Monday, February 21, 2011

For the Birds

A couple posts ago I mentioned that Cinderella is a tale that modern people don't necessarily connect to, although it's been so well-loved for generations it's still possibly the most popular. By contrast, Hans Christian Andersen's "The Nightingale" (full version on Surlalune; summary by me) has a lot of themes in it that are very current, yet it's not especially well known.

Birds themselves are very trendy these days. The first two images are Miu Miu Spring/Summer 2010; the third is a necklace from Claires-similar necklaces can be found all over.
It's interesting the reactions I get to this necklace-people in an older generation tend to seem almost distressed when they realize that the bird is outside of the cage. And it's true, the bird would be a lot safer in the cage (I remember all those distressing times in my childhood when our hamsters would escape-one sadly drowned in the sump pump, it was so traumatic), although it's supposed to be a symbol of freedom. As with everything, there are dangers to either extreme-conformity or freedom, although in this culture the younger generation is all about independence and freedom.

The Nightingale has some other interesting aspects-
Appearance vs. reality-the royal people are surprised to learn that the famed, talented nightingale is just a plain, gray little bird. They are more excited by the bejeweled mechanical bird.
Authentic vs. fake-the people are taken by fads; first the real nightingale and then the mechanical one, but they love the mechanical one because it's predictable. It's proven that people tend to respond positively to music simply because they've heard it before and can recognize it, but Anderson's comment is a very interesting commentary on human nature in general.
Tension between technology and the natural world-this aspect of the fairy tale obviously could not be found in the more ancient tales we know and love but is something we all feel. We all use and like at least some aspects of technology, but the minute it stops working I get all upset that this culture is such that we can't work or communicate without it. Most of us probably would like to get more in touch with nature but find it difficult in our hectic, appliance-driven lifestyles.

This song may or may not have been inspired by the tale, but the words of the chorus certainly apply:
"A nightingale in a golden cage
That's me locked inside reality's maze
Come, someone make my heavy heart light
Come undone bring me back to life

A nightingale in a golden cage
That's me locked inside reality's maze
Come, someone make my heavy heart light
It all starts with a lullaby"

"The Escapist," by Nightwish

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