Penelope Wilton reads an adaptation of 'The Wild Swans' by Hans Christian Andersen

Release date:

Available now

15 minutes

Last on

Fri 3 Jun 2016 03:15


A king has eleven sons and one daughter, the Princess Eliza. When the king remarries, the new queen is jealous of his children. Princess Eliza is sent away to live with peasants and the queen tries to cast a spell on the princes to turn them into ugly birds. The princes are too noble for the spell to work and are turned into beautiful swans by day but turn back into humans by night. 

Princess Eliza is allowed to return home when she turns fifteen, but the queen covers her with a smelly green ointment. The king does not recognise his daughter and she is sent away again. Walking through a forest she comes across a river and washes off the ointment. Then she meets a kindly old woman, who turns out to be a fairy and who suggests that she follow the river to find her brothers. On reaching the sea, Princess Eliza sees eleven swans flying towards her. As the sun goes down the swans turn into her brothers. The next morning they carry Eliza away with them to a faraway land where they all live in a cave.

One night, the fairy returns to Eliza in a dream and tells her to weave eleven coats from the nettles that grow around the cave or in a churchyard. The fairy says that if she places the coats on her brothers the spell will be broken. However, she must not say a word whilst working on the coats. If she does, her brothers will die. Eliza starts to gather nettles and begins weaving the coats. Her youngest brother cries to see her work with the nettles and his tears soothe her stinging hands.

Then one day a young huntsman discovers Eliza working in the cave. He is the king of this land and he takes her to his castle and allows her to continue working on the coats. He believes he is falling in love with her. Eliza runs out of nettles while weaving the last coat so she creeps out at night to find a churchyard for more nettles. Found by the king's men, she is accused of witchcraft and banished from the kingdom. But she completes the last coat and as she is being carried away in a cart the eleven swans arrive. She throws a nettle coat over each one, and they turn back into princes. At last, she can tell her story. The king asks her to marry him and she accepts. 


Role Contributor
ReaderPenelope Wilton
AdaptorKate Stonham

Programme notes

Teacher's Notes

Information on each episode and follow-up activities