Once upon a time, there was a king. He has eleven handsome sons and one beautiful daughter. The daughter’s name was Elise.
One day, he called all his children together. Children, three years ago, your mother died. We all love her very much.
But the kingdom needs a queen. I met a wonderful woman. I asked her to marry me, and she said yes. She will be your new mother. Is she beautiful? Yes, she’s very beautiful. Is she smart? Yes, she’s very smart. Is she kind? Yes, she’s very kind.
I’m sure she will love you all. Please help me make her happy. We will, father!
The next week, the new queen came to the castle. She was very beautiful and very smart, but she was not kind at all. Husband, who are all these children? They are my sons and my daughter. Children, say hello to your new mother.
Hello, pleased to meet you. I hate children. Keep them in their rooms.
But, my dear, everyone loves my children. They can’t stay in their rooms all the time. Then keep them away from me. I never want to see them, especially the little girl. I hate little girls the most of all.
Elise ran to her room. She was crying. She was so sad that the queen hated her. Soon her brothers came to see her. It’ s ok, Elise. Don’t cry. We love you.
Why does the queen hate us so much? I don’t know. But we won’t let her hurt you. No, we won’t. John had an ideas. Tell father that you want to live in the country with aunt mina. She will take care of you. We can visit you on weekends, and you will be safe from the queen there. She scares us. We don’t like her. Thank you so much. I will do that.
The next morning, Elise found the king. Father, may I ask you for a favor? I want to live with Aunt Mina in the country. Why do you want to do that? The queen doesn’t like me. If I stay, she will be angry all the time. If I go, maybe she will be happier here. I think you are right. I’m sorry to cause so much trouble for you. It’s alright, father. I like aunt mina. And my brothers will visit on weekends. I will be very happy there.
That afternoon, Elise left the castle. Everyone was sad to see her go , except the queen. The queen smiled. That night, the queen called for the eleven brothers. Boys, I’m sorry. I was very mean to you when we first met. Let’s be friends. We thought you hated children.
I hate children who are loud and run around. But you are polite and quiet. I think I will like you .Let’s have a picnic tomorrow. We will go to the lake to have lunch. We can talk and become friends. Ok. We will have lunch with you tomorrow. Thank you. That was very strange. Do you trust her? No, I don’t trust her. But we can’t say no to the queen. Let’s be careful tomorrow.
The next day, the queen and the brothers went to the lake. It was a beautiful day. It was sunny, and the birds were singing in the trees. The lunch was delicious. These cookies are great. What are they? They are special cookies my family makes. They are called swan cakes.
Swan cakes? Why do you call them swan cakes? Because anyone who eats them turns into a swan. What?! Oh, no! I’m not an ordinary queen. I’m a powerful witch, and I will turn you all into wild swans. Suddenly, the boys’ arms turned into wings. Their necks grew long and thin. Their noses became black beaks. And white feathers grew all over their bodies. Now fly away. Fly far, far away! The eleven swans flew away into the sky. The queen laughed and laughed. Then she hurried back to the king. She rubbed her eyes and pretended to cry. Oh, husband, it was terrible. Your sons and I had a picnic by the lake. Then they wanted to go swimming. I told them to wait. You should not swim right after you eat. But they didn’t listen. They all jumped into the lake, and they all drowned. It was so terrible. All my sons are drowned?
All my strong, handsome sons? I can’t believe it. I tried to stop them. I’m so sorry. All my sons are dead. What will I do?
The king was very sad, but the queen was very happy, for all the children were gone. Five years passed, and the king became very sick. He called for his servant. When my sons died, my heart broke. Now I think I am dying. Please bring my daughter, Elise. I want to see her before I die. Yes, my king. Elise returned to the castle. Now she was a beautiful young woman. When the queen saw her , she hated her even more. She had plan to get rid of her.
Elise, welcome home. Your father missed you very much. But you are dirty from the road. You must take a bath. Thank you, stepmother. But I will only wash my face and hands. I want to see father soon. Here. This is walnut juice soap. Use it to clean up. Elise took the walnut juice soap and washed.
The walnut juice made her skin dry and wrinkled. It put dark stains on her face and hands. But Elise did not know it. When her father saw her, he did not recognize her. Who are you? I want to see my daughter. It’s me, father. I’m Elise. You can’t trick me.
My daughter is young and beautiful. You are ugly and wrinkled. Go away! I don’t want to see you. Elise was so sad. She ran away into the forest. Soon she came to the lake. She looked in the lake and saw her face. Oh, no! Now I know why father was so angry. I don’t look like me. Elise washed off the walnut juice in the lake. Soon, she looked young again, and all the stains were gone.
She sat by the lake and thought about what to do next. Then she heard someone singing.
She walked along the lake and saw an old woman picking berries and singing. Hello, ma’am. What are you doing here? Hello, miss. I am waiting for the swans to come. Swans? What swans? Every year, a flock of eleven swans comes to his lake. They are so beautiful, and they have golden crowns on their heads. They will come here soon. Oh, there they are!
Eleven swans flew down to the lake. They were as white as new snow, and they had small, golden crowns on their heads. The biggest swan saw Elise on the lake shore. Then all the swans swam over to her and bowed their heads. It looks like they know you. But I don’t know them. This is very strange. I must go home. The sun is going down. Please wait with me, something is happening to the swans.
The sun disappeared behind the mountain. Suddenly, the swans became eleven handsome princes. My brothers! You are alive! Yes, Elise. The queen put and evil spell on us. In the day, we are swans. At night , we are princes again.
We come to this lake every year. We hoped to find you some day. Please take me with you.
Don’t leave me with the queen. Let’s build a bit net. Then we can carry Elise with us. Old woman, please find our father, the king. Tell him that his sons are alive. Tell him to keep hoping. I will try to help them break the spell. I will. Good luck, miss. The brothers built a big net to carry Elise. When the morning came, they all turned into swans again. Elise got in the net.
The swans picked her up and flew away with her. They flew for many hours. Finally, they came to a cave by a different lake. The swans landed in front of the cave.