Thank you very much to the enchanting photographer Ana Isabel for inviting me to join her Swan Princess shoot, where she’d brought together some amazing people and props from across the world, to build the most magical scenes. Please go and check out her incredible photography from the shoot on her Facebook Page! After I assisted, Ana was gracious enough to allow me to grab a few frames at the end, which I’m delighted to show below.
Now sit back and relax. I’m going to tell you the (shortened) Russian story of the Swan Princess, written by Alexander Pushkin.
Long ago in a faraway kingdom, there were three sisters. Tsar Saltan, ruler of the kingdom, fell in love with the youngest and became married, ordering the other sisters to be his royal cook and weaver. When he went off to war, his wife (the tsaritsa) gave birth to a son named Gvidon. The slighted sisters were jealous. By fooling and intercepting messages from the Tsar, the sisters arranged for the tsartisa and child to be sealed in a barrel and thrown into the sea.
The sea takes pity on them, with the child growing strength by the minute. They wash up on the remote island of Buyan, where the boy soon goes hunting with a bow. He saves the life of an enchanted swan from a black hawk, who tells him she is forever indebted to him. The next morning the boy and his mother awoke to a wondrous city where he was proclaimed Prince.
A merchant ship from Tsar Saltan’s kingdom arrives one day, whom Gvidon gladly hosts. With the swan’s magic transforming him into a mosquito, the homesick prince hides on the returning ship. His aunts ridicule the sailor’s praise of Gvidon’s realm, dissuading the Tsar from visiting with the promise of a squirrel that sits under a fir tree, cracking golden nuts containing kernels of pure emerald and singing a song. Gvidon stings his aunt’s left eye and returns to his realm, where the swan produces such a squirrel.
A second ship arrives later and returns to the Tsar’s kingdom, stowing Gvidon as a fly and full of wonder about this squirrel. The aunts again ridicule the sailors claims, regaling the Tsar about 33 handsome knights, led by old Cheronomor, rising from the raging sea. Gvidon stings his aunt’s right eye and returns to his realm, where the swan reveals these knights are her brothers and that they will guard his city from now on.
A third ship arrives some time later, returning with Gvidon as a bumblebee hidden within its mast. The aunts belittle the sailors marvels and tell the Tsar of a princess whose beauty outshines the light of day with a voice like music of a stream. Gvidon stings his aunt’s nose and returns to his realm, where the swan reveals herself to be this beautiful woman with a flap of her wings. Gvidon and the woman were married that evening.
A fourth ship arrives, but Gvidon does not leave with it. He is happy with his new bride, but extends an invitation to the Tsar. Upon hearing the sailors latest tale, the Tsar ignores the aunts and immediately sets sail. He is welcomed to the island by Gvidon, his bride and all the wonders he had heard about. It is then he sees and embraces his long-lost wife and realises the Prince is his son. A merry feast was held and the aunts were set free.
Tsar Saltan and his queen, and Prince Gvidon and his swan princess lived out the rest of their days in happiness.
I wrote this shortened story of the Swan Princess with help from the retelling on Russian-crafts.com, and the original poem on Marxists.org. I originally heard the story on the fantastic Mythpodcast.com. Check out the longer versions if you liked it!
Don’t forget to check out Ana’s photography from the shoot on her Facebook page!