The palace of the emperor of China was completely made of porcelain, being the most splendid in the whole world and also the most fragile. His garden of scented and wondrous flowers was so vast that even the gardener himself had no idea where it ended. If you were to tour the imperial lands, you would find yourself in the most lush forest you can imagine, full of tall trees and deep lakes. That forest reached to the deep blue sea; great boats could sail under its branches, and there lived a nightingale that sang so beautifully that the fishermen, despite all their occupations, stopped to listen to its trills.
Travelers came from all countries admiring the palace and the garden, but as soon as they heard the nightingale, they exclaimed:
“This song is the best in the world!”
The comments reached the ears of the emperor, who ordered his men to find the nightingale and bring it before him to hear it sing.
The men went to the forest, to the place where the bird used to sit. On the way they met a girl who knew the place where the bird lived. They were moving fast, when a cow began to moo.
—Oh! the men exclaimed. We already have it! What strength for such a small animal!
“No, that’s a mooing cow,” the girl said. We still have a long way to go.
Then they heard frogs croaking in a pond.
-Magnificent! one of the men exclaimed. I can hear it, it sounds like church bells.
“No, those are frogs,” answered the girl. But I think it won’t be long before we hear it.
And immediately the nightingale began to sing.
-Is he! Listen, listen! There is! said the girl, pointing to a gray bird perched on a branch.
-It’s possible? said the men. We would never have imagined it like this. How ugly and ordinary! He must have lost his color, intimidated by such distinguished visitors.
“My nightingale,” said the little girl aloud, “our emperor wants you to sing in his presence.”
-With great pleasure! replied the bird, and resumed a song that was glorious to listen to.
In the middle of the great hall where the emperor was, a golden perch had been placed for the nightingale. The entire court was present, and the girl had been given permission to stand behind the door. They all wore their gala dresses, and all eyes were fixed on the little gray bird, to which the emperor made a sign to begin his song.
The nightingale sang so beautifully that tears came to the emperor’s eyes and when the bird saw them roll down his cheeks; sang from the soul. The crying of the emperor made him feel rewarded.
One day, the Emperor of Japan sent the Emperor of China a beautiful mechanical nightingale. This nightingale was covered with precious gems and also sang beautifully. Everyone forgot about the humble nightingale, and sadly, the bird flew away. The entire court branded the nightingale ungrateful and he was banished.
One day, the mechanical nightingale’s string wore out and its artificial trill ceased without anyone finding a way to fix it.
Years passed and the emperor became seriously ill, no doctor could cure him. Suddenly a wonderful song resounded from the window. It was the nightingale perched on a branch. Aware of the emperor’s desperate situation, he had come to bring him comfort and hope; the more he sang, the more the emperor recovered.
This is how the faithful nightingale who had been forgotten and banished returned every day to sing to the emperor.