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The Birth Of The Fairy Tale






Category: Danish

Source: Fairy Tales From All Nations

When nursery tales and entertaining stories did not yet exist--and
those were dull times for children, for then their youthful paradise
wanted its gayest butterfly--there lived two royal children, a brother
and sister. They played with each other in a garden allotted to them
by their royal sire. This garden was full of the most beautiful and
fragrant flowers; its paths were over-spread with golden sands and
many-coloured stones, which vied in brilliancy with the dew which
glistened on the flowers, illuminated by the splendour of an eastern
sun. There were in it cool grottos with rippling streams; fountains
spouting high towards heaven; exquisitely chiselled marble statues;
lovely arbours and bowers inviting to repose; gold and silver fish
swam in the reservoirs, and the most beautiful birds flitted about in
gilded cages so spacious that they scarcely felt that they were
confined, whilst others at full liberty flew from tree to tree,
filling the air with their sweet song. Yet the children who possessed
all these delights, and saw them daily, were satiated with them and
felt weary. They looked without pleasure on the brilliancy of the
stones; the fragrance of the flowers and the dancing water of the
fountains no longer attracted them; they cared not for the fish which
were mute to them, nor for the birds whose warbling they did not
comprehend. They sat mournful and listless beside each other; having
everything that children could desire--kind parents, costly toys, the
richest clothing, every delicacy the land could furnish, with liberty
to roam from morning until evening in the beautiful garden,--still
they were unsatisfied and they knew not why!--they could not tell what
else they wanted.

Then came to them the queen, their mother, beautiful and majestic,
with a countenance expressive of love and gentleness. She grieved to
see her children so mournful, meeting her with melancholy smiles,
instead of gaily bounding to her embrace. Her heart was sorrowful
because her children were not happy as she thought they ought to be,
for as yet they knew not care; and, thanks to an all-good Providence,
the heaven of childhood is usually bright and cloudless.

The queen placed herself between her two children. She threw her full
white arms round their necks, and said to them with endearing maternal
tenderness, "What ails you, my beloved children?"--"We know not, dear
mother!" replied the boy.--"We do not feel happy!" said the girl.

"Yet everything is fair in this garden, and you have everything that
can give you pleasure. Do all these things then afford you no
enjoyment?" demanded the queen, whilst tears filled her eyes, through
which beamed a soul of goodness.

"What we have and enjoy seems not to be the one thing which we want,"
answered the girl.--"We wish for something else, but we know not what
it is," added the boy.

The queen sat silent and sad, pondering what that might be for which
her children pined. What could possibly afford them greater pleasure
than that splendid garden, the richness of their clothing, the variety
of their toys, the delicacy of their food, the flavour of their
beverage? But in vain; she could not divine the unknown object of
their desire.

"Oh, that I myself were again a child!" said the queen to herself with
a deep sigh. "I should then perhaps discover what would impart
cheerfulness to my children. To comprehend the wish of a child, one
should be a child oneself. But I have already wandered too far beyond
the boundaries of childhood where fly the golden birds of paradise;
those beautiful birds without feet, that never require the repose of
which all earthly creatures stand in need. Oh, that such a bird would
come to my assistance, and bring to my dear children that precious
gift which should dispel their gloom and make them happy!"

And, behold, the queen had scarcely formed this wish, when a
wondrously beautiful bird, whose splendour surpassed all that can be
imagined, bent its flight from the ethereal sky, and wheeled round and
round until it attracted the gaze of the queen and her children, who
on beholding it were filled with astonishment, and with one voice
exclaimed: "Oh, how wonderful is that bird!" And wonderful indeed it
was, and gorgeous to behold as it gradually descended towards them.
Like burnished gold blended with sparkling jewels shone its plumage,
reflecting the seven colours of the rainbow, and dazzling the eye
which it still rivetted anew by its indescribable charms. Beautiful as
it was, the aspect of the bird inspired them with a kind of awe,
which, though not unpleasing, increased when they felt the wafting of
its wings, and suddenly beheld it rest in the lap of the queen. It
looked on them with its full eyes, which, though they resembled the
friendly smiling eyes of a child, had yet in them something strange
and almost unearthly; an expression the children could not comprehend,
and therefore feared to consider. They now observed also, that mingled
with the bright coloured plumage of this unearthly bird, were some
black feathers which they had not before perceived. But scarcely was a
moment permitted to them for these observations, ere the wonder-bird
again arose, soared aloft higher and higher till it was lost to the
sight in the blue and cloudless ether. The queen and her children
watched its flight in amazement until it had entirely vanished, and
when they again looked down, lo, a new wonder! The bird had deposited
in the mother's lap an egg which beamed like the precious opal with
many-coloured brilliancy. With one voice, the royal children
exclaimed: "Oh, the beautiful egg!" whilst the mother smiled in an
ecstasy of joy; for a voice within her predicted to her that this was
the jewel which alone was wanting to complete the happiness of her
children. This egg, she thought, within its thousand-coloured shell,
must contain the treasure that would ensure to her children that which
has ever been, and ever will be withheld from age--Contentment;--the
longing for that treasure and the anticipation of it would charm away
their childish melancholy.

The children could not gaze their fill on the splendid egg, and soon
in admiring it, forgot the bird that had bestowed it on them. At first
they hardly ventured to touch their treasure, but after a while, the
maiden first took courage to lay upon it one of her rosy fingers,
exclaiming whilst a purple blush of delight over-spread her innocent
face: "The egg is warm!" then the royal youth, to try the truth of his
sister's words, cautiously touched it also, and lastly the mother
placed her beautifully white and taper finger on the costly egg,
which then separated into two parts, and there came out from it a
being most marvellous to behold. It had wings, and yet it was no bird,
nor yet butterfly nor bee, though it was a combination of all these
infinitely and indescribably blended. It was in short, that multiform
many-coloured childish Ideal, the Fairy Tale, dispensing pleasure,
and happiness, and inspiration to infancy and youth. The mother
thenceforth no longer beheld her children pining with melancholy, for
the Fairy Tale became their constant companion, and remained with them
till the sun which shone on their last day of childhood had set. The
possession of this wondrous being from that day endeared to them
garden and flowers, bowers and grottos, forests and valleys; for it
gave new life and charms to all around them. Borne on its wings they
flew far and wide through the great measureless world, and yet, ever
at their wish, they were in a moment wafted back to their own home.

Those royal children were mankind in their youthful paradise, and
nature was their lovely serene and mild mother. Their wishes drew down
from heaven the wonder-bird, PHANTASY, most brilliant of plumage
although intermingled with its feathers, were some of the deepest
black: the egg deposited by this bright bird, contained the GOLDEN
FAIRY TALES: and as the affection of the children for Fairy Lore grew
stronger from day to day, enlivening and making happy the time of
their childhood, the stories themselves wandered forth, and were
welcomed alike in hall and palace, castle and cottage, ever growing in
charms and novelty, till they at length received the mission of
pleasing manhood also. The grave, the toil-worn, and the aged, would
listen with pleased ear to their wonderful relations, and dwell with
fond recollection on the golden birth of those Fairy charms.





Next: Snow-white And Rosy-red

Previous: A Simple Thief



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