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History of Nightingale

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Song Bird (abridged)
by Heinz Insu Fenkl

Song Bird (unabridged)
by Heinz Insu Fenkl

Hans Christian Andersen
Father of the Modern Fairy Tale 
by Terri Windling


The Nightingale was first published in 1844 in Andersen's Nye Eventyr (New Fairy Tales). The collection was critically well-received and helped solidify Anderesn's popularity and success.

Diana Crone and Jeffrey Frank write:

The tale "was no doubt inspired by Andersen’s crush on Jenny Lind, who was about to become famous throughout Europe and the United States as the Swedish Nightingale. He had seen her that fall, when she was performing in Copenhagen. Copenhagen’s celebrated Tivoli Gardens opened that season, and its Asian fantasy motif was even more pronounced than it is today. Andersen had been a guest at the opening in August and returned for a second visit on October it. In his diary that night he wrote: 'At Tivoli Gardens. Started the Chinese fairy tale.' He finished it in two days" (139).

While Lind was kind to Andersen, and admired his writings, she did not return his love, preferring to remain friends with the author. The two had many common qualities, such as their piety, plain physcial appearances, and their individual rise to fame for their talents in the arts.

The Nightingale has remained one of Andersen's most popular and enduring tales, often produced as picture books (see the Book Gallery) and also appearing as the theme of movies and theatre, many of which are listed on the Modern Interpretations page.

The tale's theme of "real" vs. "mechanical/artificial" has become even more pertinent since 1844 as the Industrial Revolution has led to more and more artificial intelligences, machines, and other technologies. The tale gains more poignance in the age of recorded music.


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Nightingale illustrated by Mitchell

Nightingale illustrated by Jerry Pinkney

Nightingale illustrated by Lisbeth Zwerger

Nightingale by Fiona Waters

The Stories of Hans Christian Andersen : A New Translation from the Danish by Jeffrey Frank

©Heidi Anne Heiner, SurLaLune Fairy Tales
Page created 1/2005; Last updated 7/7/07