In lands far off, at one time or another, there lay a deep forest. These woods were not ordinary, to say the least. Morning brought filtered light seeping in through the dense hair of trees; the heavens wove speckles of stars upon the call of evening. Majestic flowers bloomed in springtime, and delicate tendrils of sparkling snow enveloped the forest during the reign of winter. But no landscape, whether it was the beauteous gown of autumn or the rosy hue of dawn, was able to compete with the pond.
This glorious region of water would not have been half as awe-inspiring, in fact, if the very creature of loveliness did not reside there. She was a swan, and so radiant was her beauty that, upon her arrival every break of morning, woodland critters gathered from all around to catch a glimpse. The premature light of the sun would cast rays upon her, showering the pureness of her feathers with glitters of gold. Her eyes shone with youth and the curiosity that came with it, and so graceful were her movements that the water hardly rippled upon her passing.
It came to be that a crane who once caught sight of her instantly loved her, and each day he would wait for her as she swam forth in all her majesty. But the swan was vain, as the constant adorations she received made her, and would not take the stiff-legged crane. And yet, each day, as the swan swam and drank and fluttered her eyes at the beings that cooed over her, the crane would stand by and watch in hopes of attracting her attention. But she banished his love continuously, and at long last the crane began to lose hope. In the midst of great sorrow he failed to return one day and, as it happened, there was no one to look out for danger in his absence.
A slick fox approached the pond while the swan was swimming, and the small animals that had been marveling over her fled in fear. Still the sly predator sat and waited, flicking his tail and licking his chops as she circled the water. When the lovely white bird came close enough to hear him, he began to talk and whisper to her as no other had done before.
"Ah! How enchanting you are, my lady," purred he. "Never have these old eyes seen anything quite like you before. Only the wildest of visions could ever hope to meet your splendor. But alas, I am not as young as I used to be… Swim closer, my beauty, so that I might get a better look at you."
She ignored him at first, turning her head and swimming off to the other side of the pond. But the fox persisted, coaxing and complimenting until his words got to her at last. With shining eyes and head held high she approached him, for she had never learned to resist the honeyed tongue of a fox. While he murmured out his words of trickery she drew nearer, and when the swan was but a paw's length away the devious fox made his move.
He pounced and dragged the swan from the water before she knew what was happening. She flailed and she fought to no avail, for the fox was stronger and built of cunning. But the crane was far away by now, broken-hearted, and deaf to her piteous cries for help. The last thing the swan was able to utter was a shriek that was unlike any other, one that rang off into the trees and one that, simultaneously, haunted the hearts of any who heard it.
It was said that the likeness of a swamp soon took over the pond, and that vileness existed after beauty.