Andersen's Fairy Tale: The Phoenix

In the Garden of Heaven, under the Tree of Knowledge, there is a bush of roses. Here the first rose gave birth to a bird. It flew like a flash. Its colors are gorgeous and its singing is beautiful.

But when Eve plucked the fruit of knowledge, when she and Adam were cast out of the heavenly garden, a spark fell from the flaming sword of the avenging angel into the bird's nest, burn it up. The bird was burned to death in the fire. But from that flaming egg in the nest flew a new bird - the only Phoenix in the world.

The myth says that the phoenix lived in Arabia; every hundred years it burned itself in its nest. But every time a new phoenix--the only phoenix in the world--comes out of that red egg.

The bird flies around us as fast as lightning; its colors are very beautiful, and its song is very sweet. When the mother sits by her child's cradle, it stands on the pillow, flapping its wings, forming a halo over the child's head. It flies across the modest room. Here the sun shines; on the humble table there is the scent of violets.

But the phoenix is ??not just an Arabian bird. It flew over the frozen fields of Lapland in the twilight of the northern lights; it walked among the yellow flowers in the short Greenlandic summer. Under the Copper Mountains of Fallon, in the coal mines of England, it flies as a dusty moth over the Bible spread out on the lap of the pious miner. It is on a lotus leaf, flowing down the holy water of the Ganges. The Indian girl's eyes lit up when she saw it.

This phoenix! Don't you know it? This bird of heaven, this holy swan of song! It sits in Desbys' car as a talkative crow, flapping its black, scum-covered wings. With the red beak of the swan it strikes on the Icelandic harp; as Odin the raven sits on Shakespeare's shoulder and whispers in his ear: "Immortality!" Palace of the Knights of the Wartburg ⑤.

This phoenix! Don't you know it? It sings the Marseillaise to you; you kiss the feathers that fall from its wings. It flies down from the celestial splendor; perhaps you'll turn your head just now to see the sitting sparrow with the silver paper on its wings.

Birds of heaven! It is reborn every century - born in flames, dies in flames! Your picture framed in gold hangs in the halls of the rich, but often you yourself flit about alone and bewildered. You are a myth - "Phoenix of Arabia".

In the garden of heaven, when you were born under the tree of knowledge, in the first rose, God kissed you and gave you the right name - "Poetry".

① According to the legend of the ancient Hebrews, Adam and Eve were the first couple of human beings. God let them live in the Paradise of heaven without any worries, but he did not allow them to eat the fruit of the tree of knowledge. One day Adam was encouraged by Eve to eatate the fruit of this tree, and they were banished from the kingdom of heaven.

②Fahlun is a city in central Sweden, which used to be the center of copper mines.

③Thespis (Thespis) was a Greek poet in the sixth century BC. He is the founder of Greek tragedy.

④ Odin (Odin) is the God in Norse mythology. His deeds are often the subject of poets writing.

⑤Wartbung (Wartbung) is an ancient palace in Eisenach, Germany, and it is also the place where many bards gather. In 1207 a bard contest (Sangerkrieg) was held here. The famous composer Wagner (Wagner) once wrote this game into his immortal opera Tannhauser.


This is a prose poem originally published in the illustrated magazine of The New Children's Friend, published in 1850. It is based on the Arabian legend of "Phoenix Nirvana". However, here Andersen regards the phoenix as a symbol of poetry.

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