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The Nightingale by Hans Christian Andersen

The Nightingale (1844)

by Hans Christian Andersen

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English (16)  French (3)  All languages (19)
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The Nightingale, illustrated by Mary J. Newill.

Originally published by D.B. Updike at the Merrymount Press in 1895, and then reprinted in this edition by R.H. Russell in 1898, this nineteenth-century retelling of Hans Christian Andersen's The Nightingale features the translation of H.W. Dulcken, and the gorgeous engraving-style illustrations of Mary J. Newill.

A student at the Birmingham School of Art, and a participant in the late nineteenth, and early twentieth-century Arts and Crafts Movement, Newill was a well-known illustrator, stained glass designer, and embroiderer. Her landscape work was considered particularly fine, and won praise from figures such as Walter Crane.

The five plates contained in The Nightingale are simply beautiful: detailed, bold, compelling. Judged on artwork alone, this outstanding little gem of a book merits a five-star rating. Unfortunately, Dulcken's stiff, archaic-sounding translation - so very Victorian in style - detracted somewhat from my enjoyment. Still, Newill's illustrations are the real appeal here, and they do not disappoint. If they ever do publish a retrospective of her work, I'll be first on line to buy it! ( )
  AbigailAdams26 | Jul 23, 2013 |
The Nightingale, illustrated by Jerry Pinkney.

After being signally unimpressed by Jerry Pinkney's retelling of Hans Christian Andersen's The Nightingale, in which the setting has been shifted from China to Morocco, I've been trying to figure out why it is that some fairy-tale adaptations involving a major cultural or national switch are successful, and others are not. Debbie Allen's Brothers of the Knight, for instance, is a wonderful retelling of the Brothers Grimm tale, The Twelve Dancing Princesses, transplanting the story from Germany to the African-American community of Harlem. Pinkney himself created a lovely edition of The Little Match Girl, set in turn-of-the-century America, rather than the more traditional nineteenth-century European city.

So why do such adaptations appeal to me, when this one leaves me cold? Part of it, of course, is that I'm a bit of a traditionalist, and while I recognize that adaptation and borrowing is a necessary part of the folk process - that, indeed, it is the folk process - I tend to prefer the tales (and songs) that are as close to the "original" as possible, whether that be the text of a literary fairy-tale, or the unexpurgated version of a folk-tale. So those adaptations which diverge widely from that original should do so for some good reason, or I tend to be unimpressed.

Debbie Allen's tale of the twelve dance-loving sons of a strict Harlem minister, for example, clearly draws inspiration from the idea of forbidden musical expression - a theme that has great significance in African-American history - and makes a connection between two traditions some might think have nothing in common. Likewise, Pinkney highlights the continuing significance of The Little Match Girl by transplanting it to another continent and time, demonstrating that children have suffered the ill effects of poverty and neglect in many different societies.

What then, does this Moroccan version of The Nightingale tell me? According to his afterword, that Pinkney and his editors wanted to set the tale in Africa, rather than China. No real reason for such a transplant is given, although the author does mention that he double-checked to make sure that nightingales do live on the continent. As far as I can tell, nothing in the tale spoke to Pinkney (or his editors) of Africa, nothing sparked a particularly Moroccan chord, suggesting some unexpected commonality. That being so, the change in setting struck me as rather arbitrary. It's admirable that Pinkney wanted to highlight the racial diversity of Morocco (again, according to his afterword), but wouldn't a traditional Moroccan tale have done that, while also exposing young children to another tradition? ( )
  AbigailAdams26 | Jul 22, 2013 |
The Nightingale, illustrated by Beni Montresor.

Italian artist Beni Montresor, who was awarded the Caldecott Medal in 1965 for Beatrice Schenk de Regniers' May I Bring a Friend?, turns his attention to Hans Christian Andersen in this picture-book retelling of The Nightingale. The story of the Emperor of China, who discovers the beauty to be found in nature - as embodied by the humble brown nightingale - it has been retold many times and interpreted by many artists.

This version of the tale is translated and adapted by Alan Benjamin, whose narrative is competent, but rather stiff and unexciting. Montresor's illustrations, which remind me a bit of Friso Henstra's work, have a somewhat dated sensibility, and are not particularly appealing. Although ostensibly set in China, they sometimes felt very Western to me, which seems an odd criticism to level against artwork meant to accompany a European man's Chinese fantasy. Still, the story is set in China, and I would like the illustrations to convince me that that is where we are. Bagram Ibatoulline and Nancy Ekholm Burkert do a much better job in this respect, as do their respective translators, and I think most Andersen fans will gain more from looking at those editions, than from hunting down this out-of-print selection. ( )
  AbigailAdams26 | Jul 22, 2013 |
The Nightingale, illustrated by Demi.

Demi fans will be pleased by this retelling of Hans Christian Andersen's classic tale, which features her trademark artwork, with its rich palette and immensely detailed scenes. As always, there are many little whimsical touches, from the purple cow the courtiers at first mistake for the nightingale, to the young children who gambol about in many of the scenes. The setting of the story, in China, is ideally suited to Demi's work, which is heavily influenced by Asian artistic traditions. In fact, a detailed afterword gives more information on the creation of the paintings, done on Wu silk.

Unfortunately, although the artwork is lovely, and will be enjoyed by those who enjoy Demi's style (I do myself, although I find that a little goes a long way), the narrative leaves a little bit to be desired. It didn't flow as well as some other versions I have read, and I was dismayed to see that the scene in which the Emperor confronts death has been sanitized, leaving out the actual character of Death altogether. An adequate, but uninspiring narrative, when compared to the excellent versions of Stephen Mitchell or Eva Le Gallienne. Unless they are specifically looking for the Demi illustrations, I would advise readers to find one of these other editions. ( )
  AbigailAdams26 | Jul 22, 2013 |
The Nightingale, illustrated by Nancy Ekholm Burkert.

Like The Little Mermaid, or The Ugly Duckling (with which it was originally published in 1843), The Nightingale is one of Hans Christian Andersen's original fairy-tales, relating the story of the Emperor of China, who learns to value natural beauty above mechanized dazzle. Discovering that foreign visitors consider the humble nightingale - whose song he has never heard - the greatest treasure of his kingdom, the Emperor demands a performance. Enchanted at first with the bird's beautiful song, he soon finds a new favorite in a jewel-encrusted copy of the nightingale, sent to him by the Emperor of Japan. Which is superior: the flesh-and-blood bird, whose songs are beautiful but irregular, or the beautiful machine, whose one song is always perfect?

Interpreted in a number of different ways over the years, The Nightingale has, for me, always been most meaningful as an exploration of the idea that many of the things truly worth having - beauty, authenticity, truth - are not the sort of things that can be caged and put on display. This picture-book retelling, with an immensely readable text - translated by actress Eva La Gallienne - and gorgeous watercolor artwork by Nancy Ekholm Burkert, who also illustrated Andersen's The Fir Tree, is one of my favorites! I would say that it's just about tied with Bagram Ibatoulline's version as the best one out there. ( )
  AbigailAdams26 | Jul 22, 2013 |
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» Add other authors (56 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Hans Christian Andersenprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Behounek, JiriIllustratormain authorsome editionsconfirmed
Mitchell, StephenEditormain authorsome editionsconfirmed
Zwerger, LisbethIllustratormain authorsome editionsconfirmed
Berson, HaroldIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Burkert, Nancy EkholmIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
DemiIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Haugaard, Erik ChristianTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Ibatoulline, BagramIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
La Gallienne, EvaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Lucas, Elizabeth GriffinTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Zwerger, LisbethIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0763615218, Hardcover)

Graceful and full of rich humor, Stephen Mitchell’s retelling of Hans Christian Andersen’s THE NIGHTINGALE is paired with impeccably researched, astonishingly beautiful paintings by Bagram Ibatoulline.

The Emperor of China lives in the most marvelous palace in the world, made entirely of porcelain, and his garden is full of the rarest flowers. But loveliest of all - so say visitors to his realm - is the song of the nightingale in the forest by the sea. Though his bustling courtiers can’t find her, a clever kitchen maid can, and the nightingale soon enchants the Emperor with her song. But will the gift of a bejeweled bird with a mechanical tune replace the humble nightingale in his heart?

Warmly and accessibly retold by master translator Stephen Mitchell,
this definitive edition features breathtakingly intricate artwork by Bagram Ibatoulline, illustrator of CROSSING.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:19:38 -0400)

(see all 8 descriptions)

Though the emperor banishes the nightingale in preference of a jeweled mechanical imitation, the little bird remains faithful and returns years later when the emperor is near death and no one else can help him.

» see all 11 descriptions

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