I’m back to more of a general fairy tale character who turns up in multiple stories, rather than a specific tale, although I couldn’t resist putting a black swan in to reference ‘Swan Lake’. Still, while that’s not as old a fairy tale as I’ve generally been working from, maidens turning into swans has a long history.
Mostly it’s the same basic template as selkie stories – some dick sees a swan maiden in her human form bathing or whatnot, steals her feathered cloak so she can’t change back, and entraps her into marriage and childbearing. Usually she gets away in the end. By contrast, the maiden in Swan Lake has been transformed into a swan by a magical asshole, so her prince actually is trying to save her instead of trapping her himself. They die at the end, though.
So either way, we’re looking at a sad story of a woman forced into a shape and captivity she didn’t choose, but also a magical woman deeply connected to the water, the natural world and fertility, and her own inner life and needs. The Rider-Waite emphasizes a balance between order and wildness, or conscious and subconscious – I wanted her gown to be a combination of structure and flowing organic froth, and her hair is the same idea – braids that release into a riot of curls.