once upon a time in a kingdom far away, there were eleven princes and a single princess, by the name of elisa. one day, their mother died of a disease.
eventually the king married again. the new queen hated the twelve children.
she said craftily, "elisa is weak, and it would be good for her to go to the country for recuperation." the king was grateful to the queen, as she seemed to care for the health of his daughter. therefore, the princess was sent off to the remotest corner of the country.
the queen then changed the eleven princes into swans through her magic power, and sent them away from the royal palace. the princes flew away crying sadly. "oh! i feel good. it is my world now."
after some time, the king missed princess elisa and sent for her. the queen had princess elisa wear a dirty and worn-out dress. the king was very surprised to see the dirty princess elisa. "elisa, how do you dress yourself?" then the queen said quickly, "dear lord, it seems that princess elisa has gone mad." the king was furious and sent the princess away from him.
"ah! where are my brothers?" the princess asked a man passing by, "have you ever seen eleven princes?" the man said, "i have not seen eleven princes but i have seen eleven swans. strangely the swans wore golden crowns. you may find them near the river."
princess elisa waited for her brothers near the river hoping to find them. at night, eleven swans swooped down to the ground and were turned into the form of princes. "my brothers!" "elisa!" they cried and embraced each other.
the brothers were trapped under the spell of the wicked queen, and were forced to become swans and fly around to look for something to eat during the day. elisa prayed earnestly, "dear god, please release the magic curse from my brothers." in her dreams that night, a fairy appeared and said, "make mantles for your brothers with hemp and have them wear the mantles. however, you should not speak at all until those mantles are made completely."
the princes thought that elisa, who did not speak and merely kept knitting, had become strange. one day, a prince from a neighboring kingdom saw the knitting princess when he was out hunting. the prince took elisa to his palace saying to himself, "she is a really beautiful lady. i am going to make her happy."
but elisa did not say anything, and only kept knitting eagerly. at nightfall of the next day, the hemp was all used up. elisa picked some more hemp near a grave but was caught by the prince. the prince said, "you dared to go to a grave at night? you must be a witch. take this witch and burn her at the stake!"
princess elisa was unable to say anything and was imprisoned. princess elisa continued knitting without taking rest even in the prison. princess elisa was finally knitting the eleventh mantle, while being carried on a cart going to the burning place. the villagers threw stones at her while shouting, "that witch is still knitting. burn her at the stake!"
at that precise moment, the eleven swans flew in. princess elisa threw the finished mantles to the swans. only then, princess elisa opened her mouth. "i now can speak. i am not a witch."
they donned the knitted hoods they were turned back into princes. the princess told the prince what had happened up to that time. thereafter, the prince and princess elisa lived happily together in their kingdom.