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Friday, March 6, 2009

Grimm's Saga No. 541: The Swan Ship on the Rhine


The Mythology of the Swan Knight: Don't Ask, Don't Tell

In the year 711 the Duchess of Kleve, the only daughter of Beatrix and her father having died, ruled over Kleve and many lands. One day the lady sat in her fortress at Nimwegen. It was a beautiful and clear day. She looked down upon the Rhine and saw a magnificent thing. A white swan swam down the river and round its neck there was a golden chain. A little ship was fastened to the chain and the swan pulled it. A beautiful man sat in the vessel. He had a golden sword in his hand, a hunting horn round his neck and a priceless ring on his finger. This young man landed the ship and disembarked. He exchanged many kind words with the lady and said that he wanted to protect her land and drive away its enemies. The young knight behaved so courteously that she soon grew to love him and took him as husband. But he said to her: “Never ask me about my lineage or origin; for when you inquire about these things, then you shall be rid of me and shall become a single woman once more. You shall never see me again.” He said his name was Helias and he was of large stature, like a giant. They had several children together. After some time Helias lay next to his wife in bed and the Duchess carelessly spoke out loud: “My lord, do you not want to tell your children where you come from?” Upon hearing those words he left his wife immediately. Jumping into the swan ship he sailed away and was never seen again. His wife was overcome with grief and soon died of remorse in the same year. But he left his children three things: the sword, the horn and the ring. His descendants have survived to this day and in the castle at Kleve you can still see a high tower. On its pinnacle there is a swan that turns in the wind. It is called the swan tower and commemorates the events of long ago.


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