In one of the legends of King Arthur and the Holy Grail, an orphan teenage boy, Percival, stumbles into the woods surrounding the castle at Camelot, sees a swan flying over the trees, and shoots her down with his bow and arrow.
Brought before the outraged knights, Percival is told that in this forest all life is sacred. Mortified, he breaks his bow, throws it away, and sets out on his famous quest for the Holy Grail, a mythic cup or stone that will bring renewal and hope to the dying king of Camelot, to a land that's become ravaged by famine, and to a people who have lost their way.
Tales about Percival and his adventures were popular in medieval Europe. The foolish boy, made wise through compassion, was a cultural hero for the people of the day. And the story of how he completed his quest and returned to the dying land of Camelot with the key to a better life touched a deep chord.
* * * Closer to our own time, 20 years ago in upstate New York, two teenage boys shocked the small town of Manlius by taking a swan from a pond and brutally killing her. Crowds of outraged, anguished people came to the court proceedings. One of the boys even had to be taken out of school for fear that he might be attacked by the crowds.