Please enjoy my performance of “The Nightingale” by Hans Christian Andersen. I’ve done a fairly direct translation of the text from the original Danish. Andersen’s dry wit is difficult to convey, but I hope you get some idea of his writing style, even in another language.
“The Nightingale” by Hans Christian Andersen tells of an emperor who becomes enthralled with the song of a mechanical bird to the point that he can’t appreciate the song of the genuine article. In the end he comes to realize that human inventions, while impressive, lack the deeper beauty and emotional connection of natural life.
Illustration: “The Nightingale” by Ukrainian artist Georgi Ivanovich Narbut, 1912.
Activity: Reading questions for “The Nightingale”
Before reading “The Nightingale,” ask the following questions to help children prepare for the ideas they will encounter in the story. Children can give their answers in an informal discussion or in short written responses.
Have you ever felt pressure to say something was cool because all of your friends were saying so?
What would you do if there was something you really enjoyed, but which suddenly became unfashionable?
Would you hide the fact that you still liked it, would you stop enjoying it, or would you continue to enjoy it as before?
How would you deal with your friends when they told you that the thing you liked wasn’t cool anymore?
If you ignored a good friend for a while, would it be hard for you to admit that you had made a mistake and should have been a better friend?
Can you think of examples of technology that is pretty amazing, but might not be better than something from real life?
Return to these questions after reading, asking students to connect specific examples from the text to the answers they gave before reading the story.