The Birth Of The Fairy Tale

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.

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