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One calm evening, a beautiful female Swan was sailing across Cuejdel Lake, near the town of Piatra Neamt in Northern Romania, feeding on the vegetation, minding her own business. Nearby, searching unsuccessfully all day for food was a hunter. Crawling through the bushes in the falling light, he saw the swan as an easy target. Since he had not caught anything that day, he carefully raised his bow and arrow, aimed and fired an arrow towards the peaceful creature. The Swan, upon hearing the whistling movement of the arrow through the air, and raising her enormous wings, took flight. Just as she was aloft, the arrow hit her in the thigh. She cried out a sharp shrill but carried on fighting against the effort to take flight.
She didn’t get very far before the pain overwhelmed her, and landed badly in the nearby woods. Alexandru, a woodsman who’d been working there, gathering branches, found the poor injured Swan. He took pity on her and dropped his wood, and after very gently approaching the swan, wrapping his coat over her to protect himself as much as to keep her warm, carried the Swan to his house. There he removed the arrow and applied some alcohol, and herbs to help heal the wound. Alexandru took good care of the Swan, he fed her and changed her dressing every day. As her wound healed, the Swan became very attached to this kind woodsman, and eventually, in love. Alexandru named the Swan, Elena.
Unbeknown to the woodsman, the Swan happened to possess magic powers, and she was able to turn herself into a beautiful woman. When Alexandru came home from his work that evening, he found the woman there, a tall, dark-haired and very beautiful woman with piercing blue eyes, and a Russian or Ukrainian sounding voice. Elena, as she was called, had prepared a meal for him, of soup, cabbage rolls, followed by a dessert of pancakes, which she called Nalisniki. Some days later, she went into the village and procured a weaving loom that she placed in one of the rooms.
That night the woman explained to her husband that she would weave the finest cloth to sell in the market. That way they could earn much more money than he can possibly make from selling wood. But she warned him that he must never come into the room when she is working, or something really bad will happen. He promised her he would not. They became very much in love and eventually married.
Weeks and months passed. Every day Alexandru went to the market to sell the fine cloth and every evening when he arrived back home, Elena had produced a large quantity of newly woven cloth. They were now very well off, and they had a very good life, but most of all, they treasured their love. Gradually, Alexandru became curious, and he wanted to see how his wife managed to produce all this fine cloth day in day out.
So one day, he returned earlier than expected, and he snuck up to the room where she worked. He could hear her working inside. He slowly opened the door and peeked inside. To his great shock, there working at the loam was the Swan he rescued! Immediately the magic spell was broken, and the swan returned to her natural state with no more magical powers. Because he could not control his curiosity, the man lost his wife and his income. Elena grew apart, returned to the lake and resumed her quiet life milling around the shores, but in another part of the lake. Alexandru never recovered from the loss and spent his spare time sitting by the shores alone, hoping one day to revive the magic and rekindle his love affair.
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