#21: The Youngest of the Wild Swans Speaks
Prompt: Write a poem from the viewpoint of a minor character in a fairy tale
We never knew that she hated us so much
Enough that she would enchant us all -
Eleven brothers, eleven princes
All of whom bore a lingering resentment
At her having usurped our mother's place
But certainly not to the extent
Of outright malice or defiance.
Not that our own mother cared much for us.
We were trophies, her guarantee
Of securing our father's love
Her indifference extending to each one of us
Especially to Elisa, in whom she saw
A rival for Father's affections.
Perhaps we bear some measure of responsibility too:
We goaded our stepmother deliberately
A barb here, a jibe there
Small ways of showing our discontent but certainly
Nothing to where we deserved
To be enchanted into wild swans.
But Elisa loved her - Elisa, whom our own mother
Refused to love - and that love
Conquered every effort our stepmother made
To curse her. To enchant her.
To remove her as a rival just as our own mother had
To turn her into a swan, like us
So we would have to fly away
Leave the familiar haunts of our youth
The place of her humiliations
So there might be a new beginning: for her, for us.
You know the story of course.
Elisa, sister whom we adore with all our hearts
Saved us - willingly facing death for our sakes
Hands ravaged by nettles
The scars of which still remain
And every time I take her hands in farewell
After each visit to the nieces, the nephews
Who tumble so boisterously on the castle floor
I can't help but think of our stepmother
As she went willingly to her execution
After our father found out what she had done
And I wonder perhaps if we were all complicit
In her death, in driving her
To do what she did.
Say what others will, except for Elisa
We were not blameless.
My brothers may scoff, but in my dreams
I sometimes see her - our stepmother
A skeletal figure in rags, holding her head
In one hand, ruined lips whispering
'All I ever wanted was to be loved.'