Odette and Derek kissing.

The Swan Princess Is Not Your Average Fairytale

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A green apple nestled among a collection of red ones. A copper penny between silver coins. Humans are inevitably attracted to things that are different from others and The Swan Princess is no exception. The film narrates the love story of Princess Odette and Prince Eric and the tragic fate that almost tore them apart.

Derek and Odette sharing true love's kiss.
Credit: The Swan Princess, Nest Entertainment Rich Animation Studios, 1994.

The reason The Swan Princess can be distinguished from other princess movies is that it does not follow the same cinematic rule of thumb. Most of the movies in that genre have the same steps. Step one: curious girl acquires a villain, step two: said villain throws a wrench in the girl’s life, and step three: prince saves the girl and they share their first kiss. This film does not follow that formula.

Love At First Sight? I Think Not!

Love, at first sight, is a timeless classic in fairy tales, but a love forged through time can transcend any obstacle. In The Swan Princess, Derek and Odette were two wrecking balls forced to clash together by their parents. King William and Queen Uberta were romantic masterminds that greedily agreed to an arranged marriage between their children. Thus, in spite of not standing each other’s company, Derek and Odette were forced to spend their summers together.

The queen and king from the film "The Swan Princess" holding their fighting children back.
Credit: The Swan Princess, Nest Entertainment Rich Animation Studios, 1994.

As the summers passed, Derek and Odette were forced to mingle and they unwittingly grew closer. Derek was constantly mean to Odette and she was rude in retaliation. As they both grew into teenagers, Derek continued to dislike Odette and Odette, upon seeing that Derek and his friends would not accept her, sought entertainment from other sources. Derek deemed her worthy of attention when she grew up beautifully. However, Derek does not articulate his new-found admiration well and ends up driving Odette away from him.

The Swan Princess‘ Villain

Lord Rothbart is a complex villain with simple ambitions. He is an evil sorcerer that has mastered the forbidden arts (which is The Swan Princess lingo for dark magic). 

“Once you steal something, you spend your whole life fighting to keep it.”

Rothbart

The villain has always coveted Odette’s father’s kingdom and spent his entire life scheming on how to get it. He is known as “the great animal” because he turns into a hybrid with the head of a wolf, the wings of a bat, the talons of an eagle and the tail of a lizard. However, Rothbart is good at hiding his animal persona.

Lord Rothbart kneeling before Odette.
Credit: The Swan Princess, Nest Entertainment Rich Animation Studios, 1994.

The sorcerer tries adamantly to entice Odette into marrying him. This is because Rothbart knows that the only way he can get the kingdom he wants is by marrying into the royal line. Thus, after he kidnapped and turned Odette into a swan, he visits her every night to ask for her hand in marriage, using his magic to turn himself into a knight and hide his true nature.

A Cleverly Executed Plan

Everyone in the kingdom assumes Odette is dead. However, Derek has an inkling that she is still alive and out there waiting for him. Although Odette rejected Derek, the princess harbors an infatuation towards the prince and she knows he will come to save her. Nevertheless, is childhood affection enough to break the curse of the swan princess?

Odette as a swan, with her animal sidekicks.
Credit: The Swan Princess, Nest Entertainment Rich Animation Studios, 1994.

Rothbart ensures that the only way to break Odette’s curse is through a declaration of everlasting love. Our valiant prince Derek wholeheartedly agrees to do so, not knowing he is walking right into the scheming sorcerer’s trap.

The Swan Princess And Her Twin?

Upon overhearing Derek’s plan to break the curse, Rothbart turns his minion into a mirrored image of Odette. Afterward, the swan watches hopelessly as any hope for freedom slips away while Rothbart has her look-alike impersonating her at the ball Derek planned. It is here that Derek professes his love for Odette whilst directing himself at the disguised minion. Unfortunately, Odette dies because of Derek’s words. Shortly after, Rothbart appeared to gloat as he outsmarted Derek.

Odette transforming back into a human.
Credit: The Swan Princess, Nest Entertainment Rich Animation Studios, 1994.

Outraged by this development, Derek demands that Rothbart uses his magic to bring Odette back. Thinking that he has won, in his arrogance, Rothbart agrees to do so if Derek can best him in battle. Derek, facing off against the great beast, emphasizes how much depth his relationship with Odette has acquired. He demonstrates that he is willing to do anything to save her.

From Zero To Hero

Derek starts off as a short-tempered prince and it is only through tragedy that he realizes how deeply he cherishes his swan princess. At the beginning of the film, the young prince only admired Odette for her beauty. That changed the second he lost her to Rothbart. He realizes that he has always loved her, albeit he did not show it in the best way. This revelation gives him the strength needed to defeat the cocky villain and bring his love back to life. Proving that love forged through time has the power to overcome death.

Derek, the prince from "The Swan Princess," being perplexed over something Odette said.
Credit: The Swan Princess, Nest Entertainment Rich Animation Studios, 1994.

Step one: girl meets boy and they hate each other, step two: girl turns into a swan, and step three: an everlasting love conquers all. This is the formula The Swan Princess follows. Odette and Derek’s relationship starts off as something superficial. In an unlikely turn of events, Derek and Odette end up creating a unique relationship in spite of having initially disliked each other. The Swan Princess is available on Hulu along with its sequels that further the progression of Derek and Odette’s peculiar love story.