anjelica houston, anthropomorphic animals, barbara hershey, chao li chi, China, death, dizi, edmund dulac, emperor, Faerie Tale Theatre, fairies, fairy, fairy tale, fairy tale adaptation, fairy tale creatures, fairytale, forest, garden, grim reaper, hans christian andersen, keye luke, Mako, Mick Jagger, music master, nightingale, prime minister, royal court, shelley duvall, spirit of death, the emperor's nightingale, the nightingale
“I have seen tears in the Emperor’s eyes. For me, that is the richest treasure.” “How can I reward you then?” “Perhaps you can give something to everyone else.” – An Emperor’s first step towards learning compassion, thanks to a humble little bird
My great-aunt is a former educator who fostered a love of reading in me at a young age. She frequently gave me picture books as presents and when she moved out of state, she sent me copies of classic stories in the mail – one of them being the subject of today’s episode. The Nightingale, or The Emperor’s Nightingale in some circles, is one of the more underrated fairy tales, and among the best written by Hans Christian Andersen. It’s easy to forget that beyond all the forced tragic endings, Andersen was capable of lovely prose, imaginative flights of fancy, and sharp critiques of the establishment. The Nightingale has all this and more in spades.
So of course, being the 80s, they found a way to make it awkward.
Don’t get me wrong, I love the story and I do have a fondness for this episode, but there are certain choices made that are determinedly (ahem) problematic by today’s standards.
But what is the story of The Nightingale about, you may ask? Well, before I get to recounting the fine details, I’d say it’s about the role of the artist in society: how they’re perceived, appraised, exploited, and discarded at the whims of a fickle upper class, and how they find more freedom and creativity outside the system than within. It’s also about how true art can change people and teach them empathy. Trust me, though, all this is not as pretentious as it sounds.Continue reading