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Book #5 of Skyhook World Classics!

The Swan Knight

A Medieval Legend
Retold from Wagner’s Lohengrin

Book illustration

By Aaron Shepard

Cover art by Wendy Edelson

The lights dim, and a weighty silence falls upon the audience. From all over Europe and America, these fifteen hundred men and women have come to spend many days in this small German town and many hours in this theater. Some are merely curious. Some are there because it’s the fashion. But many have come out of devotion to the musical dramas of a composer they revere, almost worship—a composer who himself designed and built the theater they sit in. To them, this theater is a temple, and their journey a pilgrimage.

For a full minute or more, they wait solemnly in the dark, barely daring to move, their attention resting on the curtained stage below. Then the first musical notes float up and surround them—high, soft, sustained notes of strings and woodwinds—from an orchestra entirely hidden from view.

The composer’s devotees know what vision this shimmering music is meant to impart: the descent from Heaven of the Holy Grail, the drinking cup of Christ at the Last Supper. In their minds, they watch it draw nearer to earth, as the music grows louder and deeper and louder still, at last bursting out in horns, tympani, and cymbals. Then the Grail ascends once more, the music gradually softening until strings and woodwinds lead out as gently as they led in.

And now the curtains part, and the audience knows it will soon meet the knight who serves that Grail. . . .

Chapter book • Ages 10 & up

Aaron Shepard is the award-winning author of The Baker’s Dozen, The Sea King’s Daughter, The Monkey King, and many more children’s books, while his Web site is known internationally as a prime resource for folktales, storytelling, and reader’s theater. Once a professional storyteller, Aaron specializes in lively retellings of folktales and other traditional literature, which have won him honors from the American Library Association, the New York Public Library, the Bank Street College of Education, the National Council for the Social Studies, and the American Folklore Society.


You’re welcome to download a free digital copy of this book, if you’re an educator, librarian, bookseller, rights buyer, book reviewer, or anyone else needing to evaluate it professionally. To download now, just hit the link below. No personal info or approval is required.

The Swan Knight ARC
(PDF, 1 MB)

Skyhook Press

Ebook ~ 2014

Paperback ~ 2017

Hardcover ~ 2018

The following links may earn commissions for this site.

Book cover



“Shepard’s Skyhook World Classics series retells portions of epic narratives sure to pique kids’ interest. He cannily selects episodes likely to grab the attention of a wide range of middle-graders, [while] his storytelling voice varies to hint at the style of the original. These mini-novels would make fun classroom readalouds, too. No dumb-downs . . . Rated S for Snapped Up.”—S. C. Poe, Route 19 Writers

“What a wonderful way to expose and broaden the minds of our young people and adults. To be transported to another place and time. To experience stories that have lasted for centuries . . . These books have taken my grandsons away from their video and DVD games.”—Sandra Heptinstall, Whispering Winds Book Reviews

“Aaron Shepard does for folklore and epic poems what Charles and Mary Lamb did for Shakespeare in the 1800s—produces short, exciting, plot-centered adaptations that make the originals accessible to readers young and old, and that may tempt you to dip into the real thing someday.”—Susan Chapek

Sample Text

“Frederick,” said the king, “are you certain you wish to accuse this girl?”

“Her dreaminess can’t fool me,” said Frederick. “I have a witness to her crime. But my word alone should be enough, and I’m ready to defend it with my sword.”

“Then God alone must decide,” said the king, “in trial by combat. To the just he will give the victory. Elsa, who will fight for you?”

“The knight from my dream,” said Elsa. “As his reward, he shall take all my father’s lands—and myself as wife, if he’ll have me.”

At the king’s command, the herald called, “Let him who will fight for Elsa of Brabant come forth!” But no one stepped forward.

Elsa told the king, “He must yet be far away and not have heard. Please call again.”

The king assented, and the herald called again. “Let him who will fight for Elsa of Brabant come forth!” But still there was no response.

Elsa knelt in prayer. “Lord, tell my knight I need him now! Show him to me, just as he appeared before.”

Then shouts went up from men by the river’s edge.


“A swan!”

“It’s pulling a knight in a boat!”

Sample text copyright © 2002, 2014 Aaron Shepard.

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