This story by the Danish poet and writer Hans Christian Andersen is about an Emperor who discovers that there is a bird in his garden that, although plain to look at, sings so beautifully that it is famous all over the world. He falls in love with its song and keeps it until he receives a bird covered in jewels which can sing just as well. He replaces the original bird with the clockwork one, and does not realize until lying on his years later that the song of the real nightingale is the true .
Pre-Intermediate Vocabulary Help / Exercises
The words and expressions in our Simplified English story which are not in our Pre-Intermediate Level 1200 word list are: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , and . There is also one “non-word” in the story: Pooh!. This is what the Prime Minister answered when anyone other than the Emperor asked him a question and, we are told, means nothing at all.
If you are interested, you can watch and listen to a nightingale singing by clicking here.
General Comments on the Story
Our source was an book called “ s of Hans Christian Andersen”, available from Project Gutenberg here. Two things surprised me about the book. The first was the literary quality of Andersen’s original work, especially the used in some of his descriptive s. This has been lost over the years as his stories have been re-written for children. The second was the dark s and unhappy endings in many of Andersen’s stories.
During his lifetime, Andersen rose from a poor family and difficult childhood to become one of the most famous writers in Europe. It is said that later in life he suffered from periods of depression, due in part to his childhood experiences and in part to s in his adult life. his wealth and success, he was never fully accepted in Danish high society because of his low beginnings. In addition, the only woman Andersen truly loved in his life did not return his feelings.
A lot of Andersen’s up and down emotions can be seen in his writing. This story and the famous children’s story “The Ugly Duckling” (written at almost the same time) have themes about how an animal that was badly treated because of how it looks can win out in the end. As a child, Andersen proved to be highly intelligent. However, people often laughed at him because he was also unusually tall, and ordinary looking. Could this be the source for the idea of the plain looking nightingale and ugly duckling?
These stories were written in perhaps the happiest period of Andersen’s life, when he was courting Swedish singer Jenny Lind. “The Nightingale” was said to have been written as an expression of his love for her, earning her the “The Swedish Nightingale”. When Anderson proposed marriage in a letter a year later, she wrote back:
(adj: captive) Captured and kept in a prison, cage, etc. 5000
(n: clockwork, noncount) The system of moving wheels inside something (such as a clock or an old-fashioned toy) that makes its parts move. 10000
(n: deathbed pl deathbeds) The bed in which a person dies or is about to die. The family gathered around her deathbed.
(idiom: on one's deathbed) In the last few hours before death. While he lay on his deathbed, he told his lawyer that he wanted to give all his money to charity. Often used figuratively to say that someone is very close to dying or very sick. The old man acts as if he is on his deathbed, but he looks healthy enough to me.
(n: treasure pl treasures) 1. Something valuable (such as money, jewels, gold, or silver) that is hidden or kept in a safe place. (ขุมทรัพย์) 2. Something very special, important, or valuable. (ของมีค่า) 2000
(n: branch pl branches) An arm-like part of a tree that grows out from the central part. 2000
(v: breathe, breathes, breathed, breathing) To move air into and out of your lungs; to inhale and exhale. He was breathing hard from running.
(phrasal verb: breathe deeply) To take a lot of air into your lungs. 3000
(n: cage pl cages) A container or enclosure with wire or metal bars for holding birds or animals. 4000
(n: corridor pl corridors) A long, narrow passage inside a building with doors that lead to rooms on each side; also called a hall or hallway. 3000
(v: delight, delights, delighted, delighting) 1. To please greatly. I was delighted by the good news. 2. To have or take great pleasure from something. He delights in beating me at chess.
(n: delight pl delights) A strong feeling of happiness.
(adj: delightful) Causing delight. 2000
(n: diamond pl diamonds) A very hard, usually colorless, precious stone; used especially in expensive jewelry. 4000
(n: Emperor pl Emperors) A man who rules a group of countries or regions. 8000
(n: Empire pl Empires) A group of countries or regions that are controlled by one ruler or one government. 000.
(adj: Imperial) Of or relating to an empire or an emperor. 5000
(n: hut pl huts) A small and simple house or building. (กระท่อม) 3000
(n: jewel pl jewels) A precious stone (such as a diamond, ruby, emerald, sapphire) that has been cut and polished. (อัญมณี)
(n: jewels, plural) An ornament or pieces of jewelry containing a precious stone or stones. She loved dressing up in her jewels.
(adj: jeweled or jewelled) Covered in jewels. (ที่ประดับด้วยเพชรพลอย) 3000
(n: master pl masters) 1. A person who has become very skilled at doing something. (คนมีฝีมือ) 2. Someone who has control or power over others. (ผู้ควบคุม) 3. A polite title for a boy. (คำนำหน้าชื่อเด็กผู้ชาย) 2000
(n: nightingale pl nightingales) A small brown European bird that sings a beautiful song, especially at night. (นกไนติงเกล) 7000
(v: nod, nods, nodded, nodding) 1. To move your head up and down as a way of answering 'yes' or of showing agreement, understanding, or approval. 2. To move your head up and down as a signal to someone or as a way of saying hello or goodbye to someone. (พยักหน้า) 3000
(n: occasion pl occasions) A special event or time. (โอกาสพิเศษ) 1000
(n: palace pl palaces) A very large and beautiful house, especially one lived in by a member of a royal family such as a king, queen, sultan, etc. (พระราชวัง) 4000
The picture on the left shows Buckingham Palace in London where the Queen of England lives.
(adj: pale, paler, palest) Having a skin color that is closer to white than is usual or normal, either because it is your natural color or you are sick or scared at the time. (ซีด) 3000
(adj: plain, plainer, plainest ) 1. Simply made, with no pattern or decoration. She was wearing plain black shoes. (ธรรมดา) 2. Easy to understand; clear. His words were quite plain. (เข้าใจง่าย) 2000
(n: plain pl plains) A large area of flat land with few if any trees. (ที่ราบ) 11000
(n: poem pl poems) A piece of writing arranged in lines which usually have a regular rhythm and often end in words that rhyme. (บทกวี) 2000
(n: poet pl poets) A person who writes poems (poetry). (กวี) 4000
(n: Prime Minister pl Prime Ministers) The leader (chief minister) of a government in some countries. (นายกรัฐมนตรี)
(adj: prime) The most important. (ที่มาลำดับแรก) 2000
(v: punch, punches, pinched, punching) To hit (someone or something) hard with your fist. (ชก) 3000
(v: receive, receives, received, receiving) To get or be given (something). (รับ) 1000
(n: respect, noncount) Admiration or high opinion of someone or something that is good, valuable, important, etc. (ความนับถือ)
(adj: respectful) Treating someone or something that is important, serious, etc., in an appropriate way. (น่าเคารพ)
(v: respect, respects, respected, respecting) To show or feel respect. (นับถือ) 1000
(n: reward pl rewards) A benefit that someone gets or is offered for doing good work, good behavior etc. (สิ่งตอบแทน) 3000
(adj: royal) Of or relating to a king or queen, etc. (เกี่ยวกับราชวงศ์) 2000
(n: servant pl servants) Someone who is hired to do household or personal duties [such as cleaning and cooking]. (คนรับใช้) 1000
(v: shake, shakes, shook, shaken, shaking your head) To turn your head from side to side as a way of answering “no” or of showing disagreement or that you will not do something. (ส่ายหัว)
(n: throat pl throats) 1. The front part of the neck. (คอ) 2. The back part of the mouth connecting the openings of the stomach, lungs and nose. (ช่องคอ) 3000
(prep: worth) Used to indicate the value of something. (มูลค่า) 1000
(n: e-book pl e-books) A book whose contents are in an electronic format so that it can be downloaded and read.
(n: fairy pl fairies) An imaginary creature having magical powers. (นางฟ้า) 4000
In early literature, fairies could change themselves into any form. Thanks to Walt Disney, most people today think that they all look like the picture on the left.
(n: tale pl tales) 1. A story about real or imaginary events; an exciting or dramatic story that may not be completely true. (นิทาน) 2. An untrue story that is told to deceive someone; a lie. He told me he had a lot of money, but that was just a tale. (เรื่องโกหก) 3000
(n: imagery, noncount) Language where mental images of a scene are created using descriptive words, especially making use of the human senses (sight, sound, taste, smell, and touch). Used to create a sense of the atmosphere, emotions or feelings of a situation. (ภาพ) 2000
(n: passage pl passages) 1. A short section of a book, poem, speech, piece of music, etc. (ข้อความตอนหนึ่ง) 2. A narrow space that people or things can move through. (ทางเดินแคบ) 3000
(n: theme pl themes) In literature, a central idea that is communicated in a story. Note that a theme may be an idea that the writer wishes to convey, or another idea that a reader or group of readers interpret into the story. Most themes are implied through the plot rather than stated directly. (หัวข้อ) 4000
(n frustration pl frustrations) The state of feeling frustrated. A feeling of anger or annoyance caused by not being able do or achieve something that you really want to do or achieve. (อัดอั้นใจ) 3000
(prep: despite) Without being prevented by; in spite of something. Used to say that something happens or is true even though there is something that might have prevented it from happening or being true. 2000
(adj: heartwarming) Causing pleasant feelings of happiness. (ซึ่งอบอุ่นใจ)
(adj: clumsy, clumsier, clumsiest) Moving or doing things in a way that is not smooth or does not look skillful, often causing things to drop or break. 5000
(n: opera pl operas) A performance in which actors sing all or most of the words of a play with music performed by an orchestra. (อุปรากร) 4000
(n: nickname pl nicknames) A name that is different from your real name but is what your family and friends call you when they are talking to you or about you. (ชื่อเล่น) 5000
(n: farewell pl farewells) 1. Something that you say to a person who is leaving; goodbye. She wished me farewell. 2. An act of leaving. I will take my farewell of this place tomorrow.
(adj: farewell) Done when someone is leaving, ending a career, etc. A farewell concert/dinner. 6000
(v: bless, blesses, blessed, blessing) To ask God to care for and protect. 2000
(adj: sincere) Having or showing true feelings that are expressed in an honest way; genuine or real. (จริงใจ) 3000
(adj: affectionate) Feeling or showing that you really like or care for someone or something. 3000
(adj: heartbroken) Filled with great sadness. (อกหัก) 9000
This children’s radio theater series ran on the CBS network from March 1934 until October 1954. The show always began with a characteristic jingle from its sponsor, Cream of Wheat breakfast cereal. We have left this in at the beginning of the recording for atmosphere, but have edited out the childish talk by the announcers that follows it. The quality of the recording is not great, and the strong American accents of the actors don’t help in making us believe that the story really happened in China, but this is still a wonderful example of children’s entertainment in the days before TV. To download the mp3, click here.