They've been called by too many names to count. Forms of labor that are usual as well as unjust. Many go on in their working ways until their final moments. But, there are others. Servants that go about the daily refusing to give in. Working harder than life should ever demand. The tide does turn. Roles are reversed. All good things must greet someone at the door of opportunity--they might as well be the most deserving.
Many years ago there was a wealthy landowner who had many servants. There was little or no conversation, only orders. One of the servants was Ivan. A skilled young man, Ivan probably could have taken over for the landowner all by himself, but class and resilience got in the way. For Ivan was a hunter. A hunter that had one game on his agenda. The game of chance.
One day, the landowner demanded that Ivan venture deeper than ever before into the darkest reaches of the forest. The landowner wanted to be impressed with the daily catch. Ivan set out just before sunrise, knowing that he could not ever impress such a greed ridden figure.
After a few hours of walking in the pre-dawn haze of the coming morn, Ivan thought he heard what he believed to be water rippling on the other side of a large rock formation. Just as the sun cut through the trees Ivan saw the most gorgeous sight he had ever seen. A lake. A lake so clear and so serene that it appeared to be made out of glass. He called it "Crystal Lake."
Twelve snow-white swans were peacefully swimming on the surface of the water. They were hovering in an angelic fashion. Ivan was so impressed with the wonderful birds that there was no way he was going to hunt and capture any of them. He came back to the landowner empty-handed. The landowner ordered that Ivan be whipped into submission for his failure. For some reason, Ivan did not feel the pain normally associated with such a scolding. All he pictured were the twelve beautiful birds.
The next day, the landowner demanded the same. So, Ivan set out for Crystal Lake, although he knew there would be no hunt. He reached the Crystal Lake and concealed himself behind a large stone. Within just a few minutes the twelve snow-white swans flew down from the cloudless blue and began to splash and play on the water. Ivan was astonished by the swans' beauty yet again and couldn't complete the hunt. He came back to the landowner without game. The landowner sternly punished Ivan, keeping him locked in a shed no larger than himself for three whole days and nights! Memory kept Ivan from breaking.
Once he was released, Ivan was given a final opportunity to bring back the fruits of a successful hunt. He came to the Crystal Lake again and hid himself behind a gathering of bushes. Some time passed and the swans appeared again. Laughable torture it was. They touched the ground and amazingly turned into beautiful maidens! The youngest maiden was the most beautiful of them all. The maidens began singing and dancing in a ring. Ivan was very surprised; he had never seen such elegant beauty. Finishing the dance, the maidens disrobed and went for a swim in the lake. Ivan crawled up to their clothes and took the shoes of the youngest maiden.
The maidens stepped ashore, put their clothes back on, turned into white swans and flew away quicker than they came. The youngest maiden could not find her shoes and was forced to stay.
The playful piece of mischief suddenly made Ivan feel bad. He'd have a chance for honesty. The youngest maiden stood on a small rock face and announced, "Who will return me my shoes? If you are an old man, I will respect you as I respect my father. If you are younger than I, you shall be my sworn brother. And, if we are the same age, a bridegroom you shall be."
Was it a trick? Ivan knew another punishment was on the immediate horizon so there was no time for delay. Ivan showed himself with a full ball of anxiety lodged in his throat. There would be no further beatings or solitary confinement. The young maiden was impressed with Ivan's honesty, she wasn't too upset that he was quite handsome as well. Eventually they would marry, his life as a servant was over. And as for the landowner...he is still waiting for Ivan to return. Won't they ever learn?