English short stories ; Fables for Children
I in a land far beyond the sea, there lived a king and queen who had eleven sons and one daughter called Elisa. The children lived happily until the day their mother died. Soon the king remarried, but his new wife was a wicked woman who immediately hated the twelve children. In order to be rid of them, the evil queen decided to send the little girl to live with peasant, and said so many bad things to the king about his sons that he disinherited them.
In the evening, Elisa came to a huge forest where she fell asleep. When she awoke, she found herself by a river of clear water. She leaped into the water and batched. The dirt and stains were cleaned away and once again she became the beautiful princess she had been. The princess went on her way and met an old lady. Elisa asked her whether she had seen eleven princes riding through the forest. The old lady answered that she had not, but she had seen eleven wild swans wearing gold crowns standing on the seashore. The little girl followed the river until it flowed into the sea. On the beach, Elisa found eleven white swan feathers. At duck, she saw eleven wild swans wearing gold crowns flying in formation like a long white ribbon. The swans flew down and perched next to her.
As soon as the sun set, their feathers dropped from them and they became her eleven handsome brothers once more. Elisa's eldest brother explained to her that they were able to regain human form as soon as night fell. He added, ''We live in a land across the sea and we can only come back to our beloved homeland for eight days each year.
Elisa's brothers wove a wicker hurdle on which to carry Elisa and, the next morning, they flew away with her, holding the hurdle in their beaks. They flew all day. Although Elisa's weight slowed their flight, they reached on island before nightfall. They were very tired and very soon they were all asleep. While Elisa slept, a fairy named Morgan-le-fee appeared in her dream and said, ''You can save your brothers by making a coat of armour woven from nettles. But you must be careful: until the work is finished you must not speak, for if you do, it will cause their death.'' Elisa went to work immediately, spinning and weaving the coats of armour until her hands were badly stung by the nettles. A king out hunting, saw the beautiful young girl hard at work and asked what she was doing. Elisa would not answer because she knew that if she uttered a single word, her brothers would die. Moved by the princess's obvious distress, the king decided to take her away to his castle.
Soon after, they married. But Elisa wept and lamented until the king had the idea of bringing her the nettles which she had already spun and the coats of amour she had already completed, hoping this would please her. The king's court counselor was suspicious of the mute girl, and wondered whether she might be a witch. He said so, but the king refused to listen. Every night, Elisa worked on the coats of amour. One day, she ran out of nettles and decided to visit the cemetery to pick more. The counselor, who was spying on her, told the king, and when the young woman out again to pick nettles, the king himself followed her. Seeing her standing near the cemetery, where witches caught toads for their magic potions, the king agreed with his counselor. Elisa must be a witch.
Elisa was accused of witchcraft, and was condemned to death. In her prison cell, she was given the coats of armour and the rest of the nettles, so she could continue her work, despite the fact that she might never see her brothers again. On the day of her execution, Elisa was taken to the stake. Pale as death, the young queen, he hair tangled and unkempt, desperately continued to weave the last coat of armour. ''Look at the witch! Tear up her magic cloth!'' shrieked the crowd. People ran up to her and tried to wrench the nettle cloth from her hands when, suddenly, eleven swans flew down and perched around her. Elisa barely had the time to throw the eleven coats of armour over the swans, but as she did so, they immediately changed back into handsome young men. The young queen exclaimed,
At last! I can speak and proclaim my innocence.'' ''Yes, our sister is innocent!'' confirmed the oldest brother, who told the king the whole story. The king was delighted to be reunited with his young wife and presented her with a swan's feather which was floating in the air. The bells began to ring. The king and Elisa, accompanied by the eleven handsome princes, took the road back to the castle to hold a great celebration which lasted for eleven days and eleven night.