Birds Of A Feather

By and for Bird-People

What kind of swan? : A swan maiden bestiary


The swan maiden is a familiar story all around the world. But, I have never heard anyone ask, “what kind of swan maiden?” There are many different kinds of swan, and so, it’s possible to imagine, there are many different kinds of swan maiden, too. So, I decided to try to describe what they might be like, in case people want to write them in stories, RPGs, etc.

This is a fictional project. This is not my UPG, and it does not describe any real species that I know exists. Though, of course, if something in here inspires you, or creates a memory… then, it’s possible I might be describing something real, too. I just don’t mean for it to be UPG when I write it. Read it like it is an entry for an RPG book, and, if it also describes you, then, that’s even better.

Also, I am using “maiden” in this writing, but, swan maidens can be any gender! The “common areas” description suggests where a swan maiden character might be from, but, because of modern travel, a swan maiden can be found in any place in the world… though, they won’t be happy in a place without water.

General descriptions

Swan maidens might look human when they take off their cloaks, but, they are children of the fae, and so they all have something about them that looks a little “not human”. In tales, this is often described as “unearthly beauty”, though, a swan maiden might or might not be beautiful in a traditional way.

The big thing that gives away swan maidens, is that often they have completely black eyes, with no white like the eyes of a human. This is an obvious clue that the swan maiden is not human, though, not all swan maidens have this. The second clue is that swan maidens often have an area of skin on the nose that is a little lighter (if the swan maiden has black or brown skin) or darker (if the swan maiden has white skin) than the rest of the face, making it look like a “beak”. This area of skin might not be noticed at some times, but, when the swan maiden is often in the sun, the difference in tan can be seen. Some swan maidens have small black claws instead of nails, and if a swan maiden is trying to hide from human society, they often paint their claws in a color that matches their skin and does not draw attention.

Swan maidens usually have black hair, though, in rare times, it is completely white. When they are born, the hair is soft, fuzzy and grey (or white if the swan maiden is albino). After this baby hair falls out, their adult color of hair begins to grow, quickly and very thick.

All swan maidens have a territory, though, for some it is bigger than for others. A swan maiden will often defend their territory even to death.

Mute swan maiden
Common areas: Europe, Asia, North Africa, Mediterranean, Iceland, North America, Canada, Australia, New Zealand

Mute swan maidens are found in many places in the world, and many different ethnic groups. A popular place for them to live is Russia, where the temperature is how they like it, and there are many other swans for them to fit in, but, it’s really possible to find them anywhere. They usually have black hair and black eyes, and in “human” form they are between average height and tall height.

Mute swan maidens often dominate the areas they live, not just from other swan maidens, but also from other types of fae. A pond or lake where these swans are living is a pond where most other fae are not welcome, because the mute swans claim their territory in an aggressive way. They usually will accept smaller fae to live in their area, but, large ones that might challenge the swan maidens for territory are chased away. Often, when talking to a mute swan maiden, you will find that they don’t like to use long sentences, instead, they will make grunting noises or they will speak with just a few words, to get their point across. They are not very social, and difficult to deal with. They are definitely not against violence if you are in their way, and they have very little sense of taboos, or other people’s personal space.

Tundra swan maiden
Common areas: North America, Canada, Western Europe, China, Japan

Tundra swan maidens are often smaller than most swan maidens, and they can sometimes be noticed by bright yellow areas on their skin (usually on the hands, feet, or face) or a blonde area in the hair. Usually, they will say it is a birth mark if they don’t want to be discovered. Sometimes, the hair might be completely blonde, even in ethnicities who don’t normally have blonde hair.

The tundra swan maiden’s typical personality is “shy but noisy”. They are often less aggressive than mute swan maidens and instead of challenging others for territory, they simply stay out of the way. But, when they do feel social with someone, they often talk a lot. They often have very high and loud voices.

Trumpeter swan maiden
Common areas: Iceland, Europe, Asia, North America

Trumpeter swan maidens in the “human” form are tall and often large. They are not often seen, but they are particularly easy to tell from humans because of the appearance of their skin and hair. A trumpeter swan maiden always has black or white hair and black eyes, never any other color. Also, their skin has a grey look, with no warm colors in it. If they are a brown or black ethnic group, their skin will look almost dark grey with not a lot of brown. If they are a white ethnic group, they will look very pale, almost the color of paper. This often causes people to think that the swan maiden is ill, but in fact, it’s their natural appearance. The only part of a trumpeter swan maiden’s skin that might have some color is the lips.

Trumpeter swan maidens in Japan are usually tall with pale skin and long black hair, and so, they are sometimes confused with Yuki-onna, another type of local fae.

Like mute swan maidens, trumpeter swan maidens are often aggressive fae. Probably, they are the only type who will stand up to a mute swan maiden. Though, they are more social and like to talk.

Black swan maiden
Common areas: Australia, New Zealand

Black swan maidens mostly live in the southern half of the world, and many of them are (or look like) indigenous people of Australia and New Zealand. Black swan maidens usually have very curly hair that matches the curly feathers of the swan form, and though they are usually black in skin color, the palms of their hands are very white, like the flight feathers of the black swan. Usually their eyes are black like the eyes of other swan maidens, but sometimes, they will have eyes that are a red-brown color with a black ring around them. Often, they have sweet voices.

Black swan maiden cloaks are particularly beautiful, and often they are stolen to sell, ignoring the effect this has on the swan maiden. Because of this, black swan maidens are particularly unhappy with humans, though they also do not hide. Most swan maidens ignore human society, but black swan maidens can sometimes be found working in secret with human environmental groups, to keep non-indigenous humans from invading their territory. (Most indigenous humans would not steal the cloaks, because they know there is trouble if they do. Because of this, there is a good relationship between the black swan maidens and indigenous humans, and at very rare times when a special bond of friendship exists, a black swan maiden who is about to die will give their cloak to a local shaman, and these are thought to be very precious and magical gifts. Perhaps, this is where the legend of the shaman’s swan cloak comes from.)

Black swan maidens are very social with their own kind, probably the most social of all swan maidens, and don’t defend their territory so violently against other swan maidens or fae, though they can still be aggressive when they have to, like all swan maidens.

Black-necked swan maiden
Common areas: South America

Not much is known about this kind of swan maiden, who often stays out of the way of people, because they have a very obvious appearance. Like their swan form, their “human” form usually has a darker head and neck, and paler hands, feet and body, though, it is not always solid like this, and sometimes the color differences will appear in patches. Humans will usually think it is a skin condition, but, it means that they pay more attention to the person (and maybe notice other things about them, like the black eyes) and often discriminate against them. Also, this kind of swan maiden sometimes has a red bump or patch at the top of the nose, that looks like a birth mark, though, not always. This kind of swan maiden usually looks very small in “human” form.

Because they get a lot of negative attention from humans, black-necked swans often spend more time as swans than other kinds of swan maidens. Though most swan maidens enjoy spending time in their swan form, black-necked swans often live their whole lives as swans, and appear as “humans” only at very rare times. Because of this, a black-necked swan maiden is often socially awkward in the human world, even more than most fae. Also, the black-necked swan maiden often has even more of a strong love for water than other swan maidens, which adds to their reasons to live a swan life, instead of a human one. If they are taken away from water, these swan maidens become uncomfortable very quickly.

They do enjoy the company of other swan maidens, and they can be quite social among their own kind.

Coscoroba swan maiden
Common areas: South America

Scientists are not sure if Coscoroba swans are really swans… but, goose maidens exist, and Coscoroba swan maidens do, too. In “human” form they are small people and often a little pale for their ethnic group, with skin that burns quickly and turns bright red. In “human” form, these swan maidens try to stay out of the sun. It’s common that they have white hair and some even are albino.

These swan maidens are often quite fast in movement, and often they use this skill when hunting or avoiding predators (for a fae, “predators” usually means “humans”…and, “hunting” usually means “humans” as well!) They like to be social with other kinds of fae, and often they share territory with other swan maidens, or even other kinds of bird maidens. Usually, they do not discriminate much, though, a lot of swan maidens discriminate against them, thinking they are not “true” swan maidens. Though, they get along well with black-necked swan maidens, because both of them have similar problems of negative attention.

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