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Modern Interpretations 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 story of Nightingale and its themes have appeared in literature and other forms of art. This page provides a small discussion of some of the better known treatments by authors and other artists. Novels produced by romance publishers are not listed on this page, but can be found on Romance Novels: Fairy Tale Romances at The Nightingale.

Literature   Poetry   Music   Film   Theatre

Literature: Novels

Nightingale by Kara Dalkey

Dalkey, Kara. The Nightingale. New York: Ace Books, 1988.
Amazon.com: Buy the book in hardcover or paperback.

NOVEL: From Publishers Weekly: "Transferring Hans Christian Andersen's tale of the nightingale from China to Japan and transforming the bird into a young woman who plays the flute causes the story to lose some of its enchantment. Although Dalkey (The Curse of the Sagamore) authentically evokes Japanese formality and ceremony, the hypocrisy of status-hungry officials becomes the focus of this novella. The emperor himself, as dupe of conflicting forces, is sympathetically drawn, and Uguisu, the flute-player who wins his heart, is sweet and docile, hiding her beauty, as custom ordains, behind a screen. A charming diversion is provided by the emperor's cat, Lady Hinata, herself the familiar of a goddess and rescuer of the banished Uguisu, who has been superseded, as in the original tale, by a bejeweled wanton. There are too many deities, however, too much inflated languagethat, unfortunately, deteriorates into bathosand too few fully fleshed characters to allow the fancy to take flight."

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Literature: Short Stories

Little Red Riding Hood in the Big Bad City

Taylor, Dena Bain. "The Nightingale." Little Red Riding Hood in the Big Bad City. Martin H. Greenberg and John Helfers, eds. New York: DAW, 2004.
Amazon.com: Buy the book in paperback.


Once upon a Galaxy by Wil McCarthy, Martin H. Greenberg, John Helfers

West, Michelle. "The Nightingale." Once Upon a Galaxy. Will McCarthy, Martin H. Greenberg, and John Helfers, eds. New York: DAW, 2002.
Amazon.com: Buy the book in paperback.


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Return to Magic by Clive Sansom

Sansom, Clive. "Singer and Nightingale." Return to Magic. London: Leslie Frewin, 1969.
Amazon.com: Buy the book in hardcover.

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I have listed primarily classical compositions of music using the themes of this fairy tale in either ballet, opera or some other musical style. I have also provided links to popular recordings of the music when available at Amazon.com. The advantage to these links is that you can listen to samples of the music at no charge.

Le Chant du Rossignol/L'Histoire du Soldat

Stravinsky: The Rite of Spring: The Nightingale Stravinsky: The Firebird (Complete Ballet); Fireworks; Song of the Nightingale

Stravinsky, Igor. Le Rossignol (The Nightingale).

OPERA/BALLET: Igor Stravinsky's adaptation of Hans Christian Andersen's fairy tale.

Description from PBS.org: "Hans Christian Andersen's fairy tale was first published in 1843. Composer Igor Stravinsky began his adaptation in 1908, but set it aside for a few years and only finished the opera in 1914. The piece had its world premiere on May 26 of the same year in Paris, with a libretto by the composer and Stepan Mitusov. Several years following its debut, the tale was reincarnated as a ballet for Sergei Diaghilev's Ballets Russes, with Stravinsky once again providing the score. "Song of the Nightingale," the resulting 20-minute symphonic poem drawn from the opera, was completed in 1917, and the ballet premiered in 1920, with sets by Henri Matisse and choreography by Léonide Massine."

Strouse, Charles. The Nightingale. 1982.

MUSICAL: Sarah Brightman played Nightingale for the premiere in 1982.

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To learn more about these films, please visit the
Internet Movie Database.

The Chinese Nightingale (1927). Lotte Reiniger, director. Germany.

SILHOUETTE ANIMATION SHORT: Lotte Reiniger is historically important as an early animator, specializing in shadow puppet animation, also known as silhouette animation. She was arguably the best talent in this particular craft. She started in silent films while living in Germany and continued producing shorts for over 40 years, primarily in the UK. For more information, read this article by William Moritz published by Animation World Magazine:

Extreme Fairy Tales DVD

The Emperor's Nightingale (1948). Jirí Trnka and Milos Makovec, directors. Czechoslovakia.
Buy the movie on DVD.

ANIMATION SHORT: The Emperor's Nightingale.

The Extreme Fairy Tales DVD features these shorts:

1. The Emperor's Nightingale (1948, Directed by Jirí Trnka and Milos Makovec)
2. The Brementown Musicians (1935, Directed by Ub Iwerks)
3. Tom Thumb (1936, Directed by Ub Iwerks)
4. Mary's Little Lamb (1935, Directed by Ub Iwerks)
5. Rapunzel (1951, Directed by Ray Harryhausen)

Shelley Duvall's Faerie Tale TheatreFaerie Tale Theatre: NightingaleFaerie Tale Theatre: The Nightingale

Shelley Duvall's Faerie Tale Theatre: The Nightingale (1983) (TV). Gilbert Cates, director.
Amazon.com: Buy the series on DVD.

Mick Jagger ... Emperor
Bud Cort ... Music Master
Barbara Hershey ... Kitchen Maid
Edward James Olmos ... Prime Minister
Shelly Duvall ... Nightingale/ Narrator

This television series originally aired on Showtime for six seasons and a total of 27 episodes. To see a full episode list, go to Shelley Duvall's Faerie Tale Theatre.

Stravinsky, Igor. The Nightingale (Le Rossignol) (2005).

ANIMATION: Igor Stravinsky's adaptation of Hans Christian Andersen's fairy tale. Aired on PBS in the USA. Read more about it on PBS.org.

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None so far!

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Nightingale illustrated by Mitchell

Nightingale illustrated by Jerry Pinkney

Nightingale illustrated by Lisbeth Zwerger

Nightingale by Fiona Waters

The Annotated Hans Christian Andersen edited by Maria Tatar

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