"The Bonny Swans"

I have recent discovered the music of Loreena McKennitt.

She has a song called “The Bonny Swans”, which she says is adapted from a fable “in which a girl, drowned by her jealous sister, returns first as a swan and then is transformed into a harp”

The closing lyrics to the song sound like they could be a historical reference:

“And there does sit my father the King…”
“And yonder sits my mother the Queen…”
“And there does sit my brother Hugh…”
“And by him William, sweet and true…”
“And there does sit my false sister Anne…”
“Who drowned me for the sake of a man…”

It seems to describe a princess with a brother named Hugh, a sister named Anne, and a sweetheart named William, who perhaps ended up with Anne.

Does anyone have an idea of what this might be ref to, if it is at all?

UDD, the song in question is yet another version of an old (Oh, here it gets fun) folk tune.

The problem is, no one can decide who came up with it first. There’s a version that locks itself to 1800’s America … another to 1700 Scotland, another to England, and so forth. So far, I’ve collected at least 4 different versions of this song, and heard several others that I wasn’t able to get the words to. In each of them, the eldest sister kills the youngest by drowning her. In almost every version, her body is used to make an instrument by a passing bard. In each of those, the minstrel accidentally shows up in her father’s hall, and the harp plays by itself, giving away the murder.

McKennitt’s is the only version I’ve found that names the family, so …

Suze – what AM I doing? – anne

The Burning Begins Anew at

Well, if this were a real royal family, it sounds like Hugh would be the heir to the throne. There’s never been a King Hugh in England (since the Norman conquest anyway), and a quick search of web pages on the Scottish royal family doesn’t turn up anything either. So unless he died tragically young, I’d say it’s NOT a historical reference.

Well, Loreena’s music seems most strongly influenced by Irish tradition (and judging by her accent, I think it is safe to assume that she is Irish), so that would be the first place I would like to investigate, but it isn’t sounding too hopeful, esp hearing what Suze said.

Actually, I belive she is Canadian.

“The universe doesn’t give first warnings or second chances”

Yep, it looks like you are right! She is Canadian.

But this probably explains the accent: "Her family has been in Canada for at least a
couple of generations although the origins of her family on both sides are Irish. Loreena has spent quite a bit of time in Ireland, however, and now owns a cottage in County Clare. "