... a short background for Odile.
I know we probably all have an inkling of an idea about the story of Swan Lake (Barbie made a cartoon out of it for cripes' sake, so there's that). But I thought I would give you the real love story from a ballet perspective - the short version.
I mean, it’s a freaking FOUR act ballet people! I get it. Even a ballet lover such as myself starts to squirm and think, 'alright already—get to the good part' or 'when is intermission, I hope they didn’t run out of my wine out in the theater lobby.' But, ohhh the white scene! For those of you that I’m just now introducing to ballet speak, all classic ballets of the Romantic era can be identified by one particular, common scene—the white tutu scene. This is the magnificent part of these stage productions where the corps de ballet of sixteen, thirty-two or sixty-four dancers, as well as any demi-soloists and the principals are costumed all in white. For Nutcracker this is the Snow Scene, Giselle has its willies, La Bayedere its shades and in Swan Lake this is when the ethereal namesake creature of the ballet takes over the entire production.
And where the romance begins...
(disclaimer for any very proper ballet police officials out there that have a strict adherence to a certain version of this story: this is a rundown of my favorite telling with some nods to the German and Russian fairy tales that probably inspired the story. Jury's still out on exactly which written version of the folktale led to Tchaikovsky's ballet but the theme remains. Boy meets swan and the rest is history... kind of... anyway...)
Prince Siegfried, at the beginning of manhood, is out partying with his boys and doing what medieval male types did back then for fun, one of the only things they could do —they went out to hunt and cause a ruckus in the forest one last time before Siegfried had to give into parental demands and tie the knot with some zealously, over-eager princess from a, hopefully, rich and powerful land. Because that’s how things went back in the day. So at the ripe old age of twenty-one cough, cough (work with me, people died young back then), Siegfried and his entourage boy-band went hunting. Getting separated from the group, Siegfried finds himself alone on the Owl Wizard, Von Rothebart’s, land. Through the evening mist he sees a beautiful white swan in flight. Thinking the bird would make the ultimate trophy, he takes aim with his crossbow and shoots.
Once Siegfried tracks down his prey he finds not only that he has missed the shot but that the swan has transformed into a lovely maiden, all in white. He becomes instantly infatuated and approaches the maiden, Odette, learning from her that she and the other white swans on the lake have been enchanted by the wizard. A spell on the maids has rendered them destined to swim the lake as swans by day only to transform into human women at night. Here, in this scene, comes the famous white swan pas de deux—a beautiful dance between Siegfried and Odette amid the corps of white swan ballerinas. It's gorgeous!
The pair fall magically in love during their evening on the lake together. Odette tells Sigfried that the only way to break Von Rothebart's curse is for him to pledge his love to her. Before he can do this, Von Rothebart appears and the swans have to hide the young prince’s departure to save his life. Still, the stage has been set and Siegfried pledges to never love another, telling Odette that he will find a way to break the wizard’s curse so that they can be together.
In the third act, a grand ball takes place at the castle where Siegfried resides. (Castle Eldwith in Odile, Legend of the Black Swan) It has been planned by the prince’s mother. Its purpose is to introduce the young prince to all the eligible maidens in the land in order for him to find a wife. There Siegfried is at this stuffy ball, forced to smile and nod at the pretty maids all in a row vying for his royal bank account, er... attention, when what he really wants is to sneak off to Swan Lake and his true love Odette again.
Enter the Black Swan. Now here things get a little sneaky in the dance world because in recent decades the roles of the black and white swans are danced by the same ballerina. It’s a dual role that is the absolute coveted diamond of all roles by any prima with aspirations of greatness. It shows off the dancer’s virtuosity and theatrical ability as well as her talent and strength. Anyway, back to the story (this is what I was talking about last week where sometimes the storytelling loses out to ballet’s athleticism and general show-offery. But, hey, it's one of the things that makes it so enjoyable to watch. ) So there Siegfried is, bored out of his mind and ants-in-his-pants anxious to get the heck out of the castle when who should appear on the arm of the evil Count Von Rothebart but his love, Odette. Only it isn’t Odette, it’s Von Rothebart’s daughter, Odile, wearing the spelled feathers of the black swan and disguised as the girl of Siegfried’s dreams.
The prince is ecstatic that his love is at the ball and claims her as his choice of wife right then and there in front of the whole ballroom. Only the White Swan, Odette, appears outside at the ballroom window. Brokenhearted and trying to warn Siegfried of Rothebart and Odile’s treachery, she flaps her swan wings desperately and rattles window. Immediately, Siegfried realizes his mistake and runs out of the castle to find Odette.
The whole kingdom is then in an uproar but Siegfried doesn't care, he hurries to Swan Lake to find Odette. In the ballet version, Odette and Siegfried end up jumping into the lake together and sacrificing themselves to break the wizard's evil spell on all of the swan maidens. In the very last scene, their spirits rise up together into the heavens with all of the swans watching. A tragic ending to this timeless love story.
As an author, I have taken some liberties with the retelling of this tale. In my choosing to take on the story of Odile, the co-conspirator of Von Rothebart, I have eluded to the idea that there were many secrets within this classic fairy tale that were not revealed in the ballet version. Did Odette and Siegfried's love really endure through the mystic after-life as the ballet suggests? Is Odile the cold hearted villainness that everyone assumes she is? Will Rothebart ever be truly defeated? These questions are all left somewhat open ended in the stage version of the story. But you can read all about what happened after the dramatic ending scene of the ballet in Odile, Legend of the Black Swan and find out for yourself.
In Odile, the unlikely romance between two dark, mysterious characters is told. Odile, the supposed Black Swan sorceress and Azarus, lord of stars and legends, enter a world of magic, spells and true love together. Read this after-the-curtain-closed look at a classic fairy tale to continue the journey of Swan Lake.
You can find Odile, Legend of the Black Swan on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iBooks and KoBo. Be sure to find it in the "Books" section of this website too!
*Photo sourced off Pinterest - Jack Vartoogian / Getty Images
About the Author
Amanda V Shane is an author of paranormal and fantasy romance and is currently working on her Tides of Atlantis series about the super hot lost kings of Atlantis as well as her Enchanted Lands Romances.