Shifts and Changes

A review of Tony Pi’s “Swan’s Grace” in Anathema Magazine isssue 1 (2017)By Derek Newman-Stille

Tony Pi’s “Swan’s Grace” is a complex intersection of fairy tales, drawing on features from The Wild Swans, selkie tales, and from fox shape-shifter tales to create a powerful narrative that explores the relationship between human and animal. Fairy tales frequently explore the complexity of human experiences around the natural world and our strange desire to position ourselves above other animals on our planet. Yet, on some level human beings recognize that we fundamentally are animals, and we see the power of animal experiences, which is why we create so many tales of animal-human shape shifting.

Tony Pi’s animal tale brings together multiple human-animal shifters, blurring the boundaries we place to separate ourselves from the complexities of animal experience. He examines the beauty of the animal experience, revelling in images of flight, while creating a complex mythology and cultural history for his swan shape-shifters. This is a world of ancient gods of chaos that have been locked away, but linger close to the surface, waiting for ancient enmities between foxes and selkies to break down the barriers that keep them trapped. Like many fairy tales, Pi’s is one of secrets, with a narrator who only knows fractions of her history and the mythology that shapes her. She is a swan princess who learns bits of mythology for her own purpose, learning about Basilisks only because her people are able to gain powers from the mythical creatures they encounter. She learns about the mythical underpinnings of her world only so she can gain further abilities, but, like many fairy tale heroines, she learns that things are much deeper than they appear on the surface, and she learns that every gain comes with incredible sacrifices. Knowledge comes with a price, but acting without complete knowledge always causes deeper sacrifices. 

“Swan’s Grace” is a tale about the power of patience and learning, a reminder that the world is more complex than it may reveal on the surface.
To discover more about Tony Pi’s work, visit his website at
To discover more about Anathema Magazine, visit 


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