A king was once hunting in a great forest, and he chased his prey so eagerly that none of his men could follow him. As evening approached he stopped and looked around, and saw that he was lost. He looked for a way out of the woods, but he could not find one. Then he saw an old woman with a bobbing head who approached him. She was a witch. "My dear woman," he said to her, "can you show me the way through the woods?" "Oh, yes, your majesty," she answered, "I can indeed. However, there is one condition, and if you do not fulfill it, you will never get out of these woods, and will die here of hunger." "What sort of condition is it?" asked the king. "I have a daughter," said the old woman, "who is as beautiful as anyone you could find in all the world, and who well deserves to become your wife. If you will make her your queen, I will show you the way out of the woods." The king was so frightened that he consented, and the old woman led him to her cottage, where her daughter was sitting by the fire. She received the king as if she had been expecting him. He saw that she was very beautiful, but in spite of this he did not like her, and he could not look at her without secretly shuddering. After he had lifted the girl onto his horse, the old woman showed him the way, and the king arrived again at his royal castle, where the wedding was celebrated. The king had been married before, and by his first wife he had seven children, six boys and one girl. He loved them more than anything else in the world. Fearing that the stepmother might not treat them well, even do them harm, he took them to a secluded castle which stood in the middle of a forest. It was so well hidden, and the way was so difficult to find, that he himself would not have found it, if a wise woman had not given him a ball of magic yarn. Whenever he threw it down in front of him, it would unwind itself and show him the way. However, the king went out to his dear children so often that the queen took notice of his absence. She was curious and wanted to know what he was doing out there all alone in the woods. She gave a large sum of money to his servants, and they revealed the secret to her. They also told her about the ball of yarn which could point out the way all by itself. She did not rest until she discovered where the king kept the ball of yarn. Then she made some little shirts of white silk. Having learned the art of witchcraft from her mother, she sewed a magic charm into each one of them. Then one day when the king had ridden out hunting, she took the little shirts and went into the woods. The ball of yarn showed her the way. The children, seeing that someone was approaching from afar, thought that their dear father was coming to them. Full of joy, they ran to meet him. Then she threw one of the shirts over each of them, and when the shirts touched their bodies they were transformed into swans, and they flew away over the woods. The queen went home very pleased, believing that she had gotten rid of her stepchildren. However, the girl had not run out with her brothers, and the queen knew nothing about her. The next day the king went to visit his children, but he found no one there but the girl. "Where are your brothers?" asked the king. "Oh, dear father," she answered, "they have gone away and left me alone." Then she told him that from her window she had seen how her brothers had flown away over the woods as swans. She showed him the feathers that they had dropped into the courtyard, and which she had gathered up. The king mourned, but he did not think that the queen had done this wicked deed. Fearing that the girl would be stolen away from him as well, he wanted to take her away with him, but she was afraid of her stepmother and begged the king to let her stay just this one more night in the castle in the woods. The poor girl thought, "I can no longer stay here. I will go and look for my brothers." And when night came she ran away and went straight into the woods. She walked the whole night long without stopping, and the next day as well, until she was too tired to walk any further. Then she saw a hunter's hut and went inside. She found a room with six little beds, but she did not dare to get into one of them. Instead she crawled under one of them and lay down on the hard ground where she intended to spend the night. The sun was about to go down when she heard a rushing sound and saw six swans fly in through the window. Landing on the floor, they blew on one another, and blew all their feathers off. Then their swan-skins came off just like shirts. The girl looked at them and recognized her brothers. She was happy and crawled out from beneath the bed. The brothers were no less happy to see their little sister, but their happiness did not last long. "You cannot stay here," they said to her. "This is a robbers' den. If they come home and find you, they will murder you." "Can't you protect me?" asked the little sister. "No," they answered. "We can take off our swan-skins for only a quarter hour each evening. Only during that time do we have our human forms. After that we are again transformed into swans." Crying, the little sister said, "Can you not be redeemed?" "Alas, no," they answered. "The conditions are too difficult. You would not be allowed to speak or to laugh for six years, and in that time you would have to sew together six little shirts from asters for us. And if a single word were to come from your mouth, all your work would be lost." After the brothers had said this, the quarter hour was over, and they flew out the window again as swans. Nevertheless, the girl firmly resolved to redeem her brothers, even if it should cost her her life. She left the hunter's hut, went to the middle of the woods, seated herself in a tree, and there spent the night. The next morning she went out and gathered asters and began to sew. She could not speak with anyone, and she had no desire to laugh. She sat there, looking only at her work. After she had already spent a long time there it happened that the king of the land was hunting in these woods. His huntsmen came to the tree where the girl was sitting. They called to her, saying, "Who are you?" But she did not answer. "Come down to us," they said. "We will not harm you." She only shook her head. When they pressed her further with questions, she threw her golden necklace down to them, thinking that this would satisfy them. But they did not stop, so she then threw her belt down to them, and when this did not help, her garters, and then —— one thing at a time —— everything that she had on and could do without, until finally she had nothing left but her shift. The huntsmen, however, not letting themselves be dissuaded, climbed the tree, lifted the girl down, and took her to the king. The king asked, "Who are you? What are you doing in that tree?" But she did not answer. He asked her in every language that he knew, but she remained as speechless as a fish. Because she was so beautiful, the king's heart was touched, and he fell deeply in love with her. He put his cloak around her, lifted her onto his horse in front of himself, and took her to his castle. There he had her dressed in rich garments, and she glistened in her beauty like bright daylight, but no one could get a word from her. At the table he seated her by his side, and her modest manners and courtesy pleased him so much that he said, "My desire is to marry her, and no one else in the world." A few days later they were married. Now the king had a wicked mother who was dissatisfied with this marriage and spoke ill of the young queen. "Who knows," she said, "where the girl who cannot speak comes from? She is not worthy of a king." A year later, after the queen had brought her first child into the world, the old woman took it away from her while she was asleep, and smeared her mouth with blood. Then she went to the king and accused her of being a cannibal. The king could not believe this, and would not allow anyone to harm her. She, however, sat the whole time sewing on the shirts, and caring for nothing else. The next time, when she again gave birth to a beautiful boy, the deceitful mother-in-law did the same thing again, but the king could not bring himself to believe her accusations. He said, "She is too pious and good to do anything like that. If she were not speechless, and if she could defend herself, her innocence would come to light." But when the old woman stole away a newly born child for the third time, and accused the queen, who did not defend herself with a single word, the king had no choice but to bring her to justice, and she was sentenced to die by fire. When the day came for the sentence to be carried out, it was also the last day of the six years during which she had not been permitted to speak or to laugh, and she had thus delivered her dear brothers from the magic curse. The six shirts were finished. Only the left sleeve of the last one was missing. When she was led to the stake, she laid the shirts on her arm. Standing there, as the fire was about to be lighted, she looked around, and six swans came flying through the air. Seeing that their redemption was near, her heart leapt with joy. The swans rushed towards her, swooping down so that she could throw the shirts over them. As soon as the shirts touched them their swan-skins fell off, and her brothers stood before her in their own bodies, vigorous and handsome. However, the youngest was missing his left arm. In its place he had a swan's wing. They embraced and kissed one another. Then the queen went to the king, who was greatly moved, and she began to speak, saying, "Dearest husband, now I may speak and reveal to you that I am innocent, and falsely accused." Then she told him of the treachery of the old woman who had taken away their three children and hidden them. Then to the king's great joy they were brought forth. As a punishment, the wicked mother-in-law was tied to the stake and burned to ashes. But the king and the queen with her six brothers lived many long years in happiness and peace.
从前，有一位国王在大森林里狩猎，他奋力追赶一头野兽，随从们却没有能跟上他。天色渐晚，国王停下脚步环顾四周，这才发现自己已经迷了路。他想从森林里出来，可怎么也找不到路。这时，国王看见一个不住地点头的老太婆朝他走来，那是个女巫。「您好，」国王对她说，「您能不能告诉我走出森林的路？」「啊，可以，国王陛下，」女巫回答说，「我当然能告诉您，不过有个条件。要是您不答应的话，就永远休想走出森林，您会在森林里饿死的。」 「甚么条件呢？」国王问道。 「我有个女儿，长得很美，」老巫婆回答说，「她的美貌无与伦比，做您的妻子绰绰有余。要是您愿意娶她做王后，我就告诉您走出森林的路。」国王忧心如焚，只好答应了女巫的条件。老巫婆把国王领到她的小屋子里，只见她的女儿正坐在那儿烤火。女儿接待了国王，那神色好像她早就料到国王会来似的。国王觉得她长得的确美丽非凡，可是并不喜欢她，一看见她就不由得心惊胆战。等国王把姑娘抱上了马，老巫婆才把路告诉国王。国王回到王宫之后，便和姑娘举行了婚礼。 国王曾经有过一次婚姻，他的第一个妻子给他生了七个孩子：六男一女，国王特别疼爱他们。婚礼之后，国王担心继母虐待孩子，更担心他们受到继母的伤害，於是就把他们送进森林中的一座孤零零的古城堡里居住。城堡位於密林深处，路极其难找，要不是有位女巫送给国王一个奇妙的线团儿，连他自己也休想找到。只要国王把线团儿在地上往前一抛，线团儿就会自己打开，为国王引路。国王经常去看望他心爱的孩子们，而王后发现国王经常不在身边，很是好奇，总想弄明白国王独自一个人到森林里干甚么去了。她用大量的金钱收买了国王的随从，这些人就向她泄漏了其中的秘密，还把能引路的线团儿也告诉了她。从此，王后便心神不宁，直到知道了国王收藏线团儿的地方之后，她才安下心来。随后，王后用白绸缝了几件小衬衫，她跟母亲学过巫术，就在每件衬衫里缝了一道符咒。一天，国王骑马狩猎去了，王后便带着这些小衬衫走进森林，用线团儿在前面给她引路。孩子们远远地看见有人来了，以为是自己亲爱的父亲来看望他们，个个欢天喜地，都跑着去迎接。就在这时，继母朝他们每人抛过去一件小衬衫。小衬衫一碰到他们的身体，眨眼之间他们就一个个地变成了天鹅，飞上天空，消失在远方。王后回到宫中，心花怒放，以为打发了这些继子女。谁知那个女孩并没有和她的兄长们一快儿跑出来迎接，而王后对此却一无所知。第二天，国王去看望这几个孩子，发现只有女儿一个人在城堡。「你哥哥们呢？」国王问道。「唉，别提了，亲爱的爸爸，」女儿回答说，「他们都走了，只剩下我孤零零一个人啦！」接着，她告诉父亲，她从自己房间的小窗里看见，哥哥们都变成了天鹅，在森林的上空飞走了。说着她还把羽毛拿出来给父亲看，这些羽毛是他们掉在院子里的，是她拾回来的。国王悲痛欲绝，却怎么也没有想到，这件伤天害理的事是王后所为。他担心女儿也被从他身边夺走，就想带她回去，可女儿惧怕继母，恳求国王允许她在林中古堡里再呆一夜。 可怜的姑娘心想：「我在这里一天也不能再呆了，我要去寻找哥哥们。」夜幕降临时，她跑出城堡，迳直朝密林中走去。她走了整整一夜，第二天又一刻不停地走了一整天，直到累得筋疲力尽，再也走不动一步了，这才停下了脚步。就在这时，她看见一间猎人栖身的小屋，便走了进去，发现屋子里有六张小床，可她不敢躺在床上，於是就爬到一张床下，躺在了硬梆梆的地上，准备在那里过夜。太阳快落山的时候，她忽然听见沙沙的声响，看见六只天鹅从窗口飞了进来。天鹅们飞落在地上，相互吹着气，吹掉了身上的全部羽毛，接着，它们的天鹅皮也像脱去衬衫一样从身上脱落了。这时，姑娘再看他们，发现原来是她的几个哥哥。她喜出望外，急忙从床下爬出来，她的哥哥们一见自己的小妹妹，也异常高兴。可是，他们高兴的时间却很短。「你说甚么也不能呆在这儿，」他们对小妹妹说，「这可是个强盗出没的地方，要是他们回来发现了你，你就没命啦。」「你们难道不能保护我吗？」小妹妹问道。「不能啊，」他们回答说，「我们每天晚上只有一刻钟的时间可以脱掉天鹅皮，恢复人形，然后我们又要马上变成天鹅的呀。」小妹妹一听哭了起来，边哭边说：「难道你们就不能得救吗？」「唉，还是不成呵，」他们回答道，「那些条件实在是太苛刻啦！要整整六年啊，你既不许说话，也不许笑出声来，而且在这六年里，你还必须用水马齿草为我们缝六件小衬衫。只要你嘴里漏出一个字，一切努力就前功尽弃啦。」哥哥们话音刚落，一刻钟的时间就到了，他们又变成了天鹅，从窗口飞走了。 姑娘呢，下定决心不惜付出一切，哪怕是自己的生命，也要救哥哥们。夜幕降临时，她离开小屋，走进密林深处，爬到一棵树上过了一夜。第二天早上，她便四处採集水马齿，开始缝衬衫。她不能和任何人说话，也没心思笑，所以就坐在那里，只顾低着头忙手里的活儿。她在森林里就这样过了很长一段时间，直到有一天，当地的国王到森林里来打猎，猎手们来到姑娘坐在上面的那棵树跟前。他们发现了她便大声地跟她打招呼，问她说：「你是谁呀？」可她默不作答。「快下来吧，」他们对她说：「我们不会伤害你的。」她听了只是摇了摇头。他们还是一个劲儿地问这问那，她就把自己的金项炼扔给了他们，心想这下他们该满足了吧。谁知这些傢伙还是不肯罢休，於是她又把腰带扔给了他们，可仍然无济於事。接着，她又把吊袜带和身上所有可有可无的东西都一件件地扔给了他们，最后身上只穿着内衣。可就是这样，这些猎手还是赖着不走，并且爬到树上把姑娘抱了下来，领到国王面前。国王问她：「你是谁？在树上干甚么呢？」可她并不回答。国王於是用自己会说的每一种语言问她，她却仍然闷不作声。姑娘异常美丽的容貌打动了国王的心，他深深地爱上了她。国王把自己的斗篷披在她身上，抱她上了马，让她坐在自己的前面，带着她回到了王宫。随即，国王吩咐给她穿上五彩缤纷的服装，这样一来，她就越发光彩照人、美若天仙啦，可她就是一语不发。吃饭的时候，国王让她坐在自己身边。姑娘举止端庄，彬彬有礼，国王格外喜欢，就喃喃自语道：「她就是我心目中的王后，我非她不娶。」几天之后，国王和姑娘结下了百年之好。 谁知国王的母亲刁钻恶毒，对这桩婚事很是不满，常说年轻王后的坏话。「有谁知道呢，」她说，「这个不会说话的臭丫头是从哪里钻出来的？她根本不配作王后！」转眼一年过去了，王后的第一个孩子出生了。老太婆趁王后睡着了，把孩子给抱走了，还在王后的嘴上涂了一些鲜血。然后，她到国王面前去诬告王后，说她是吃人的妖怪。国王听了不肯相信，也不容许谁伤害王后。可王后呢，对一切都置若罔闻，只是一刻不停地坐着缝衬衫。第二次，王后又生了一个漂亮的男孩，这个歹毒的婆婆再次故伎重演，国王听了还是不肯相信，他说：「她那么虔诚，心地那么善良，不会做出这种事来。要是她会说话，能为自己辩解的话，她的清白无辜就大白於天下啦。」可是，老太婆把第三个刚刚出生的孩子偷走之后，又去诬告王后，王后还是一句为自己辩解的话也没说，国王束手无策，只得把王后交给法庭审理，法庭判决用火刑处死她。 行刑的那天，刚好是她不能说话也不能笑的那六年的最后一天，而且她已经能把亲爱的哥哥们从魔法中解救出来了。六件衬衫已经缝好，只是最后一件左边还少一只袖子。在被押往火刑柱的时候，她把那些衬衫搭在胳膊上。她被推上了火刑柱，木柴即将点燃了。王后在最后关头环顾四周，恰在这时，空中有六只天鹅朝她飞来。她心里明白，她就要得救了，她的心激动得欢跳起来。天鹅掠过长空飞了过来，落在了她的附近，她便把衬衫朝他们扔了过去……天鹅刚一碰着衬衫，身上的天鹅皮立即就脱落了。她的哥哥们又恢复了人形，个个生龙活虎、英俊标緻，他们就站在她的面前，她的小哥哥却少了一只左胳膊，肩上仍然长着一只天鹅翅膀。兄妹们相互又是拥抱，又是亲吻。随后，王后走到深受感动的国王面前，开口讲了起来：「亲爱的夫君，现在我可以开口说话了，可以向您表明，我是清白无辜的，遭到了诬陷。」接着，她跟国王讲述了老婆婆伤天害理的行径……她偷走了她的三个孩子，把他们藏了起来。一会儿，孩子们被送到国王面前了，国王心潮澎湃，激动不已。刁钻恶毒的老婆婆受到了应得的惩罚，被捆绑在火刑柱上烧成了灰烬。从此以后，国王和王后与她六个哥哥幸福安宁地生活了很多年。