I ADORE fairytales. We had a giant book of Hans Christian Andersen and the Brothers Grimm when I was a kid. (Actually, I still have it.) I loved the familiar ones, because I could see what really happened in the stories without the Disney candy coating. (Spoiler alert Denise, The Little Mermaid dies at the end. Sorry!)
But my real favorites were the ones that I only found in those books. The girl with 7 brothers who were turned into swans. The dogs with eyes as big as teacups and towers. And then, my favorite, The Nightingale.
The story is simple. A Chinese emperor heard from a kitchen maid that a tiny brown bird had the most beautiful song in all the kingdom. He ordered the bird into his court, and the nightingale sang for him and all his friends. But then someone brought a mechanical bird, covered with gold and jewels, who could sing just as beautifully as the nightingale. The emperor forgot the real bird in lieu of the wind-up one, and the real bird left for its home in the forest.
Several years later, the wind-up bird had grown so fragile that it was hardly used at all, and then it broke completely. The emperor grew very ill, and Death perched on the end of his bed. The emperor begs for music to keep Death away, in a line I still say to myself every time I turn on the tunes:
“Music! Music! The great Chinese drum!”
The nightingale hears of the emperor’s condition, and leaves the forest and sings at his bedside. Death is so moved by her song that he agrees to leave the emperor. The emperor apologizes to the bird for the way he treated her, and she agrees to come back and sing for him as long as she can come and go as she pleases.
Sigh. I love this story. It reminds us that as cool as technology is, nature is even cooler. Yeah, I’m a fruity hippie. 😉
Have you heard of this one? Do you have a favorite that isn’t so well-known? Tell me! I love new fairytales. 🙂