SurLaLune Fairy Tales: Annotations for Six Swans

So beautiful that she has not her equal in the world: Hyperbole is frequently used to describe beauty in fairy tales. Each beautiful woman has "no equal" or is "the most beautiful" or similar. Beauty often represents goodness, worthiness, privilege, and wealth in fairy tales. Princesses are especially expected to be beautiful. Physical beauty is often considered to represent inner beauty in folklore, except for when it is a magical disguise.

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Swans: Swans have a diverse history in folklore, including Greek mythology where Zeus assumes the form of a swan in Leda and the Swan. The bird is also an erotic symbol due to its association with Aphrodite/Venus. Swan maiden tales are found around the world, including the story of Swan Lake, the famous ballet. "Since the swan moves in the three elements earth, water, and air, it has traditionally been associated with shape-shifting, especially with the form of a beautiful young woman. Like storks, swans were sometimes thought to assume human form when they migrated to other lands" (Jones 1995, 408).

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Stepmother: The image of the evil stepmother occurs frequently in fairy tales. She is associated with jealousy and cruelty (Olderr 1986). "In masculine psychology, the stepmother is a symbol of the unconscious in a destructive role" (von Franz 1970). The stepmother figure is actually two sided, in that while she has destructive intentions, her actions often lead the protagonist into situations that identify and strengthen his or her best qualities.

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