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The Nightingale, a Danish Fairy Tale, by Hans Christian Andersen

As a children's book illustrator, Denise has many things to say about the process, her struggles, and children's books on the market today.

Illustration for The Nightingale

Illustration for The Nightingale

Fairy Tales From Around The World

Last year, I finished a children’s alphabet book using fairy tales and folk tales from around the world as the theme. I had some trouble with Amazon saying they wouldn’t carry my book because of the illustrations, so I went to Lulu and got my first alphabet book published: The FairyTale Alphabet Book, Fairy Tales and Folk Tales from Around the World. Recently, I discovered that Amazon does have the paperback listed after all but not the ebook.

After I danced the happy dance at my success, I noticed that there were a lot more fairy tales out there that I didn’t use, enough to make a whole series using global fairy tales and folk tales. Thus the conception of my second alphabet book began. I have only been working on it since February and so I haven’t finished very many of the illustrations. Here is the fourteenth letter in the new book for the letter N.

Fairy tales help us earth-bound people to be able to soar to the stars on the wings of imagination.

— Denise McGill

Thumbnail Roughs for The Nightingale

Thumbnail Roughs for The Nightingale

The Nightingale, a Danish Fairy Tale, by Hans Christian Anderson

Long ago, the Emperor of China was a collector of many rare and beautiful things. One day, while walking in the woods he heard a sweet birdsong that he did not ever remember hearing before. The more he listened to it the more enchanted he became. He decided that he had to have this bird and his melody for his very own. He ordered that the beautiful songbird be brought to him at once and although many people came with songbirds in cages for him to hear, none of them was the song he wanted to hear. Finally, a kitchen maid happened to hear of the story of the great Emperor’s desire, and she was brought before him.

“Imperial majesty, I think I know the bird you are wishing to hear. It is a nightingale. The problem is that the nightingale must be convinced to come of his own accord. He will not sing if he is locked in a cage.”

This news distressed the Emperor because he so desired to have the nightingale locked in a golden cage where he could see him and listen to him as part of his royal collection. In the end, he agreed, so the kitchen maid led members of the Emperor’s court into the forest, where she knew the nightingale lived. There she told the nightingale of the Emperor’s great desire to hear his song and finally, the nightingale agreed to come.

For many years the nightingale was the Emperor’s favorite. He could sit and listen to the bird all day but the nightingale came and went as he pleased and this often distressed the Emperor.

One day, to please the Emperor on his birthday, a local jeweler created a mechanical nightingale made of gold and bedecked with many jewels. This bejeweled toy had a less melodious sound but would say put day and night and soon the Emperor lost interest in the real nightingale. The nightingale could tell he was no longer valued and so he flew back to the forest and did not return. The Emperor barely even noticed the real nightingale was gone until one day when the mechanical bird broke down and refused to sing. The Emperor was very sorry. He was so depressed that he couldn’t eat or sleep. Soon be became very sick and the doctors were afraid death was near.

The young kitchen maid returned to the forest and found the nightingale and told him that the Emperor was sick almost to death and the nightingale was moved with compassion. He came back to the palace and sang for the Emperor again. With the nightingale’s song, the Emperor recovered and never took the real nightingale for granted again.

Refined Thumbnail Sketch

Refined Thumbnail Sketch

Collage Illustrations

I looked through several photo references of Chinese girls and nightingales. In the end, I used a good stock photo I had found in Pixabay of a Chinese girl and a photo of a nightingale. I hope you enjoy seeing my progress on the collage. Sometimes after finishing the collage, I need to make a background layer using Photoshop. I decided this one need a little color in the sky so I chose pink.

Value Sketch

Value Sketch

“If I’m honest I have to tell you I still read fairy-tales and I like them best of all.”

— Audrey Hepburn

Will Be Published with Lulu

This fairy tale has been shortened to fit into my book along with all the other letters of the alphabet. If you would like to read the full version, you can Google the title and find the story as The Nightingale. I expect to be finished with the whole book and ready to publish by early next year.

Hidden Pictures

In my collages, I use paper from magazines, old wall calendars, catalogs, and circulars. Often I will add things into a collage you can't see unless you are looking for it like hidden pictures. This collage has three hidden birds in the branches of the tree, as well as galloping ponies. The girl has a flock of flying birds in her collar and two bouquets of flowers on her sleeves.

Color Composition

Color Composition

Happiness is like those palaces in fairy tales whose gates are guarded by dragons: we must fight in order to conquer it.

— Alexandre Dumas

Final Thoughts

Did you like this story’s ending? I remember hearing a version where the Nightingale came but after hearing one last song, the Emperor died anyway. I liked the happy ending better myself.

I hope you like my story and my fairy tale alphabet book idea. If you are interested you can purchase the first one alphabet book on Lulu or Amazon. I’d love to read your thoughts and ideas in the comments below.

Finished collage

Finished collage

Comments

Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on October 08, 2020:

Rosina S Khan,

Yes. Isn't it true that we often don't know the value of what we have until it's gone? I'm glad you like this one. Thanks for commenting.

Blessings,

Denise

Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on October 08, 2020:

Nell Rose,

Thanks so much, Nell. I sure appreciate that pat on the back. Thanks for commenting.

Blessings,

Denise

Rosina S Khan on October 07, 2020:

It's good that the King realized the real nightingale's worth. The mechanical nightingale couldn't save his life by its songs. As usual, I love your collage illustrations. And I did enjoy the fairy tale story very much. Thanks for sharing, Denise.

Nell Rose from England on October 07, 2020:

Wow! You have so much talent! Your illustrations are wonderful!

Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on October 07, 2020:

Devika Primić,

Thanks so much for liking my work. I think this will be a good book to have when it's all done. Thanks for commenting.

Blessings,

Denise

Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on October 07, 2020:

John Hansen,

How nice of you to think my illustrations are delightful. I'm honored. Thanks for commenting.

Blessings,

Denise

Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on October 07, 2020:

Linda Crampton,

Yes, I'm a sucker for a happy ending. There is tragedy enough in the world without finding it in our fairy tales too, don't you think? Thanks for commenting.

Blessings,

Denise

Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on October 07, 2020:

Ankita B,

So glad you liked this one. I love sharing them. Thanks for commenting.

Blessings,

Denise

Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on October 06, 2020:

Mary Norton,

Thank you. I love these stories. Thanks for commenting.

Blessings,

Denise

Devika Primić from Dubrovnik, Croatia on October 06, 2020:

Denise well done to you on your publications. Your work is amazing.

John Hansen from Queensland Australia on October 06, 2020:

A wonderful story, Denise, and your collage illustrations are a delight.

Linda Crampton from British Columbia, Canada on October 05, 2020:

I'm glad the version of the story that you shared has a happy ending. Your illustration is lovely, as always.

Ankita B on October 05, 2020:

This was such a delightful read, Denise. Lovely tale and beautiful illustrations, as always.

Mary Norton from Ontario, Canada on October 05, 2020:

Denise, you are so talented in making collages. I enjoyed reading this.

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