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Swan Lake 

I was so fascinated by Sylvie Guillem and Jonathan Cope dancing the famous scene from the second act of Swan Lake (see “Music and Dance” on my website, that I felt like writing about the story behind the ballet.  A synopsis of the story follows:

By Aaron Green, (

Act I

Prince Siegfried arrives at his 21st birthday celebration on the palace courtyards to find all of the royal families and townspeople dancing and celebrating, while the young girls are anxiously seeking his attention. During the exquisite celebration, his mother gives him crossbow and informs him that because he is of age now, his marriage will be quickly arranged. Hit with the sudden realization of his future responsibilities, he takes his crossbow and makes haste to the woods with his hunting buddies.

Act 2

Getting ahead of the group, Prince Siegfried finds himself a peaceful spot by an enchanted lake where swans gently float across its surface. While Siegfried watches, he spots the most beautiful swan with a crown on its head. His buddies soon catch up, but he orders them to leave so he can be by himself. As dusk falls, the swan with the crown turns into the most beautiful young woman he has ever seen. Her name is Odette, the Swan Queen. She informs the young prince that an evil sorcerer, Von Rothbart, who so happens to be disguised as Prince Siegfried’s mentor, has turned her and the other girls into swans and that the lake was formed by the tears of their parents' weeping. She tells him that the only way the spell could be broken is if a man, pure in heart, pledges his love to her. The Prince, about to confess his love for her, is quickly interrupted by the evil sorcerer. He takes Odette from Prince Siegfried’s embrace and commands all of the swan maidens to dance upon the lake and its shore so that the prince cannot chase them. Prince Siegfried is left all alone on the shore of Swan Lake.


Act 3

The next day at the formal celebration in the Royal Hall, Prince Siegfried is presented with many prospective princesses. Although the princesses are worthy of his attention, he cannot stop thinking about Odette. His mother commands him to choose a bride, but he cannot. For the mean time, he satisfies his mother's request by at least dancing with them. While the prince is dancing, trumpets announce the arrival of Von Rothbart. He brings his daughter, Odile, on whom he has cast a spell to appear as Odette. The prince is captivated by her beauty as he dances with the imposter. Unbeknownst to Prince Siegfried, the true Odette is watching him from a window. The prince soon confesses his love to Odile, thinking that she is Odette. To Odette’s horror, she flees into the night. Prince Siegfried sees the real Odette fleeing from the window and realizes his mistake. Upon his realization, Von Rothbart reveals to the prince the true appearance of his daughter Odile. Prince Siegfried quickly leaves the party and chases after Odette.

Act 4

Odette has fled back to the lake and joined the rest of the girls in sadness. Prince Siegfried finds them gathered at the shore consoling each other. He explains to Odette the trickery of Von Rothbart and she grants him her forgiveness. It isn’t long before when Von Rothbart and Odile appear in their evil, un-human, somewhat bird like forms. Von Rothbart tells the prince that he must stick to his word and marry his daughter. A fight quickly follows. Prince Siegfried tells Von Rothbart that he would rather die with Odette than to marry Odile. He then takes Odette’s hand and together they jump into the lake. The spell is broken and the remaining swans turn back into humans. They quickly drive Von Rothbart and Odile into the water where they, too, drown. The girls watch the spirits of Prince Siegfried and Odette ascend into the heavens above Swan Lake.


The magician represents any individual, either male or female, who becomes overly intimate, whether consciously or subconsciously, with an individual who is not ready for sexual activity.  By camouflaging this in fairy tales, the writer is permitting the introduction of a potentially devastating theme to a child to make him or her subconsciously aware of possible dangers of premature sexual activity (See The Uses of Enchantment by Bruno Bettelheim (Paperback:  Vintage Books, a division of Random House, New York, N.Y., 1977).

Even with the reading and telling of fairy tales, much tragedy still occurs with the youth being exposed prematurely to sexual activity.  They may not be able to participate in adult heterosexual activity (see “Child Sexual Abuse” on my website,  

A possible cure for this affliction would be the use of other symbolism:  Since mentally focusing on the cause of this affliction can detract from its effectiveness, I propose prayers for the swans to be transformed back into human form, whether they are male or female.

                                                                        David C. Hakim

                                                                        Rochester, Michigan

                                                                        May 29, 2008