This is a timeless play that transcends culture, language and religion. A young boy and his grandfather sit together admiring the scenery and pondering life and love, good and evil.
The story that evolves is a fairytale designed to answer the question, “where have all the swans gone and why did they leave?” The fairytale is based around two young lovers, Zhibek and Tolegen. The lovers were about to wed when a local evil ruler decided he wanted Zhibek for himself, he kidnaps the fair maiden and gives her forty days to agree to his proposal. There is of course consternation and Zhibek’s parents are horrified and Tolegen, her soul mate, is made prisoner by Bekezhan. As with all good fairy tales and fables the characters face perils, battles and frightful moral choices.
Desperately unhappy and refusing the proposal from her capture, Zhibek in her desperation manages to summon a fairy godmother/spirit. This spirit comes to her aid and gives her a choice; if she truly loves Tolegen she will turn into a white swan and she can escape from Bekezhan and search for her beloved however if her heart is not pure she will be turned into an ugly grotesque vulture for all eternity. As in all good tales, Zhibek decides their love is worth the risk and as she spreads her arms, her love is declared to be real and she transforms into a magnificent swan with a golden amulet around her ankle free fly off into the sunset.
Upon hearing that Zhibek has escaped Bekezhan becomes hysterical and immediately decrees that all swans must be culled. As he is one of the most accurate and fierce hunters in the territory they release Tolegen from his cell to hunt and kill as many swans as he can hut particularly the whitest swan with the golden amulet around her ankle. Tolegen was not told that his betrothed was the whitest swan obviously had he known he never would have agreed to participate. The resulting slaughter of swans is heart-breaking and although Tolegen does not release one arrow from his quiver he is feeling responsible and ill at ease. Zhibek the swan swoops down to see Tolegen alive and is overcome with relief; however he does not recognise her as a swan and sends her away. Zhibek tries in vain to convince him that she is in fact his beloved but he cannot conceive of the notion that she has taken the form of a swan.
Bekezhan’s ruthless nature again presents itself, insisting if he wants to live Tolegen must shoot Zhibek. Unsurprisingly, he cannot, he insists he has not shot one swan and that he could not possibly shoot the most beautiful swan he has ever seen. Surrounded by soldiers, Zhibek escapes and Tolegen is injured, realising brawn might not win this battle. Zhibek decided to outwit Bekezhan. In order to rid the territory of this evil man Zhibek suggests that if like her his love was real he would be turned into a swan and they would be married but if his heart possessed malice and evil he would become a vulture. As he was possessed almost entirely by evil, Bekezhan became a dark vulture and flew off into the night. Zhibek flew down and saved Tolegen’s life and they are the other swans flew off into the sunset, never to return to the territory until it was rid of evil and kindness, compassion, humanity and love was restored. In response to where did all swans go and when will they be back, I think the answer is simple. The swans return when they feel welcomed, cherished, protected and valued. A will sentiment that I am sure is understood and recognised all over the world.