Andersen crossed a bridge when he transferred a number of
tales from folklore to literature, but we, the scholars, investigate
either one or the other side of the bridge and we have not quite
succeeded in describing the crossing itself. (Holbek 1990,177)
In Chapter 4 we discussed the fact that very few of Andersen's tales were actually based on traditional folklore. There is one story, however, that is well known as Andersen's own and that shows up in the Grimms's collection of tales not only once but three times under three separate titles. All four of these titles are identified under the same tale type number: Andersen's "The Wild Swans," and "The Twelve Brothers," "The Seven Ravens," and "The Six Swans" by the Brothers Grimm.
Andersen's "The Wild Swans" personalizes the heroine by giving her a name.
Eliza lived happily with her 12 older brothers and their father until their fa-
ther brings home a new wife who does not like any of the children. She transforms
the boys into swans and banishes Eliza into the forest. Eliza returns home when she
is 15 years old and her stepmother once again manages to banish her, but not be-
fore we realize Eliza's essential goodness. Eliza meets an old woman in the forest
who informs her of her brothers' plight and the method for breaking the spell that
keeps them in their swan form. While Eliza is working hard, weaving the nettles
into coats for her brothers, she is discovered by a king, who brings her to his home.
Captivated by her beauty, he ignores the fact that she does not speak, but eventually
he can not ignore the charges of witchcraft that are brought against herby the Arch-
bishop when she goes to the graveyard to gather more nettles. Her brothers attempt
to speak to the king in their human form, but their efforts are thwarted. They do,
however, manage to rescue their sister before she is burned at the stake. She throws
the coats of nettles over her brothers so they can retain their human form. Alas, the
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Publication information: Book title: Tales, Then and Now: More Folktales as Literary Fictions for Young Adults. Contributors: Anna E. Altmann - Author, Gail De Vos - Author. Publisher: Libraries Unlimited. Place of publication: Englewood, CO. Publication year: 2001. Page number: 209.
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