In this particular folktale the King has to leave for war. During his absence the Queen gives birth to seven children (at once, I’m presuming, and of course, they are all his, no shenanigans you know!!) Six boys and one girl. The nursemaid of course, is an evil witch, and replaces the children with seven dog pups. The babes are taken into the woods where they are to be killed, but neither the witch’s son nor daughter is able to carry out the grisly task. Instead the daughter pities them and takes away their magical silver necklaces, which makes the children turn into swans. But she misses one, who is raised by a kindly old hermit into a valiant young knight. When he comes of age he goes to his parents kingdom, to find that his mother has been imprisoned after being accused of being a witch (how else to explain the fact she gave birth to pups instead of babes?) He explains the truth, the witch is killed, but only 5 of the 6 stolen chains are found. The royal family head down to the pond in the woods, and the chains are placed upon the necks of the swans, who all turn back into their rightful forms – except the youngest son, who has to remain a swan without his chain. They leave the swan-lad in the pond, and all return to the castle lamenting and crying. Every day his sister visits him, for she liked him the most. Pitying him, she removes the chain from her own neck and places it around his, and takes his place as a swan.
The tale gets rather complicated and winding from there on, but of course at the end everything is made right and they all live happily ever after.
I imagined the princess as quite a pitiful little character – full of love and care, but lacking any sense of self-worth. Although she has the biggest heart and sacrifices herself to free her brother, I think it is sad (but all too usual in folk tales) that a girl’s life is worth less than a boy’s.