Day 2 for Away to Whimsical FairyTale Land is a post exploring the fairy tale I chose!
The biggest theme of this story is family love and fidelity, with the sister going through a lot to save her brothers. She won't even speak up about her children, in her dedication to break the curse. Such a chilling aspect to this story - it's worse than the curse placed on her brothers, that the mother-in-law would possibly try to kill the children (I think in some versions, she orders their death but it's not done) and then blame their mother for the deaths, just because she's not happy that she married her son! Two examples of awful, manipulative and jealous women are juxtaposed by a paragon of virtue in the sister in this story. It's interesting that the women play the active roles in this tale - the brothers and the Kings are just sort of in the background as the sister works to save them.
Another aspect that I thought was interesting to this story (that is explored in a note on the SurLaLune website) is the role of silence. Swans were thought to be silent and said to only sing when they were close to death, and the idea that a woman must be silent and endure is probably a virtue that was well thought of when this story was circulated. It is an anti-feminist way of looking at it, but it can also be seen as a way to show just how strong a character the sister is - that in addition to the hardships she goes through, she also maintains her silence and can not have the comfort of sharing her troubles for all that time. She is utterly alone.
I was familiar with this story before, but reading and thinking about the text for this event, made me appreciate it more. It has so much more of an impact for me now, and I'm looking forward to picking up on some of those themes and ideas I've mentioned here in the retellings I'm reading!