"just like Helen of Troy, was hatched"

Helen of Troy (1898)
Public DomainHelen of Troy (1898) - Credit: Evelyn de Morgan
Helen of Troy was considered the most beautiful woman in Greek mythology; the "face that launched a thousand ship's" in Christopher Marlowe's Doctor Faustus.  She was born from the union between Zeus, the father of the gods, and the maiden Leda whom he seduced in the form of a swan.   After their meeting, Leda also lay with her husband and afterwards gave birth to two eggs, from one of which Helen was hatched.  Helen married Menelaus, the Spartan king, but in leaving him for the Trojan prince Paris she initiated the great wars of Troy reported in Homer's The Iliad.  

Fevvers later tells Walser that a picture of Leda and the Swan by Titian hung over Ma Nelson's mantelpiece, the scene of her first attempt at flight.  The story of Leda and the swan also appears as a central motif in Angela Carter's The Magic Toyshop (1967), in which the heroine, Melanie, is assaulted by a vast swan puppet.