Andersen Fairy Tales, Andersen-Hans Christian

What the Moon Saw-Twenty-Seventh Evening

Moon by Ashe ArterberryWhat the Moon Saw-Twenty-Seventh Evening

“The air was calm,” said the Moon; “the water was transparent as the purest ether through which I was gliding, and deep below the surface I could see the strange plants that stretched up their long arms towards me like the gigantic trees of the forest. The fishes swam to and fro above their tops. High in the air a flight of wild swans were winging their way, one of which sank lower and lower, with wearied pinions, his eyes following the airy caravan, that melted farther and farther into the distance. With outspread wings he sank slowly, as a soap bubble sinks in the still air, till he touched the water. At length his head lay back between his wings, and silently he lay there, like a white lotus flower upon the quiet lake. And a gentle wind arose, and crisped the quiet surface, which gleamed like the clouds that poured along in great broad waves; and the swan raised his head, and the glowing water splashed like blue fire over his breast and back. The morning dawn illuminated the red clouds, the swan rose strengthened, and flew towards the rising sun, towards the bluish coast whither the caravan had gone; but he flew alone, with a longing in his breast. Lonely he flew over the blue swelling billows.”

That was the twenty-seventh evening.


This story uses the phrase, “in the ether.” Once upon a time people thought that there was this substance called ether, not to be confused with chemical compounds called ethers, that propagated electromagnetic fields. People thought ether fueled radio signals. The idea was also used in a spiritual sense. The ether was something you couldn’t see and its location couldn’t be determined. Things could disappear into the ether and you would never find them again. People have since come to realize that there is no such substance, or lack of substance, that is “the ether.” The phrase is still used to mean something like, “It just went into nowhere,” or, “it comes from nowhere,” or rather, “we don’t really know where it comes from.”


The moon is obviously looking at some swans flying over the ocean or the sea. One of the swans is lonely or is depressed. Can swans get depression? I have never really been a bird person so I don’t know. It seemed the swan was about to give up. It drifted down and down, perilously close to the water, but then it rose up again after it was splashed with a bit of water. The swan flew on alone towards everyone else.

This swan was in a group of people when he started feeling low, literally, but he/she still felt down even though he/she was in a group of swans that he/she supposedly cared about. First off, this just goes to show up that you don’t have to be alone to feel depressed or lonely. You can be in a crowded room jam-packed with people, but still feel alone. Second off, none of the other swans noticed anything or tried to help. Maybe it’s because they’re all jerks or maybe it’s because they didn’t notice. Maybe they were each so wrapped up in their own flight paths to notice that one of them was no longer at their same height. Maybe. It doesn’t matter what it was, what should have happened is that someone should have noticed. Sometimes we are too wrapped up in the things we’re doing to notice that someone around us needs help. Remember that. Try to be more observant of the people you are about.


Stop looking at me swan.

Weigh In

Do swans even fly in groups like geese?

Do you think anything we believe as fact today will turn out to be like “the ether” in the future? If so, what?


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