"Swan Lake"

image Trina Schart Hyman
When Black Swan came out, there were a lot of reviews that basically said, "Isn't it amazing how Aronofsky made the sweet ballet Swan Lake seem so dark and twisted?"  No, it isn't.  When it comes to ballet, people tend to think pink tutus, beribboned slippers, and Angelina Ballerina.  But that's not what Swan Lake is about at all.

Even the dust jacket of the illustrated version of Swan Lake perpetuates this myth.  It claims that "the graceful figures in Trina Schart Hymans illustrations float magically across the pages," which calls to mind soft pastel drawings of willowy dancers wearing tiaras and tulle, and not the abject horror you see to the right of this text.  No, these images are ones that will sear themselves into your brain and reemerge when you hear something go "thump" in your closet late at night, which might have been a hanger, but oh crap it also could be a huge, caped, disproportionate, evil owl-magician with teeth!  Couldn't it?  Yes, it could.

The story: Young Prince Siegfried is hunting swans with his crossbow and falls in love with one of the swans instead when he sees her turn into a human.  This swan queen, Odette, explains that she is under the spell of an evil magician and can only become human at night.  He pledges to marry her.  But the evil magician makes an villainous doppelganger of Odette called Odile, and the prince accidentally becomes engaged to her instead.  Odette is so sad she drowns herself in the lake, and the prince follows suit.  Then the evil magician dies too.  The end.

What can be learned from such a tale?  The book contends that it "serve[s] to remind those who hear it that the power of real love is greater than all the forces of evil added together," but that doesn't really seem to be the case.  Instead, it should probably have some kind of lesson about looking before you leap, or having more than just a one-night stand before you decide to marry someone, or at least having a good divorce attorney on retainer in the case of mistaken identity.

Lesson learned:
Per Wikipedia-- yes, swans do "divorce."

Fonteyn, Margot.  Swan Lake.  San Diego, CA: Gulliver Books, 1989.
Swan Lake

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