Wild Swans/Hans Christian Andersen

Ven ven at vvcrane.fsnet.co.uk
Sun Nov 4 13:52:45 EST 2001

Another book recomendation -- Peg Kerr's the Wild Swans. This is 
two, linked, retellings of the Hans Christain Andersen story of the 
same name. One is a fairly straight transposition of the fairy tale to 
17C England and America, the other is a tale of a young gay man 
in New York and the early history of AIDS. I suspect people will be 
writing papers on the thematic links between the two tales, it's too 
early for me to process it all, however I can say the subject matter 
is silence and endurance, predjudice, rejection and love. The whole 
has a feel of those fairy tale retellings that Terri Windling edited, so 
it's no surprise to find that Pamela Dean and Pat Wrede figure 
largely in the acknowledgements. There is  a strong Samuel R 
Delany influence (and I spotted at least one direct reference to the 
autobiographical Motion of Light in Water) not just in the subject 
matter and atmosphere of the New York tale but also the way in 
which she handles the reflection of one tale in the other seems to 
owe something to the Neveryona series.  


In the original HCA story the heroine has to make shirts out of 
nettles in order to save her brothers from enchantment, and she is 
not allowed to speak until the task is done. After she has married 
the traditional handsome prince the archbishop accuses her of 
witchcraft and she cannot speak in her defense. In Kerr's retelling 
her husband is the town magistrate and her accuser the town 
priest. She adds to the story a convincing explanation for the 
priest's hostility -- although he is not concious of it, he is in love 
with the magistrate himself and motivated more by misogyny and 
jealousy than religious zeal. Iirc there is a theory going around that 
HCA was gay, which adds still another dimension to the work.


 This is Peg Kerr's second novel. I've just been rereading the first, 
Emerald House Rising, it's nice enough buit she has made a  
quantum leap withThe Wild Swans

The Wild Swans was always one of my favourite fairy stories but 
until I read this book I didn't realise HCA wrote it. I've always found 
his work rather disturbing. I was given a book of his stories one 
Christmas and I remember how delight turned to dismay as, 
expecting fairy tales, I found that something nasty lurked in so 
many of them. What does everyone else think?

The truth will make ye fret

Terry Pratchett, The Truth.
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