All right, on to the good stuff. Yes, I’ll come back to Ruth. Yes, I’ll do more with Cinderella—particularly this neat American Indian version I came across. However, I love the out-of-the-way fairy tales. This is a particular favorite.
Not because it puts me in the role of a story-teller. (If I’m going to rattle on and on, wouldn’t it be better to tell a story of my very own?) No, “The Six Swans” has a magic that is deeper than witchcraft and better than a warm fire on a cold night. But it is important to use the early Grimm’s edition of this story. There are variants with three brothers (The Three Ravens), or even twelve (The Twelve Brothers), but these versions lack the powerful writing tools hidden in The Six Swans. Even in the short version posted here, what makes this story spectacularly useful is still easily obvious.
Betcha didn’t even notice, did you? That’s ok. You kind of have to know where to look.
See, the beauty of “The Six Swans” isn’t in its archetypes, or its formulas, or any of the handy-dandy guidelines storytellers are encouraged to study. This is a fairy tale with sympathetic characters. The reader wants to love the princess, and is easily persuaded to do so. The reader wants the young king to be charming, and is given no reason to think otherwise of him.
We would love the princess if she were saving three brothers or twelve—or even one. It would be...well...wrong...of a reader NOT to love a character willing to sacrifice for someone else. Saviors, whether they succeed or fail, are easy to cheer for. The king’s character becomes stronger and sweeter, the deeper into the story we go. At first, he could be any good guy in any fairy tale. As the story begins to take some serious turns, though, he blooms into something more serious himself.
Not being very specific, am I?
That’s because I want you to take a stab at this one. You can look up another version online, though I’m old-fashioned enough to recommend an actual book. Read this story, study these characters. There are unique qualities to the two main characters that make them easily remembered and eminently worth taking with you. Home from the library, or incorporated into the baggage of your soul. Look, and you will see what makes them “good guys.”
Yes, of course I’ll have an answer Friday. Doesn’t mean you can’t analyze some characters yourself...