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The Wild Swans

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In this beautifully illustrated edition of the classic Hans Andersen fairy tale, The Wild Swans, translator Naomi Lewis tells the beautiful and soulful story of a young girl and her journey to find her lost brothers. Upon discovering that they have been transformed into swans, she sets off on a difficult journey, enduring many hardships on her quest to return them to their human form.

48 pages, Hardcover

First published January 1, 1838

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About the author

Hans Christian Andersen

6,899 books3,220 followers
Hans Christian Andersen (often referred to in Scandinavia as H.C. Andersen) was a Danish author and poet. Although a prolific writer of plays, travelogues, novels, and poems, Andersen is best remembered for his fairy tales. Andersen's popularity is not limited to children; his stories — called eventyr, or "fairy-tales" — express themes that transcend age and nationality.

Andersen's fairy tales, which have been translated into more than 125 languages, have become culturally embedded in the West's collective consciousness, readily accessible to children, but presenting lessons of virtue and resilience in the face of adversity for mature readers as well. Some of his most famous fairy tales include "The Little Mermaid", "The Ugly Duckling", "The Nightingale", "The Emperor's New Clothes" and many more. His stories have inspired plays, ballets, and both live-action and animated films.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 133 reviews
Profile Image for Reading_ Tamishly.
4,477 reviews2,412 followers
October 20, 2020
What did I just read? 😯
The illustrations are enchanting. Not a big fan of the story and the characters. The illustrations deserve all the love😍
Profile Image for Bionic Jean.
1,258 reviews1,134 followers
September 9, 2023
The Wild Swans is a short story by Hans Christian Andersen, which was first published in 1838. It is one of his earliest and longest stories, and very involved. Ostensibly it is about a princess who rescues her eleven brothers from a spell cast by an evil queen. There are obvious themes of loyalty, trust, and hoping almost beyond hope. However, there is evidently an additional subtext. The underlying message is a religious one about virtue and self-sacrifice.

As it is a fairy story, none of the plot is deliberately concealed in this review. Indeed, it would be difficult to know what should not be revealed in such a random series of events. Here then follow the main developments of the story, as I understood it, before my more personal comment.

The tale starts in a kingdom far away, where a princess called Elise lived with her father, the king, whose wife had died, and her eleven brothers, who were princes. They were all very happy, living in the lap of luxury, and their lives seemed perfect. But the king decided to remarry, and his new wife hated the king's children. She turned out not only to be a wicked queen, but also a witch. Spitefully, the queen sent Elise away to be raised by peasants. She tried to get rid of her eleven stepsons too, commanding them to, "Fly away as great voiceless birds!" But her spell did not work quite as well as she expected, as they were transformed into wild mute swans; royal birds, very noble and majestic, "with golden crowns on their heads". Also, they mysteriously retained the ability to resume their human form by night. The princes, now swans, obeyed her command and,

"With a strange cry, they flew out of the castle window, across the park and over the wood."

When Elise reached the age of fifteen, she had to go home to the palace, where her stepmother proceeded to make her life a misery in various unpleasant ways. The queen kissed three toads, and put them in Elise's bath in order to turn her lazy, ugly, and evil. But Elise was so pure and good that the spells didn't affect her, and the toads were turned into poppies. The evil queen then smeared her with dirt and walnut juice to turn her black. Nobody wanted to know Elise any more, and when the king saw her, he was so horrified that he didn't believe it could possibly be his own daughter. Elise said nothing, but she was so unhappy that she ran away. She guessed that her brothers must have been cast out, and ran away to the forest resolving to find the eleven princes.

The next day, washing in the stream, she was taken aback,

"When Elise saw her face reflected in the water she got a shock - it didn't look like her at all ... In the whole world there was no one as lovely as Elise."

"She thought of God, who would surely not forsake her"

Yearning to see her brothers again, Elise dreamed about them all, and asked a passing old woman if she had seen eleven princes riding through the forest. The old woman replied that she hadn't - but that she had seen eleven wild swans. She described where they were, and Elise went there.

Sure enough, as night fell, the swans transformed back into the princes again. Elise and her brothers were all so happy to be one family again. The prince brothers then decided to carry Elise to safety in a foreign land, where she would be out of the reach of their evil stepmother. But as they flew far into the distance, carrying Elise, they battled a heavy storm,

"Oh it was all her fault if they could not fly fast enough! When the sun set they would become human beings again, and then they would fall into the sea and be drowned. She prayed to God from the bottom of her heart"

"They all sang a hymn, and it gave them courage."

The next day the storm had dispersed and the swans continued on their journey as Elise slept.

"She prayed so hard; yes even in her dreams she was praying."

In her dreams she met the fairy queen, Morgana, who seemed oddly to remind her of the old woman who had given her the berries, and directed her to the place where the swans lived. The story does not explicitly state that Morgana is the “fairy godmother” of Elise, but it is evident that in a literary sense this is exactly who she is, just as the queen is the "evil stepmother", a common theme in many fairy tales. Certainly Morgana fills the function of an older, wiser, and other-worldly being, who guides the younger, less experienced character to maturity. The fairy queen, or "godmother", listened to Elise's plight, and said,

"You have the power to set your brothers free, but have you the courage and determination?"

Morgana tells Elise how she can turn the princes back into humans for ever, therefore guiding Elisa to a better future and adulthood. She advises her to gather stinging nettles of a certain type, which only grow in graveyards, to knit into shirts which will eventually help her brothers regain their human shapes. Elisa has to endure painful burns and blisters on her hands from the nettle stings, and then break them into flax with her bare feet. Then she must weave the flax into eleven shirts by hand - and (as if all that were not enough), she must also take a vow of silence for the duration of her task. Presumably this is connected with the original curse, since the brothers are mute swans,

"The first word that falls from your lips will strike like a dagger at your brother's hearts. Remember!"

Elise settles to her task, and spends as much time as she can, enduring all the pain in complete silence. Her brothers are unhappy to see her distress, and the tears of the youngest brother do assuage her pain a little, but they can do nothing much to help her. Months pass. Eventually, the king of another faraway land happens to see Elise and he falls in love with her beauty. (This is a fairy story.) He cannot understand why she is so silent, but he is kind, and allows her to stay in his castle and continue her work, in the hope that she will eventually talk to him. He gives her many gifts - beautiful finery and furnishings - but none of it makes any difference to Elise. Eventually he proposes, wanting to make her his queen by marrying her, and Elise accepts.

The Archbishop hates the idea, as he is sure that Elise is a witch, but the king will not believe him. The Archbishop is subsequently very unkind to Elise, and at the coronation jams her crown down on her head so it really hurts her, but Elise still does not cry out.

One night Elisa runs out of nettles and is forced to collect more in a nearby church graveyard. Many witches are gathered there,

"They were stripping off their rags as if to bathe, and digging with their bony fingers into the newly dug graves; they were scrabbling out the corpses and feasting on their flesh."

(Clearly these are Lamiae, monsters of folklore, child-eating demons who hunt and devour the children of others. Apart from their thirst for blood, the Lamiae were thought to be very unclean, stupid, and gluttons.)

Elise is very frightened, but has no choice but to pick more stinging nettles with her raw, burned hands. The Archbishop had been spying on her all the while, and he reports back to the king, saying that this is proof of her witchcraft. The statues of the saints all shake their heads in protest, but the Archbishop merely indicates that this is a sign of Elise's guilt, saying that the statues were "shaking their heads in horror".

The king refuses to believe such a thing of his beautiful Elise. But after a while, she once again runs out of stinging nettles, so has to make yet another trip to the graveyard, past the hag-like Lamiae, sitting on the tombs. This time the Archbishop insists that the king accompanies him, to see it all with his own eyes. Brokenhearted, the king is now convinced that Elise must be one of the witches, and allows the Archbishop to put Elise on trial for witchcraft. She still speaks not one word in her own defence and is sentenced to death by being burnt at the stake.

The brothers discover Elisa's plight and try to speak to the king but fail. Even as the cart is taking her away to her execution, she continues with her work,

"The ten shirts lay at her feet and she worked at the eleventh, while the rabble mocked and jeered" convinced too by now, that Elise was a witch.

Elise was determined to keep on with her work, right up to the last moment of her life. But this enraged the people, who were about to snatch and tear the shirts. Then all of a sudden the eleven swan brothers swooped down and settled on the cart, flapping their great wings. The crowd were terrified, assuming that it must be a sign from heaven that Elise was innocent. The executioner however was still preparing for the burning. Quickly Elise managed to throw the shirts over the swans, and immediately the brothers returned to their human forms. Eleven handsome princes stood in front of her - all fully restored except one who still had a swan's wing intead of an arm, as his shirt had not been quite finished.

Elise was now at last free to speak, and to tell the truth. She cried out,

"Now I may speak! I am innocent!"

The people all bowed down to her, as to a saint, "but Elise worn out by worry, fear and grief, sank back lifeless into her brothers' arms".

As her brothers started to explain the whole story, the firewood around Elise's stake magically, or miraculously, started to take root, and the branches soared high, before bursting into flowering red roses. The king plucked the highest, single flower, which was pure white, and laid it on Elise's breast, whereupon she was restored to life. The church bells rang out, and everyone was full of joy.

Illustration by Vilhelm Pedersen (1850), Hans Christian Andersen's first illustrator

Everyone except me. I think it is a horrible story.

Yes, I understand that it must be a Christian allegory, but it goes so so very long, and the pain and suffering just piles on without respite. Is this really a children's story? The whole timbre of the story is perplexing, and it raises so many questions, to say that it is not a traditional tale but a 19th century invention.

Hans Christian Andersen had grown up almost as a social outcast, so was always keenly sensitive to the odd person, misfit or non-conformist in the community. In many of his stories Hans Christian Andersen seemed to be obsessed with writing about sin. We know that he considered himself to be unlovable, and possibly he feared that this was because he was a sinful person. He seemed to believe that the human race was broken by sin and tainted in blackness. Almost all of his stories dwell on the darker side of humans; the fact that people sin in the eyes of God. He believed that all humans are sinners and should live in fear of God, and his characters continually pray. He keeps reinforcing the redemptive powers of love and faith, optimistic about redemption, because his belief was that this would enable him to get to heaven.

In this story particularly, Hans Christian Andersen reflects on wickedness, and the nature of God, love, and forgiveness. What does it take to get into heaven? How much suffering could he make Elise undergo? Hans Christian Andersen seemed to be exploring the human's capacity for silently sacrificing themselves for others. Perhaps he considered this to be the best - or even the only - way to get to heaven. But if that is so, why did he choose the one female out of twelve humans who was to sacrifice herself? The question of the impotent brothers keeps raising its head here. Why was Elise so isolated by virtue of her gender? Was this part of a female martyr concept? Throughout the story Elise demonstrates a strong trust in prayer and Providence.

Interestingly, Elise is the only character in the whole tale with a name, apart from the fairy queen, Morgana. Is this significant? Are the others "demoted" in Christian terms, to the rank of mere animals, or humans without souls? The only way she could save her brothers, was for Elise to suffer great pain without uttering a single word, and also without the possibility of defending herself when she was condemned to death. It is a martyr's sacrifice; a Christ-like sacrifice. Elise is innocent, steadfast, loving and pious. She has no defects, and epitomises virtue. She is in fact presented as a perfect female.

There are so many unmistakably Christian motifs in the story, the free spirits, white birds, twelve royal children to parallel the twelve disciples of Jesus Christ ... The twelve royal children live peacefully under the love and affection of their benevolent father, the king of the land. Kings usually choose their country’s religion, and by now in parts of Europe, the ruler was the head of the church. Could this benevolent king in this story be an embodiment of the uncorrupted Church?

Everything was good in this storybook world until the arrival of the evil stepmother - a common theme in fairy stories. But reading this as an allegory, the stepmother could represent the evil that corrupts the incorruptible Church. She uses magic to turn the princes, true followers of God, into swans and sends Elise away by turning her father against her. Thus evil has turned the Church to darkness, and expelled its true followers.

It is the king’s ignorance to any evil which has allowed it in. Therefore, the Church is still innately good, merely tainted. When Elise goes into the forest away from the corrupted church for good, her real journey begins as a follower of the true Church. She is to create a new, spotless Church and bring with her the followers of the true faith. Cue for the fairy godmother, the only other person with a name. Morgana, the fairy God-mother possibly represents God, or Christ, here. She will guide Elise to restore her real faith.

Or is this interpretation completely bizarre? Perhaps knowing Hans Christian Andersen's religious beliefs might put these tangled problems into some sort of framework.

A little research reveals that Hans Christian Andersen was a Lutheran, but rarely went to church. He once wrote in his diary,

“I believe that God and Jesus are one; and that the Virgin Mary is the chosen one among humans. In our humble way we can pray to her to plead with God on our behalf.”

There are clear indications here of his views on the perfect idealised woman. When he died, his funeral service was held at "Our Lady’s Church" in Copenhagen, the cathedral of Copenhagen, and the National Cathedral of Denmark. But is this a Catholic cathedral? No, in fact. After the Reformation of 1536, Denmark became predominantly a Protestant country, and even now Catholicism comprises less than 1% of the population. "Our Lady’s Church" became a national church after the Reformation. All future services was conducted after the Evangelical Lutheran order, and in the Danish mother tongue. To an outsider, the two branches of Christianity seem very similar. With particular respect to this story, Lutheran and Catholic theologians now agree (since 1968) that the celebration of the Eucharist (or Mass) involves a sacrifice of praise and self-offering, which unites the believer with the sacrifice of Christ.

So it does look very much as though this story could really be a story discussing the Reformation of the Catholic Church. There are many textual details which would support this theory. When Elise finds her brothers, they reunite as a family body, mirroring the metaphor of the body of the Church. The youngest brother stays with Elise with his head in her lap, like a lamb, while the other brothers fly in a circle overhead. (Jesus Christ was sometimes portrayed as a sacrificial lamb.) The younger brother seems to be an archetypal Jesus Christ figure, especially at the end of the story when he sacrifices an arm. The younger brother is also the one who takes care of Elise, giving her branches of ripe berries, shading her with his wings, and leading her to a cave, hoping that she will, “dream well”. Here he enacts Jesus Christ's loving care in the Gospels: feeding the hungry, defending the weak, and leading the blind.

The motif of nettles, through which pain Elise is directed to remain silent, equates to Jesus Christ's crown of thorns on the cross. In this way Elise too represents a Christ figure, working through her own bodily pain to restore the purity of religion. The younger brother comes to Elise and cries on her hands, taking away her pain.

The evil Archbishop stands in her way and accuses her of being a witch. This recalls a time when people of power in the Catholic Church often abused their superior positions by taking advantage of those they should be caring for. In the end Elise turns her brothers back into humans, with the exception of the arms of the younger brother. He instead has wings, symbolising the dual nature of Jesus, the man, and God. Elise has therefore both saved the Church from corruption, and restored humanity. Her sainthood and the inclusion of the Archbishop suggest that the type of Christianity being explored is Catholicism.

Some of the details here may be misfires, or mere conjecture, but surely there are enough parallels for it not to be pure coincidence?

The question remains though, why would Hans Christian Andersen write such a horrible story for children? Many folk and fairy tales are sanitised versions of grim, and sometimes gruesome, tales; tales handed down over the generations, from an oral tradition meant to teach the people who listened to them how to behave, and often to put the fear of God into them. But this is not such a tale. It is less than two hundred years old, and has been adapted time and time again ever since, as a children's book.

I havered between one and two stars for this gloomy, cruel, depressing story. I know that many consider it beautiful, mournful, or poignant; one of his best. But I cannot agree. I cannot see that because it ends happily it excuses all the pain and waste of life earlier. The pain and torment never let up. I could not believe that after all Elise had gone through, the author would threaten this main character with being burnt at the stake. In a children's fairy story? It made no difference to me as a reader that Elise was tacitly promised a wonderful life in paradise. Even escaping this terrible death did not make it alright. Elise was by now an adult, her only experience so far being a lifetime of suffering and pain. I cannot view this as a moral tale, which is how a child would see it, nor as a cautionary tale. Elise was perfect. She had done nothing wrong. But if you believe the idea that she was suffering for all mankind's sins, then you may of course disagree.

Despite its cleverness and layers of hidden meaning, of which I am sure there must be more than I have picked up, this story made me feel that life was not worth living. I cannot therefore say it was "good" (3 stars) or even "OK" (2 stars). It should come with a dire warning. If you read this to your children, or allow young children to read this, then be prepared for them to burst into tears. Sorry, Mr. Andersen, but I really hated it.

One star. ("I did not like it.")
Profile Image for kezzie ☾ (jude’s version).
445 reviews225 followers
January 24, 2023
✩ 4.5 stars
[read for my independent studies of folklore & mythology]
not as whimsical as i remember from my childhood but it was still good
this magical story has a very special place in my heart <3
Profile Image for LUNA.
506 reviews120 followers
August 3, 2020
Enlace al canal por si queréis saber mas https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yj9m5...
Por favor que alguien lo saque en físico ahora para poder tenerlo bonito...esta edicion no es la mia me lo he leido online como podía.
Tampoco se como no han hecho una película, porque tiene magia, amor fraternal, aventuras, brujas malvadas (y buenas) y una protagonista muy primorosa que sigue adelante aun con todo lo malo.
Profile Image for jesse.
1,028 reviews99 followers
Want to read
August 17, 2012
one of yvonne gilbert's illustrations (not sure if it's included in the wild swans though) ..

Profile Image for Moriyah C.
83 reviews17 followers
June 9, 2023
“Far away from here, where the swallows fly when we have winter, there lived a king who had eleven sons and one daughter, Elisa.” —Hans Christian Andersen

I love this fairytale! It’s one of my favorites and inspired a story I one day hope to write! <3
I’ve read a few different versions of this story (there are three or four just like this one) and I think this one is my favorite of the versions. I also love that there is (at least in the version I’m reading) Christianity and faith in it which I LOVE.
Profile Image for Abigail.
7,174 reviews187 followers
January 24, 2019
The Wild Swans, illustrated by Anne Yvonne Gilbert.

Since the time I was a child, I have always had a deep and abiding love of folk and fairy-tales, and have taken great pleasure over the years, as both a reader and collector, in comparing the different artistic approaches used by various illustrators, when undertaking to interpret the same stories. Sometimes - as with the Isadora, Archipowa and Pinkney versions of The Little Match Girl - I find that a number of different editions all have equal appeal for me. At other times - with Edward Gorey's Rumpelstiltskin , for instance, or Evelyn Andreas' Cinderella - the edition of my youth retains its hold on my imagination, always coming first in my affections. And at still other times - as with Angela Barrett's Snow White - I have stumbled, as an adult, across some new edition that has become my favorite.

But although I have read countless folk and fairy-tale retellings, and keep an ever-growing list of artists whose work in this vein I admire, I do not think - with the exception of Vladyslav Yerko's superb The Snow Queen - that I have ever come across a book which so perfectly captures the wonder and terror, the beauty and cruelty, and the dream-like vividness of the fairy-tale world, as this edition of Hans Christian Andersen's The Wild Swans, retold by Naomi Lewis and illustrated by Anne Yvonne Gilbert, has done.

The narrative flows smoothly, but it is the artwork - Gilbert's beautiful artwork, by turns dreamy and sharp, so poignantly expressive and tender - that make this a fairy-tale masterpiece! The portrait of the wicked stepmother whispering her falsehoods in the king's ear, or kissing the poisoned toads she intends to use against the heroine, evoke true anxiety in the reader, who immediately recognizes that evil is afoot. The beautiful depiction of Elisa reunited with her brothers - all gathered in a group, and lovingly touching one another, as if to make sure that they are truly together again - has the power to move anyone who has ever loved brother or sister. The moment in which the king secretly watches Elisa, wanting to believe no wrong, but beginning to fear the worst, will have the reader wishing that she could but speak! And of course, the scenes in which Elisa goes to meet her death, surrounded by an angry mob, only to find salvation at the last (through speech!) will send shivers down the spine of any person who knows - as we all do, on some level - that justice is not always done.

It is difficult to imagine a more pitch-perfect interpretation of the story, with all its cruelty and injustice, loyalty and love. There is power here, and Anne Yvonne Gilbert had tapped into the heart of it, transforming us from mere readers to witnesses. For that, all true fairy-tale lovers owe her a debt of gratitude.
Profile Image for Amina (ⴰⵎⵉⵏⴰ).
1,280 reviews265 followers
December 23, 2016
A princess, eleven brothers, a wicked step-mother and here we go.

The "Queen" banished the princess to a very far, poor pasture and changed her brothers to swans, when the princess turns fifteen, she runs aways and somehow manages to find her brothers.
The only way to break the spell is a difficult and needs a sacrifice that the princess is willing to make.
PS: read the story to know what it is all about ;)
Profile Image for Vaishali.
1,042 reviews273 followers
April 4, 2016
An enchanting, progressive fairytale. A few plot holes are completely swept over by amazing imagery; Andersen is a master story-teller. His protagonist is a phenomenal hero: she persistently follows her dream, reframes the bad into positivity, and completes work against impossible odds.

An excerpt :
"Lonely as it was on the sea-shore, she did not observe it, for the ever-moving sea showed more changes in a few hours than the most varying lake could produce during a whole year. If a black heavy cloud arose, it was as if the sea said, 'I can look dark and angry too'."
Profile Image for Abigail.
7,174 reviews187 followers
January 29, 2019
The Wild Swans, illustrated by Angela Barrett.

Adapted from a traditional Danish folktale, De vilde svaner has always been one of my favorite stories from Hans Christian Andersen, and I have vivid memories of reading it over and over again, as a girl. So when I discovered that Angela Barrett - the illustrator responsible for my favorite edition of Snow White - had also done an edition of The Wild Swans, back in the early 1980s, I was immensely excited. When I learned that the translator of this edition was none other than Naomi Lewis - whose subsequent 2005 translation of the same tale was used in the stunningly beautiful Anne Yvonne Gilbert edition - I was even more keen to obtain a copy.

Unfortunately, although this edition has definite narrative and artistic merit, it simply didn't live up to my (wildly high) expectations. Lewis' translation is everything I would expect: faithful and complete. I found myself wondering what, if anything, she changed for her 2005 effort. Barrett's artwork - apparently this was her first picture-book - has moments of true enchantment, but was rather uneven. Her scenery is gorgeous, but her people aren't quite there yet. Still, I could definitely see the seeds of her future brilliance, and while I wouldn't really recommend this one to the reader looking for the best visual interpretation of this tale (Anne Yvonne Gilbert, people!), Angela Barrett fans might be interested in seeing the beginning of her picture-book career.
Profile Image for Amalie .
767 reviews217 followers
February 14, 2019
Hans Christian Andersen's Wild Swans have many similarities to Grimm's "The Six Swans" and "The Twelve Brothers" and Andrew Lang's "The Six Swans" in The Yellow Fairy Book. I think Anderson's tale is a much later version because it is set in a Christian Kingdom. There are many references to God. Later Eliza (the protagonist) is accused of witchcraft and killing her babies and is ordered to be burnt alive at the stake. The archbishop and the church really look forward to it. I didn’t like references to God/Christianity. Those beliefs shouldn't get mixed up in fairy tales which depicts the battles of good and evil, where the bad is punished/condemned by nature/karma.

Princess Eliza is one of those few young women you will come across in folklore/fairy tale narrations that is really admirable. She doesn't get saved. She does the saving of her 11 brothers and herself. She is determined, compassionate, patient, strong, courageous, altruistic, perseverant, pure and beautiful. In other words, Eliza is the epitome of perfection. So she has a stepmother who wants to make her ugly (because she was unsuccessful in killing her), and a mother-in-law who wants to see her burned.

Yvonne Gilbert Barefoot's illustrations are magical.

Profile Image for Abigail.
7,174 reviews187 followers
January 22, 2019
The Wild Swans, illustrated by Marcia Brown.

I've been struggling to recall, since beginning this Hans Christian Andersen project of mine, just when it was that I first read The Wild Swans, when it was I decided that it was one of my favorite fairy-tales, and what edition I owned at the time. I do remember that we had a massive, two-volume complete edition of Andersen in the house, from the time I was very young, but I also have this vague memory of a picture-book version. A picture-book with fuzzy black and white illustrations, shot through with pink...

Imagine my delight, lo these many years later, to discover that that edition - long since vanished from my shelves - was in fact this 1963 picture-book, illustrated by Marcia Brown, a celebrated mid-century artist twice awarded the Caldecott Medal, for her version of Cinderella , and for her Once a Mouse... . I cannot say, in looking this over, that either the illustrations, or the translation (done by M.R. James), were quite to my taste, but I am certainly delighted to have run into it again, and to have solved the question of my first exposure to this tale. As for when that happened, I still have no idea...
Profile Image for Laura.
2,770 reviews83 followers
October 27, 2016
There are two stories in this book, The Wild Swans and the Nightingale. Of the two, I prefer the nightingale, because it doesn't beat us over the head with g*d talk. It is just the story of an emperor wanting to cage a wild bird. Beautiful language. But sadly, no pictures. :(

The first story, The Wild Swans, does have simple line drawings, that could have done with a bit of color. It is a faithful translation, from what I can tell of Hans Christian Anderson, and therein lines the problem.

This is a bit of a hard one to judge, but being non-christian (I'm pagan), it is amazing how much g*d and christianity, and piety get into what most people would think of as a simple fairy tale. This is a new translation, and I don't believe I have read Hans Christian Anderson in a while, and certainly not a close to the original version of this story.

If you can get past the injection of piety and praying that is thrown in, it is a sweet fairy tale. I suppose that is his explanation for good magic.

So, while I love fairy tales, and love the language when it is not preachy, the black and white illustrations, and lack of illustrations for the second story make me feel it is only three stars.

Thanks to Netgalley for making this book available for an honest review.
Profile Image for Set.
1,566 reviews
March 31, 2018
I have always loved the story but I never imagined how beautiful the artwork would be when I picked up this book. Reminds me of childhood.
Profile Image for Shrook.
78 reviews31 followers
May 6, 2022
Read to my little sister at bedtime 😂😂😁
Profile Image for Magda Żmijan.
300 reviews50 followers
November 29, 2016
This lovely edition contains two of the loveliest fairy tales from my childhood. First of them - "The wild swans" tells us a story of bewitched princes and their younger sister who tries to save them. I don't know if it's just this edition, or if I used to read a little bit different version, but there are few things that were not exactly as I remembered them. Still, the essence of the story is the same and it is a lovely tale about faith, devotion, and determination. The little girl is willing to do anything to save her brothers

I don't know if it's just this edition, or if I used to read a little bit different version, but there are few things that were not exactly as I remembered them. Still, the essence of the story is the same and it is a lovely tale about faith, devotion, and determination. The little girl is willing to do anything to save her brothers, no matter what stands in her way.

The second tale - "The Nightingale" is the one I like more, but this edition treats it like some kind of bonus story that didn't even get one image... Anyway, this story is pretty much about freedom and nature being a superior comparing to technology. As much as I love computers, I have to admit that in nature is a powerful and lovely force and taming it is not always the right way to go.

I should probably write few words about this edition since that is what brought this review as I knew both of these stories since childhood. The cover is lovely and so fitting, but it's concentrated on one of two stories. Well, most of the books is, the illustrations also cover only the Wild Swans tale, but the images are lovely even if not colored. Actually, the images looked like they were meant to be colored, like in a coloring book - just take come color pencils and have a go at them. If the paper editions have appropriate paper, they might be a fantastic gift for kids who'd love to color their favorite storybook.


If you have never read these stories, or if you have a child in need of a lovely storybook, this would be a really nice edition to have.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Maggie Gordon.
1,896 reviews139 followers
February 18, 2017
The Wild Swans is one of the lesser known Hans Christian Andersen fairy tales. Not so fond of the whole "you're beautiful and therefore good" or "kidnapping is a good way to show that you love beautiful strangers!". Yeah, some fairy tales have aged less well than others... However, this edition is rather unique. The story is a series of wordless illustrations that are all attached together like a super long poster. Interesting concept! I wish it had been applied to a fairy tale I liked more ^^;
Profile Image for Andrea Zuvich.
Author 6 books216 followers
October 28, 2018
A highly enjoyable and beautifully illustrated version of Andersen's classic.
Profile Image for Bianca Escada (planningwithlove).
223 reviews16 followers
December 24, 2019
A fairytale of self sacrifice! What a sister/ person will endure to save/ rescue her brothers from an evil curse! Cute story. Hans Christian Anderson, where many fairytales start!

Princess Elise is sent on a quest to rescue her brothers (her choice). She’s threatened by her stepmother (witch), yet she passes since she is a good person. Witch attempts 3 frogs to destroy Elise; make her dumb, ugly, and cruel (this fails because Elise has a heart of pure goodness). Finds her brothers as swans, and must make it right. She seeks out the fairy queen who tells her how to break the spell. By seeing 11 shirts with sleeves out of nettles and hemp; while doing so remaining silent as well.

As she sews the shirts in a cave, a young king happens upon her, thinks his rescuing the beautiful maiden, sweeps her away to his castle, decides to marry her... even though she is said and can’t speak. But he his a good king, and had his huntsman bring the nettles and hemp with him so she can continue in her work of the shirts.

But she runs out of nettles and hemp, has to travel to a church where she “avoids” witches. But the King’s archbishop believes her to be a witch; he convinces the king of this. Elise is put on trial; she looses. During her trial day, her brothers find her, they protect her from the crowd as the swans. And she throws the shirts over them. They miraculously transform back into princes and fight her case.

She falls dead, but roses and blossoms start to bloom, the king places the flowers on her bosom, she lives again. Elise and the king remarry and they live happily ever after.

Moral: self sacrifice. How far will someone go to save the ones they love?

To note: nettles are extremely painful to the touch, it took her almost a year to sew the shirts together.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Stephanie Tournas.
2,169 reviews21 followers
April 4, 2017
The classic tale by Hans Christian Andersen, embellished with delicate, whimsical line drawings. In this impossibly complicated story, the princess Elisa must rescue her eleven brothers who have been turned into swans by their evil stepmother. It is very much a 19th century story, with beleaguered men, women who are either evil as sin or innocent as a child, Christian themes, and long drawn out suffering. Also includes a shorter tale, The Nightingale, about a Chinese emperor who prefers a mechanical bird to the live bird imprisoned for his pleasure.

This rendition is problematic for several reasons. One is a slightly awkward translation. Another is one of Elisa's early trials, when she is punished by the evil Queen by having her skin turned an "ugly, burnt color" of blackish-brown. Sigh. I just wouldn't want a little brown or black child worrying about this judgement, even though it's a fairy tale. Maybe a different choice of words would have helped. The drawings are lovely designs, but all slightly off the mark of the text.

I wouldn't recommend this for purchase for children's collections.
Profile Image for Elinor  Loredan.
505 reviews29 followers
September 8, 2021
Practically the same story as Grimms' The Six Swans but more detailed and with some minor plot variations (same potential plot hole, though--couldn't the princess write things while she couldn't speak?? I would guess she would be literate as a princess)--the scene in which the swans carry the princess over the sea, for instance, is amazing. How terrifying and exhilarating at once! I love how the brothers take care of their sister as much as they can even while they are swans. She, in her turn, shows the extremities of sacrifice that love can lead us to as well as the rewards of perseverance. A very beautiful and powerful tale. I wish Andersen had written more like this and others that center around princesses and magic.
Profile Image for Ffion Harman.
7 reviews1 follower
January 1, 2023
High rating because it was my favourite book as a child. Read it every night without question
Profile Image for Sara.
130 reviews4 followers
September 11, 2023
صوغة دنمارك من الحلوه 🇩🇰🦢💓
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