Six brothers from a King's first marriage have been turned into swans by their hateful stepmother (a beautiful but evil daughter of a witch). The brothers can only take their human forms for fifteen minutes every evening. In order to free them, their sister must make six shirts out of starwort for her brothers, and neither speak nor laugh for six years. The King of another country finds her doing this, is taken by her beauty and marries her. When the Queen has given birth to their first child, the King's own wicked mother takes away the child and accuses the Queen, and again with the second and the third. The third time, the Queen is sentenced to be burned at the stake. On the day of her execution, she has all but finished making the shirts for her brothers; only the last shirt misses a left arm. When she is brought to the stake she takes the shirts with her, and when she is about to be burned, the six years expire and six swans come flying through the air. She throws the shirts over her brothers and they regain their human form. (In some versions she does not finish the sixth shirt in time, and the youngest brother is left as a swan. Another version would have 5 of the brothers returned to normal, except for the youngest brother, whose left arm remains as a swan's wing). The Queen, now free to speak, can defend herself against the accusations. Her mother-in-law is burned at the stake instead of her, and the King, Queen, and her six brothers live happily ever after.