"The Nightingale"
by Hans Christian Andersen
Nightingale 02.jpg
Illustration by Vilhelm Pedersen
Original titleNattergalen
Genre(s)Literary fairy tale
Published inNew Fairy Tales. First Volume. First Collection (Nye Eventyr. Første Bind. Første Samling)
Publication typeFairy tale collection
PublisherC.A. Reitzel
Publication date1843

"The Nightingale" (Danish: "Nattergalen") is a literary fairy tale written by Danish author Hans Christian Andersen. Set in ancient China, the story recounts the friendship between the Emperor and a nightingale.


In the gardens of the emperor of China lived a nightingale whose song was more beautiful than the palace itself and was storied all over the world. When the emperor received a book from the emperor of Japan he was astonished to read about the nightingale, because he had never heard of it, nor had anyone in his court. He commanded that the nightingale be brought before him to sing. With the help of a poor kitchen girl, the nightingale was found and brought to the emperor, where he sang so beautifully that the emperor was moved to tears and made him a guest at court.

Soon after, the emperor received a new gift: a jeweled nightingale automaton that also sang. This nightingale's song was pretty, but always the same. The real nightingale, no longer appreciated, flew out of the palace while no one was looking. The emperor placed the artificial nightingale at his bedside and banished the real nightingale for his desertion. The artificial bird sang the emperor to sleep each night until its cogs wore down. The bird was repaired, but it could be played only once a year.

Five years later the emperor fell ill, and one night Death sat on his chest showing him the deeds of his past. The emperor wished for the artificial nightingale to sing away the unpleasant memories, but it was silent. Then a song erupted through the window, where the real nightingale was perched. The song restored the emperor's health and persuaded Death to leave him in peace. The nightingale declined to become a guest in the palace again, but offered to come when he would and sing about all that he had seen in the kingdom, if the emperor agreed to keep this a secret between them.



  1. ^ a b c d Andersen, Hans Christian. The Nightingale. Stories from Hans Christian Andersen. London: Hodder & Stoughton. 1910.