A classic fairytale from Hans Christian Andersen about a little nightingale whose sweet songs enchant the Emperor and all his court until one day someone brings a mechanical nightingale to the court. (duration – 17 minutes). An episode from Journey with Story, a storytelling podcast for kids ages 4-10.
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An Enchanting Fairytale to Remind us to Beware of Outward Appearances
Hans Christian Anderson
August 26, 2021
Do you like playing with a wind-up toy car or would you rather ride in a small car at an amusement park? Do you like to see a stuffed toy bird or would you rather see a real live bird? What is the difference between a walk in the woods and watching a movie of walking through some woods?
Hello everyone. I’m Kathleen Pelley. Welcome to journey with story. Today’s episode is an old fairytale about two kinds of a bird called a nightingale – one of them is a real live nightingale, who sings beautifully, but looks rather plain on the outside. And the other is a mechanical wind up bird who signs beautifully, but also looks bright and sparkling on the outside. So let’s see which of these birds you would prefer.
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Let’s take a Journey with The Nightingale by Hans Christian Anderson.
Once upon a time in the land of China, there lived an Emperor, who had a magnificent palace, with beautiful gardens that stretched as far as the eye could see. Every day, hundreds of gardeners tended the sweet smelling flowers, the blossoming trees, and the bubbling fountains. So vast were the gardens that they stretched all the way through three meadows to the sea itself.
There, by the edge of the shore, a poor fisherman kept his boat. One of his greatest pleasures was to listen to the sweet melodious song of the nightingale that lived in the tall tree in the third meadow.
Each night, as the poor fisherman listened, the nightingale’s song soothed and calmed his spirits, so that the next day he felt uplifted and refreshed and ready to return to his hard work.
Many people from far and wide came to the Emperor’s royal estate to view the gardens and to say in the magnificent palace. All the guests complimented the Emperor about these beautiful surroundings, assuring him that these gardens were truly the most beautiful in all the world.
Whenever the guests returned to their homes, they would write a letter to the Emperor, thanking him for his gracious hospitality. One day, a guest wrote, ”The most beautiful part of your empire is the song of the nightingale”
This surprised the Emperor, because he had never heard the song of the nightingale, for the meadow where the nightingale lived was a long way off from the palace. And indeed, the Emperor did not even know there was a bird called a nightingale. So, he summoned the royal guards and commanded them to find this bird that sang such beautiful songs.
But since the guards never ventured past the palace doors, they also had never heard the song of the nightingale. Just like the Emperor, they did not even know there was such a bird. And they had no idea where to start looking for it.
A poor maid who was scrubbing the palace floors happened to hear the guards discussing the Emperor’s command to find this bird called a nightingale. And at once, she told them, “But I have heard the song of the nightingale. Each night when I go to my home in the meadow, I hear it, and it comforts me and makes my heart so happy that I can return the next day to all my hard work here in the palace.
The royal guards commanded the maid to lead them to this bird. So, off they all went down through many gardens, and out to the first meadow. There they heard the cow moo, and they bowed to the ground and said, “We have found the beautiful song of the nightingale.” The maid laughed and told them that was only the farmer’s cow and not the nightingale.
Farther along the road, which ran through the second meadow, the guards heard another sound they had never heard before-frogs croaking in the farmer’s pond. And again, they bowed down to the ground, saying, “We have found the beautiful song of the nightingale. Once more the maid laughed and told them that was only the croaking frogs who live at the edge of the farmer’s pond, and not the nightingale.
Just before dusk, the poor maid and the royal guards came to the third meadow, where the tall tree stood. The maid asked them all to be still and quiet. This was not easy for the royal guards as they were also royal chatterboxes, but they did as the maid asked. When all was very still and quite, the nightingale began to sing – it was the sweetest sound the guards had ever heard.
They bowed to the ground and cried, “At last, we have found the royal nightingale.” They begged the nightingale to hope down from the tree, and it did, hopping onto the maid’s shoulder.
The royal guards were surprised and disappointed to see the nightingale’s plain appearance – it was just a drab, gray bird with shabby wings. They had expected to see some bright and beautiful bird of many colors with feathers as soft as silk.
The maid asked, “ Nightingale, will you come back to the palace and sing for the Emperor?” The nightingale explained that she had never sung in a palace before, and that really, her best singing was done in the cool air in an open space, but she would try her best. The nightingale did not want to disappoint the poor maid, and so she went along with the royal guards and the maid all the way through the three meadows to the Emperor’s palace.
Back at the palace, the royal guards, the poor maid, and the nightingale greeted the great Emperor, who was dressed in his finest silk robes, sitting on his royal throne, that sparkled with jewels. Seeing this small, drab bird, the Emperor wondered how one so plain could sing so beautifully.
But when the nightingale began to sing, the Emperor was so touched that big tears flowed from his eyes and down his great beard He was overcome with great joy. Never had he hears such a sweet song.
The nightingale was delighted that her song made the Emperor happy. Then the Emperor offered the nightingale his golden slipper as a nest and a golden perch as a place to sit and sing. “Thank you, kind Emperor,” said the nightingale.
So the nightingale now lived in the palace to sing for the Emperor and the poor maid.
Some weeks later, a special package arrived from one of the guests who had visited the Emperor’s palace. Inside the package was a present for the Emperor. It was a mechanical bird that could sing a beautiful song. It was made of many colors, encrusted with diamonds and rubies, emeralds and sapphires. Inside was a card that said, “Wind up this bird and listen to it sing.”
When the royal guards wound up the bird, it bobbed up and down and began to sing. Everyone gathered around, pointing and marveling at this beautiful bird covered in sparkling jewels who could sing such an exquisite song. Then the Emperor asked the real nightingale to sing a duet with the wind-up bird. The nightingale tried, but her song did not harmonize at all with the wind-up bird and so she stopped.
The royal guards and the Emperor loved the sound of this mechanical bird. Over and over again, the wound it up, listening to its song. They were too busy to notice when the nightingale fluttered her wings and flew off through the window, down the long expanse of the garden, through the three meadows, and into the top of the tall tree. That night the nightingale sang her song for the poor fisherman. How he had missed hearing her beautiful music. Now it once more calmed and soothed his heart, so that he could return the next day to his labor and toil.
Now although the Emperor did miss the real nightingale’s song, he enjoyed looking at the wind-up bird encrusted with jewels and he liked that he could listen to it whenever he wanted by winding the key.
Then one day, the wind-up mechanical bird bobbed up and down and up and down, but no song came out of it. It whirred and clicked and clacked and stopped. It stood still and silent. The Emperor was most upset. He called for the royal repair man to fix the bird. And with a little tip, tap, tapping here and there, the royal repair man was able to fix the bird. But he old the Emperor not to play it so often as that is what had caused the problem.
So from then on, the Emperor only wound up the mechanical nightingale once a day, at bedtime. But now the music was not the same as it once had been, and it made the Emperor miss the sound of the real nightingale whose song had always been so sweet and melodious.
Months went by and one day the Emperor fell very sick. He longed to hear some sweet music to soothe his spirits. He wound up the mechanical bird, but the song sounded tinny and unpleasant and brought him no comfort
The poor maid who was cleaning in the Emperor’s bedroom heard him say how he longed for sweet music as balm for his soul. At once, she left the palace, and walked to the tall tree in the third meadow. She told the nightingale about the Emperor and how his only wish was for music to give him rest. And so the nightingale went back to the palace with the maid and she sang for the Emperor who was now gravely ill.
Each night for an entire month, the nightingale sang to the Emperor. And her sweet songs soothed and comforted the Emperor so that he gradually began to feel better and better.
The Emperor was grateful to the little gray nightingale, and felt guilty that he had ever been so attracted to the mechanical bird encrusted with jewels. “I shall break that mechanical bird into a thousand pieces,” he said.
“No, no,” said the nightingale. “The mechanical bird is quite beautiful – it simply cannot sing.”
The Emperor asked the nightingale if she would come to live in the palace again an sing to him each night. But the nightingale said, “No, great Emperor, I cannot do that. But I will fly about your kingdom and each month I will return to you and sing a song of what is happening in your empire. I will sing to you about the rich and the poor, the happy and the sad, the sick and the healthy, so that you will know what is happening outside your palace walls. I will be the little bird that sits on your shoulder and tell you everything.”
“Everything, and anything, anything, and everything?” asked the great Emperor.
“Everything, and anything, anything and everything,” sang the nightingale. And the nightingale’s exquisite melody soothed and comforted the great Emperor, bringing him peace and rest so that he could return to his task of ruling his empire.
And to this very day, the old Emperor is the wisest Emperor of all. How do I know? A little grey bird from the third meadow told me so!
So, what do you think – would you prefer to have real nightingale to sing for you now and again or to have a mechanical bird that would sing every time you wound it up?
What do you think the story souvenir is? Yes, I think it has something to do with not being deceived by outward appearances – sometimes things that look bright and shiny and beautiful on the outside are not necessarily better than something that looks plain and simple on the outside.
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