girl, whom he loved more than anything in the
world. And now, because he was afraid that their stepmother might not
treat them well and might do them harm, he put them in a lonely castle
that stood in the middle of a wood. It lay so hidden, and the way to it
was so hard to find, that he himself could not have found it out had
not a wise-woman given him a reel of thread which possessed a marvellous
property: when he threw it before him it unwound itself and showed him
the way. But the King went so often to his dear children that the Queen
was offended at his absence.
She grew curious, and wanted to know what
he had to do quite alone in the wood. She gave his servants a great deal
of money, and they betrayed the secret to her, and also told her of the
reel which alone could point out the way. She had no rest now till she
had found out where the King guarded the reel, and then she made some
little white shirts, and, as she had learnt from her witch-mother, sewed
an enchantment in each of them.
And when the King had ridden off she took the little shirts and went
into the wood, and the reel showed her the way. The children, who saw
someone coming in the distance, thought it was their dear father coming
to them, and sprang to meet him very joyfully. Then she threw over each
one a little shirt, which when it had touched their bodies changed them
into swans, and they flew away over the forest. The Queen went home
quite satisfied, and thought she had got rid of her step-children; but
the girl had not run to meet her with her brothers, and she knew nothing
The next day the King came to visit his children, but he found no one
but the girl.
'Where are your brothers?' asked the King.
'Alas! dear father,' she answered, 'they have gone away and left me all
alone.' And she told him that looking out of her little window she had
seen her brothers flying over the wood in the shape of swans, and she
showed him the feathers which they had let fall in the yard, and which
she had collected. The King mourned, but he did not think that the Queen
had done the wicked deed, and as he was afraid the maiden would also be
taken from him, he wanted to take her with him. But she was afraid of
the stepmother, and begged the King to let her stay just one night
more in the castle in the wood. The poor maiden thought, 'My home is no
longer here; I will go and seek my brothers.' And when night came she
fled away into the forest. She ran all through the night and the next
day, till she could go no farther for weariness. Then she saw a little
hut, went in, and found a room with six little beds. She was afraid to
lie down on one, so she crept under one of them, lay on the hard floor,
and was going to spend the night there. But when the sun had set she
heard a noise, and saw six swans flying in at the window.