A Queer Take on a Classic Story: The Prince and the Swan – by Chloe Spencer
If you had an awesome childhood and grew up in the ’90s, you might have been fortunate enough to have seen the awesome (but actually terrible) animated feature, The Swan Princess film. Or if you happen to have any knowledge of classical ballets, you might have heard of a theatrical performance called Swan Lake.
Still not ringing any bells? So, Swan Lake is a ballet, based off of Russian folk tales, that tells the story of Odette, who is a princess turned into a swan by an evil sorcerer’s curse. On a hunting journey, Prince Siegfried comes across a swan in the forest, but before he can shoot it, the swan transforms into Odette. Odette explains that she can only be saved by a prince who swears eternal fidelity to her. As is fairy tale tradition, the prince falls in love with her instantaneously, inviting her to his castle where he will marry her and reverse her spell. But the sorcerer disguises his daughter as Odette, and Siegfried proposes to the wrong woman. When he realizes his mistake, he races back to the forest to find Odette, but she has taken her own life in order to break the curse, and he decides to join her in the afterlife.
Now if that sounds horribly depressing, don’t worry, because the 1994 animated film definitely takes a less tragic turn… and has five progressively horrible sequels.
“So what does this have to do with comics?” you might be asking right now.
Since Swan Lake was first performed, there have been various (mostly unfortunate) adaptations across all different art forms. But I happened to come across one of the few—and more unique—graphic novel recreations of the original work.
The Prince and the Swan is an ongoing web comic written and drawn by April Pierce and co-written by Gareth CJ Wee. Evidently, the comic is heavily inspired by Swan Lake, but what Pierce and Wee do in their adaptation is particularly interesting: instead of being a woman, Odette is now a man, and the spelling of his is changed to Odet. The comic is unique in other ways of course, as the plot seems to hint at darker political disturbances in the kingdom’s past, but the story has not progressed far enough to address those problems.
I first came across this comic when I attended Rose City Comic Con over the summer, and happened to pass by the creators’ table. What grabbed my attention at first was the absolutely gorgeous art: the cover of the first volume incorporates a beautifully selected progression of colors, softened and underscored by the lighting and shading techniques. After opening the book, I delightedly found that each panel and page is in full color. Each detail is delicately added and intricately designed.
Although it is technically unconfirmed as to whether Prince Siegfried has romantic feelings for Odet, it is heavily implied—Siegfried’s emotional expressions when he looks at Odet are an indication of his enchantment. Currently, Odet seems more preoccupied with the fact that he’s a prisoner and is also, y’know, cursed, but he is flattered by Siegfried’s kindness at times. The two also share some sweeter moments. So perhaps the two could fall in love! However, since Siegfried is the eldest son, and is expected to take his father’s place on the throne very soon—which means he has to get married, and I’m assuming by his kingdom’s social standards, preferably get married to a woman… and there are many women in this story who would love to get with this man: Alex, a blacksmith and close friend of Siegfried’s, and the pushy, snobby Eleanor appear to be Odet’s romantic rivals.
All in all, the added complexity of a queer romance in this action-packed classic fantasy tale is an excellent read, and one that’s definitely worthy of your attention.
Visit http://princeandswan.com/ to read the comic and like the comic on Facebook to keep track of updates! The comic updates every Monday, but the authors also post concept art and fan requests as well as comic con announcements to their Facebook page. You can also follow the comic on Twitter, Tumblr, and Instagram.