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The Legend of the Swan Maiden


     In the heart of the Black Forest lived a lonely man. He was a woodcutter by trade, and had lived there all his life. He was alone most of the time, which caused him great sorrow. As all men must, he longed for the companionship of a fair and well-educated woman. Here in the heart of the forest there was no companion to be found. So he went in search of a witch that lived not far away, for he had heard that witches are wise in the lore of finding love.
     It took many days of travel to get to the witch's hut. He walked over hills covered with dark thick woods filled with the play of birds and of deer. He crossed streams and lakes and swamps. Finally he managed to find the witch, and deliver to her many fine gifts for her services. He brought her a golden bracelet carved with ancient runes, silver necklaces and many jars of the finest mead.
     Yet one item only would she accept from him. It was a simple swan, lovingly carved from a single piece of pure white ivory. This was the only payment that she would take.
     She wasted little time in preparing her spell of love finding. When she was done she had seen the woodcutter's heart and the woman that would fill it. She told him to go to a pond not far from the witch's hut and wait until just before sunset. There a single beautiful swan would land to take her bath. She would take off the mantle of feathers that she wore and place them on the bank. If he would take the mantle and keep it, she would follow him for the rest of his life. But she warned him to never let the Swan Maiden have her mantle back. If he did, she would put it back on and fly away never to return.

     The sun was still just barely up when the woodcutter made it to the pond. He did not need to wait long before a single fair swan did alight on the water. He remained hidden inside the woods. Just as the witch had said, the swan removed her mantle of feathers to reveal the most beautiful woman that he had ever seen. Her skin was the color of fresh cream and her neck was long and slender. Already she had stolen his heart, and so he stole up the mantle and began to make his way back to his home. Just as the witch had foretold, the Swan Maiden followed him without faltering, seeking her mantle of feathers.
     When he arrived home she followed him inside and asked why he had taken her mantle. He told her of his loneliness and how he had come to be at the pond. He told her that as soon as he had seen here that he was lost to love. He cried tender tears of happiness when she said that she would be his wife.
     She settled in to live with the Woodcutter and loved him faithfully. His joy knew no bounds and every evening on his return he would shower her with passionate kisses and tell her of his love for her. He would tell her of all the beautiful things he encountered in the wood and of the flowers and the birds. Always he kept her mantle of feathers locked away. He knew that she longed to return to her swan form, but he could not bear the thought of living without her.
     On their tenth anniversary he returned home to find that he had left the cabinet that held the Swan Maiden's mantle unlocked. His Lady was gone, and his heart broken.


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