Swan (hakuchoo)



Swan (hakuchoo)

***** Location: Japan
***** Season: Various, see below
***** Category: Animal


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kigo for late winter

white swan, hakuchoo 白鳥 (はくちょう)
suwan スワン
Cygnus cygnus
big white swan, oo hakuchoo 大白鳥(おおはくちょう) whooper swan
kugui 鵠(くぐい)

kohakuchoo (こはくちょう) 小白鳥 Bewick's swan
lit. "small swan"
Cygnus bewickii
whistling swan, tundra swan, C.columbianus

naki hakuchoo ナキハクチョウ trumpeter swan
C. buccinator

white swans are coming, hakuchoo kuru

"black bird", black swan, koku choo 黒鳥(こくちょう)


kigo for mid-spring

white swans coming back, hakuchoo kaeru
白鳥帰る (はくちょうかえる)

remaining swans, nokoru hakuchoo 残る白鳥(のこるはくちょう)


Swans are large water birds of the family Anatidae, which also includes geese and ducks. Swans are grouped with the closely related geese in the subfamily Anserinae where they form the tribe Cygnini. Sometimes, they are considered a distinct subfamily, Cygninae.

Role in culture

Many of the cultural aspects refer to the Mute Swan of Europe. Perhaps the best known story about a swan is The Ugly Duckling fable. The story centers around a duckling who is mistreated until it becomes evident he is a swan and is accepted into the habitat. He was mistreated because real ducklings are, according to many, more attractive than a cygnet, yet cygnets become swans, which are very attractive creatures. Swans are often a symbol of love or fidelity because of their long-lasting monogamous relationships.

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See the famous swan-related operas Lohengrin and Parsifal. In the Irish legend The Wooing of Etain, the king of the Sidhe (subterranean-dwelling, supernatural beings) transforms himself and the most beautiful woman in Ireland, Etain, into swans to escape from the king of Ireland and Ireland's armies.

Swan maidens, shapeshifters who are able to transform from human to swan and vice versa, are a worldwide motif in folklore. The typical tale is of a swan maiden who is temporarily robbed of her powers and forced to marry a human man.

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Swan Lake Ballet

Swans feature strongly in mythology. In Greek mythology, the story of Leda and the Swan recounts that Helen of Troy was conceived in a union of Zeus disguised as a swan and Leda, Queen of Sparta.

The Irish legend of the Children of Lir is about a stepmother transforming her children into swans for 900 years. Myths also exist about swans themselves. It was once believed that upon death the otherwise silent Mute Swan would sing beautifully - hence the phrase swan song.

In Norse mythology, there are two swans that drink from the sacred Well of Urd in the realm of Asgard, home of the gods. According to the Prose Edda, the water of this well is so pure and holy that all things that touch it turn white, including this original pair of swans and all others descended from them. The poem Volundarkvida, or the Lay of Volund, part of the Poetic Edda, also features swan maidens.

In the Russian fable, „Гуси — лебеди“, the swan is a servant of an evil witch who helps her by bringing her children.

In the Finnish epic Kalevala, a swan lives in the Tuoni river located in Tuonela, the underworld realm of the dead. According to the story, whoever killed a swan would perish as well. Jean Sibelius composed the Lemminkäinen Suite based on Kalevala, with the second piece entitled Swan of Tuonela (Tuonelan joutsen). Today, five flying swans are the symbol of the Nordic Countries and the whooper swan (Cygnus cygnus) is the national bird of Finland.

In Latin American literature, the Nicaraguan poet Ruben Darío (1867-1916) consecrated the swan as a symbol of artistic inspiration by drawing attention to the constancy of swan imagery in Western culture, beginning with the rape of Leda and ending with Wagner's Lohengrin. Darío's most famous poem in this regard is Blasón - "Coat of Arms" (1896), and his use of the swan made it a symbol for the Modernismo poetic movement that dominated Spanish language poetry from the 1880s until the First World War. Such was the dominance of Modernismo in Spanish language poetry that the Mexican poet Enrique González Martínez attempted to announce the end of Modernismo with a sonnet provocatively entitled, Tuércele el cuello al cisne - "Wring the Swan's Neck" (1910).

Swans are revered in many religions and cultures, especially Hinduism. The Sanskrit word for swan is hamsa or hansa, and it is the vehicle of many deities like the goddess Saraswati. It is mentioned several times in the Vedic literature, and persons who have attained great spiritual capabilities are sometimes called Paramahamsa ("Great Swan") on account of their spiritual grace and ability to travel between various spiritual worlds.

In the Vedas, swans are said to reside in the summer on Lake Manasarovar and migrate to Indian lakes for the winter, eat pearls, and separate milk from water in a mixture of both. Hindu iconography typically shows the Mute Swan. It is wrongly supposed by many historians that the word hamsa only refers to a goose, since today swans are no longer found in India, not even in most zoos. However, ornithological checklists clearly classify several species of swans as vagrant birds in India.

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Hamsa swan

One Chinese idiom about swans is how "a toad wants to eat swan flesh!". This idiom is used derisively on men who desire women who are beyond their station in terms of wealth, social class or beauty.

The Black Swan is the faunal emblem of the Australian state of Western Australia and swans are featured on the coat of arms of Canberra, the Australian capital.

Canberra Swans

Swans play a role in LucasArts' graphic adventure computer game Loom. In the game, swans are shown to be what becomes of members of the Guild of Weavers who are either banished or die. They transcend to a higher plane of existence and become swans. The main character Bobbin's mother was also named Cygna, which is a variation of the word cygnus.

Today swans are used symbolically or as brands. The Sydney Swans AFL Team uses a swan as its club emblem/mascot, and Swansea City A.F.C.'s mascot is a swan called Cyril the Swan.

"The Bonny Swans" is a song from Loreena McKennitt's 1994 album The Mask and Mirror.

© More in the WIKIPEDIA !

Worldwide use

Things found on the way


frozen lake -
two swans struggeling
on thin ice


after the typhoon in October 2004

Yesterday I ventured out by car, passing the small roads whith trees all over cut and thrown alongside, all fallen down by the typhoon. Many landslides just pushed aside to get one car through.

The local irrigation pond was filled to the brink with muddy green-brown water, and yet our two village pets were here unharmed and seemed to give me courage to get on with life.

muddy pond -
two swans afloat
in silent circles

trueber Teich -
zwei Schwaene gleiten
in ruhigen Kreisen

© Gabi Greve, Oct 26, 2004


summer lake -
a black swan
watches a black sheep

Sommerteich -
ein schwarzer Schwan
sieht einen schwarzes Schaf

 © Photo and Haiku: Gabi Greve, 2005

Related words

***** Winter Birds as KIGO

Tundra, a topic for haiku


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