Andersen Fairy Tales, Andersen-Hans Christian

The Nightingale

The NightingaleThe Nightingale

In China, the emperor had a garden so large that no one really knew where the end of it was. One day the Emperor of Japan sent a book to the Emperor of China. In the book was a description of a nightingale at the edge of the emperor’s garden that sang the most beautiful song. The emperor began asking around about the bird.

Some people said they had heard it. Others advised the emperor that he could not believe everything that he read in books, but he persisted in his search. Finally, a kitchen girl said she knew where the nightingale was. She was correct. The emperor went to the nightingale and asked it to sing. The bird sang the most beautiful songs and it brought tears to the emperor’s eyes.

He asked the nightingale to come back to his palace. There the nightingale had a cage. The nightingale was tethered. Everyone thought the Nightingale was the most wonderful things. People greeted each other with “Nighting” and “gale.” It became a fad.

Someone along the line, someone created a copy of the nightingale, but it was not a plain gray bird such as the nightingale. This bird was covered in jewels and precious metals. It could be wound up. It would sing the most wonderful songs, in an imitation of the nightingale, but mainly waltzes. As the jeweled nightingale was a replacement for the real one, the real bird took its chance one day and flew away.

The jeweled bird sang and sang, but finally some of its workings wore out. It was only to be played on special occasions. The emperor got sick and was on his death bed. He asked the jeweled bird to sing to him, but it could not because it was mechanical.

To the emperor’s surprise, the real nightingale showed back up. It sang to him without any requests. It told him he would be well again. He said the greatest gift the emperor had given him were the tears in his eyes when he first listened to the nightingale’s song. The emperor did get well. Everyone expected to find him dead, but he rose from his bed. The nightingale promised to sing for him, from outside the window, every once in a while. The emperor lived on.

The End


China and Japan used to both have emperors. China doesn’t have an emperor anymore; it is a communist country, but it’s also a vast country. Because of its size it’s quite diverse. Japan is a smaller country, but still has an emperor, but Japan’s government is really a hybrid government. It has a legislature of sorts, but it also has its monarchy, although I’m not sure you’re supposed to call a government ran by an emperor a monarchy.

Over the years, the long years, the many years, Japan and China have been at it. They’re very close to one another. It was nothing for a fleet of warriors to hop on a boat and go one way or the other to cause destruction in respective countries. Both countries were quite fierce and brutal to one another at times, but there have also been times in history when they have had peace. Right now, China and Japan are not so mad at each other. They’re doing ok. That’s not to say that won’t change in the future, but right now, they’re making nice or playing nice, or whatever you want to call it.

The time period in this story was obviously a time when China and Japan were getting along. If you wanted to get along with another country, you sent that country gifts. Here’s this wonderful thing from our country. Here’s this other wonderful thing from our country. After gifts, you then created alliances, by marriage usually, but also by treaties.

I don’t know enough about the ongoing enmity between China and Japan to know if they were at peace when Hans was alive. I do know that they were not at peace in the early 1900s. There were actually some really rough times for China and Japan early in the twentieth century. Japan was pretty rough on China. People fled their homes. There was rape and pillaging. It wasn’t a proud moment for either country.

This idea that the Emperor of Japan sent the emperor of China a gift isn’t far-fetched.


There are really two things that should be examined in this story, at least I feel that way. The first is the fact that everyone kept telling the emperor he couldn’t believe everything he read in books. The second thing to think about is the fact that the emperor wanted to keep the nightingale caged up.

You can’t believe everything you read in books, but on a more modern-day equivalent, you can’t believe everything you see on TV, the news specifically. Back in the day of the emperor, whenever that may have been, books were an authority. If someone took the time to write something down in a book, it was probably true. I’m not saying that was always the case, because it wasn’t, but more often than not, books contained facts about life or believed facts about life. People didn’t necessarily know that they were talking crazy talk when they wrote some things down in books.

People looked up to books. As time went on, there came to be more fiction and more poetry and more this and more that. Books became a creative outlet in addition to being an authoritative source.

If this story had been written in our day, it would be about TV, specifically the news or the History Channel, take your pick. We have a tendency to believe the things the TV says. Well, it was on the news. Well, it was on the History Channel. Just because something is on the news does not make it true. It could be a load of crap. It could be over-sensationalized. It could not be reported at all. We’ve already had instances where reporters have been caught making stuff up and we all believe they’re telling the truth because they’re on the news.

We often give too much authority to certain things when we shouldn’t. You should take everything with a grain of salt. I’m not saying to distrust everyone, but you should have an inherent amount of skepticism when dealing with the world. Is this really how it is? Are there facts to back this up? Is this person/program trustworthy? There are always more sides to a story unless one side is dead, and if one side is dead, that casts a lot of suspicion on the side that is alive.

Moving on, the emperor wanted to keep the nightingale caged up. He wanted the opportunity to hear its song all the time. He never really took into consideration the fact that the nightingale probably wanted to be free. It wanted to fly where it pleased. It wanted to see the world. It wanted to sing its song to other people.

There’s that poem that says, “If you love something let it go.” The poem then goes on to say that if it was yours in the first place, it would return to you. You can’t crush something and expect it to be happy. This goes for a spouse, a child, a dog, a cat, or even a bird. You can’t keep something caged up and restrained and expect it to be happy. There is a certain amount of restraining that you have to do with pets and children when they could escape and hurt themselves, but with adults, you can’t do any of that. You can’t crush a person’s soul and expect them to be happy.

This little bird wasn’t happy. He was caged and chained. He couldn’t fly where he pleased. He couldn’t sing to whom he pleased. His life was not at all what he wanted it to be. Later on, when he escaped, he came back because he cared for the emperor. If you really care for someone, really, you won’t crush their spirit and they will appreciate you for that and stay your friend or your spouse or whatever the case may be.


I think the emperor learned some valuable lessons.

Weigh In

Do you find that people who think they can control you think that you’re happy?

If it wasn’t for captivity, some animals would be extinct. Do you think we should put animals in captivity to save them or let them quit existing?


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