Deceitful swans (illustration for Marsh King’s daughter by Andersen)
“Well,” the father stork said, “as you know, in the middle of the marsh there is a sort of pool. You can catch a glimpse of it from here if you will rise up a trifle. There, between the reeds and the green scum of the pool, a large alder stump juts up. On it the three swans alighted, flapped their wings and looked about them. One of them threw off her swan plumage and immediately I could see that she was the Princess from our home in Egypt. There she sat with no other cloak than her own long hair. I heard her ask the others to take good care of her swan feathers, while she dived down in the water to pluck the swamp flower which she fancied she saw there. They nodded, and held their heads high as they picked up her empty plumage.
” ‘What are they going to do with it?’ I wondered, and she must have wondered too. Our answer came soon enough, for they flew up in the air with her feather garment.
” ‘Dive away,’ they cried. ‘Never more shall you fly about as a swan. Never more shall you see the land of Egypt. You may have your swamp forever.’ They tore her swan guise into a hundred pieces, so that feathers whirled around like a flurry of snow. Then away they flew, those two deceitful Princesses.”