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Faerie Lore: “The Swan Maidens”

Commonly these enchanted maidens are the daughters of a royal magician. Legendary heroes are featured spying them bathing or dancing, and marvelled by their beauty, they steal their feather cloak.

A Swan is the most usual form of the maidens to assume but they're often doves or partridges. In the main type of the Swan Maiden tale, the hero is set tasks by the Magician or rather Wizard’s father and helped by his future wife. He always follows the same patterns, with the obstacle flight, the destruction of the Wiz and the breach of Taboo qhich causes magical forgetfulness resolved by the motif of the bartered bed.

- Hereby a link to the well known legend is the one of “The King of Ireland's Son and the Enchanted Daughter”.

A variant from the Swan Maiden type is the Seal Maiden, more simple with the stealing of the skin and the discovering of the lady's hollow back.

A very nice storytelling regarding Swan Maidens has been recorded by Robin Williamson, on his Four Gruagach CD album, resembling the classical ways of retelling and structure with additions that make the whole stories more interesting and exciting including Celtic subjects and mythology.

This version of the story of “Prince Dougie”, recalls me of two folk motifs.

The legend of “Nicht Nough Nothing” appears in the motif :"There once lived a king and queen. They were long married, and had no bairns; but strangely, the queen had a bairn, when the king was away in far countries." up to here some basic coincidences. The other is referred to “Green Sleeves”. The hero, son of Scot's King, who finally arrives to tho river 'Ugie' to intercept the three daughters of Green Sleeves who would come to bathe as swans. We may think of certain character parallel between Dougie and Ugie.

The legends included on Robin’s CD are :

1. Fisherman's Son & The Gruagach of Tricks

2. Blind Rafferty & The Jealous Hero

3. Rory Mor & The Gruagach Gaire

4. Prince Dougie & The Swan Maiden

To purchase a copy click here.

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