The Complete Fairy Tales & Other Stories
By Hans Christian Andersen - online book

Oxford Complete Illustrated Edition all his stories written between 1835 and 1872.

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138                        THE WILD SWANS
lesson, you clear rolling waves ; my heart tells me that one day you will lead me to my dear brothers.'
On the foam-covered sea grass lay eleven white swan feathers, which she collected into a bunch. Drops of water were upon them—whether they were dew-drops or tears nobody could tell. Solitary it was there on the strand, but she did not feel it, for the sea showed continual changes —more in a few hours than the lovely lakes can produce in a whole year. Then a great black cloud came. It seemed as if the sea would say, * I can look angry, too ; ' and then the wind blew, and the waves turned their white side outward. But when the clouds gleamed red and the winds slept, the sea looked like a rose leaf ; sometimes it became green, sometimes white. But however quietly it might rest, there was still a slight motion on the shore ; the water rose gently like the breast of a sleeping child.
When the sun was just about to set, Eliza saw eleven wild swans, with crowns on their heads, flying towards the land : they swept along one after the other, so that they looked like a long white band. Then Eliza ascended the slope and hid herself behind a bush. The swans alighted near her and flapped their great white wings.
As soon as the sun had disappeared beneath the water, the swans' feathers fell off, and eleven handsome Princes, Eliza's brothers, stood there. She uttered a loud cry, for although they were greatly altered, she knew and felt that it must be they. And she sprang into their arms and called them by their names ; and the Princes felt supremely happy when they saw their little sister again ; and they knew her, though she was now tall and beautiful. They smiled and wept; and soon they understood how cruel their stepmother had been to them all.
* We brothers,' said the eldest, * fly about as wild swans as long as the sun is in the sky, but directly it sinks down we receive our human form again. Therefore we must always take care that we have a resting-place for our feet when the sun sets ; for if at that moment we were flying up towards the clouds, we should sink down into the deep as men. We do not dwell here : there lies a land just as fair as this beyond the sea. But the way thither is long ; we must cross the great sea, and on our path there