- Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Format Kindle
When I started to read this story by Hans Christian Andersen, I did not have high hopes. Anyone who has read my review of his very famous Ugly Duckling
knows that I am not a very big fan of his. As I read the beginning of the story, I thought my fears were not unfounded. First of all, the story is based on fantasy just like the Ugly Duckling is, but instead of a lamenting little duck we have a beautifully singing nightingale(who as it turns out is an infinitely stronger and believable character). This story is doomed like the previous one I thought and looking at the length of it, it seemed like it was going to be a hard read. So midway, through the story I stopped reading.
I did not particularly like the emperor who seemed to be very fond of having his people trampled. There comes an element of comedy in the story as the courtiers scramble to find the nightingale so that they are not the ones to be trampled upon after dinner. I was relieved that not only do they locate the dear old nightingale, but the nightingale agrees to sing for the emperor.
So far so good, I thought. It was not a spectacular story by any stretch of imagination up to that point, but it was much better than the ugly `Ugly Duckling'. I could see a spark when the nightingale refuses any sort of material rewards for its song and insists that she has gotten more than her due by invoking tears in the mighty emperor's eyes. Here the children should understand that to a true artist, touching people with their art means much more than any material wealth that they might gain from the art.
Quoting the nightingale from the story - "I have seen tears in an emperor's eyes," she said, "that is my richest reward. "
Though she is reluctant to leaver her home in the green woods, she does so because she wants to sing for the emperor and soon is caged, but continues to sing to him. The story was getting much more interesting and staying true to human/animal nature and emotions without making much of a hullaboo that was done in the `Ugly Duckling'
The story takes a turn for the better when the emperor gets presented with a mechanical bird that sings just like the nightingale but is far prettier and sparkly adorned with all kinds of precious jewels. Everyone falls in love with this new nightingale, that can sing without getting tired and sing the same old tunes so that people can follow it better unlike the `real' nightingale which is prone to getting tired and singing whatever it feels like doing. So our good old nightingale looking at all the attention the sparkly one is gathering, decides to slip out unnoticed. I loved how Andersen describes the emotions of the courtiers when they discover that the old nightingale has left without singing the duet they want it to with the sparkly one.
"What strange conduct," said the emperor, when her flight had been discovered; and all the courtiers blamed her, and said she was a very ungrateful creature. The kettle calling the nightingale black! But that's exactly how people are prone to react. Quick to label other people, so that the fact that they deserve the label can be overlooked not just by other people but by their own selves too.
So the whole empire which used to rave about our real nightingale forget all about it and its wonderful art in a few days and are now singing praises of the new mechanized nightingale which gets showered with the most ridiculous gifts and so it goes on. Till the time the unreal nightingale literally blows up. Yes, the story was getting infinitely better.
The best was yet to come however. The emperor soon falls sick and sees death sitting at his bed. I absolutely loved the way Andersen describes what we assume are the final hours in the emperor's life. The emperor's good and bad deeds talking to him as he implores for some music/song to be played so that he can't hear them is nothing short of genius. The way Andersen takes the story towards its end is remarkable. I found myself unable to stop reading and chuckled when I reached the end.
There are so many hues and shades to this story.
There is the artistic hue wherein a true artist's qualities are highlighted through the nightingale's character. How she sings just for her sake and soon captures everyone's imagination. She still continues to sing for the peasants and the farmers in the same place unknown to the rich people in her empire. She gets fame not through her countrymen but outsiders from Japan. But once that recognition comes, her own people start realizing and acknowledging the great talent that she possesses. She goes along with it and is extremely happy. She even sacrifices her freedom so that she can be the official singer in the emperor's court. This is meant to shed light on the fact that even highly talented artists who have no greed for material rewards in exchange for their art, are vain when it comes to praise for their art. Clap, Clap Mr. Andersen! One thing these artists have that is different from normal vain people is the grace - grace to bow out when they realize that their time is up and something younger, livelier (as symbolized by the new bird who does not tire) and prettier (symbolized by all the gold, silver and gems that she's made of) is ready to usurp its place. So our real old nightingale gracefully flies away and is ridiculed by the same people whose lives she had saved and those who revered her art. Delectable!
Towards the end of the story, the nightingale flies back on hearing that the emperor is on his death bed and sings the blues of death tormenting the emperor away! When the emperor once again offers her all the rewards in the world, she calmly tells him that she had already received the reward when she had brought tears to his eyes all those years ago when she first sang to him. Once again completely blown over how how deftly Andersen brings out the character of a true artist. They might be ridiculed afterwards, but they never forget the fact that they touched a person's heart. They never harbor any ill feelings in their heart and readily offer their art if it is of any help. However this time around, the nightingale is once bitten and twice shy. She agrees to sing for the emperor from the bough outside his palace but not from inside it. Andersen wants to convey an artist's feeling are easily hurt - they might forgive easily, but they never forget the humiliation.
Then there is the common man's hue that goes along with everything the richer people do and say. It is like they have no opinions themselves and just are cheerleaders for the elite who seem to be repeating the pattern of going along with what people richer than themselves do and say. A vicious circle is exposed.
There is the arrogance hue in the form of the emperor's character. He is quite entertaining I must day. Delusional in many way but brilliant in some - just the way dictators are supposed to be. He is my personal favorite in this story, following his whims and fancies but still managing to be liked by his people.
There is also the moral hue wherein we get to read about how easily people discard what was at one time so valuable to them, once they find something they think is better than what they have. Andersen's Nightingale stands out in the sense that it is timeless masterpiece. Its message applies to the children of this age too who seem to give up good old arts like reading, writing, drawing, painting etc with much jazzier versions like computers, tvs, handheld games and so on. But what happens when the batteries are worn out and there is no electricity? Well we are back to the basics - the real things. It's not like that we have to discard everything modern but everything should have its place and importance. We should never discard old for the new, thinking that we might never need the old ever again. Nothing is completely disposable. Everything has its place and it is up to us to give even the least important of things, their rightful place.
There is a comic hue to the story that I found very entertaining which is in sharp contrast to the `Ugly Duckling' which falls flat on its face when it tries to evoke some laughter. Throughout the story Andersen leaves you chuckling and smiling. Be it be when the courtiers are rushing to stop their scheduled trampling after dinner or when people are naming their kids nightingale but they don't know how to sing a note! That was too funny. This funny thread continues throughout the story and helps in tightly weaving this masterpiece together. As I mentioned before, the end will leave you chuckling.
Original Review here:[...]