about shop patterns projects printables extras sponsorship wild olive twitter flickr pinterest subscribe

the story of: the nightingale

This month, the story that I have the pleasure of sharing is The Nightingale, by Hans Christian Andersen. I've been a fan of his since I was a child watching the Danny Kaye movie (I'm a big fan of his too!). This is a really long story, in fact I was surprised at its length. I'll be sharing my own telling, but I do recommend reading the original.

In the country of China, there lived a great emperor. He had a magnificent palace and a garden as beautiful as anything you could imagine. In the garden there lived a nightingale who sang the most lovely tunes. Whenever people from far or near walked through the garden, they heard the little bird and were delighted. News of the bird spread around the world, but somehow, the emperor and the people around him had never learned about this creature.

One day a book was given to the emperor, and it was all about the nightingale. Immediately the emperor requested to see the bird, but no one knew anything about it. Finally, a kitchen maid spoke up and said that she could take them to hear the beautiful songs that were written of.

The nightingale was brought back to the palace and she sang for the emperor and his court. Her song brought tears to the emperor's eyes. It was the most splendid thing any of them had ever heard, and so the bird was kept in a cage and only brought out to sing whenever they asked.

Then one day, a gift arrived from the Emperor of Japan. It was a small mechanical nightingale, which could be wound up and made to play a song while moving about. Within a short time, it was decided that this fake bird was even better than the real one. After all, it sparkled and they always knew exactly what it would do.

Soon, the real nightingale flew off. No one minded because they were so busy with the mechanical bird. In time, however, the musical toy wore out, and the emperor and his court were so very sad. The emperor was so overcome that he became ill, and soon he was dying.

Death was near, and the emperor's attendants were certain that he would be dead by morning. Gasping for breath, the emperor wished that the mechanical nightingale would sing and comfort him, but instead, he heard the lovely singing of the real nightingale. Looking up, there she was, perched in the window.

The emperor immediately began to feel some relief and offered the little bird anything she wanted. She told him that the tears in his eyes were all the reward she needed, and began to sing to him again. She also requested that she be free to sing when and where she wanted to, and to not be cage again. The emperor, of course, granted the wish.

The next morning, expecting to find him dead, the emperor's attendants came to check in on the emperor. He stood and greeted them with a "Good morning!"

Wow! Even the shortened version is rather long! I hope you made it through, because I think this is such a pretty story. And now let's talk about it! What morsel of truth did you get from this one?

I keep going back to the idea of imitation ideas, verses the real deal, and I'll talk more about that later in the month. But I also think it's interesting that the court preferred the fake because of its predictability. Do you relate to that ever?


  1. I think we all can relate to an extent don’t you? As a society we all go for the more eye catching packaging, faster phones, computer etc. Instead of just appreciating what we have and being thankful. It has been a very big lesson to teach my children you don’t need to always be keeping up with the Jones' so to speak.

  2. What a lovely story! Thank you for sharing Mollie :) I really enjoyed reading that. I'll add the full version of the story to my "to read" list.


  3. Anonymous4:59 PM

    We love this story. We read it when we studied China. What a beautiful tale about finding out what's really important. You can't judge a book by it's cover.

  4. The bit about the court preferring predictability, oddly enough, made me think of the sorry state of produce in this country that is bred to withstand nationwide shipping and be uniform and "perfect" in appearance, with no thought given to actual flavor at all.

    I recommend Kara Dalkey's retelling of this story, if you can find it (I think it is out of print); she changes the setting to Japan and the bird to a plain young woman who plays the flute. It was part of the Fairy Tale line of novels.


I often reply to comments in the comments...check back if you have a question!