The Phoenix Bird (Fairy Tale Fridays)

One of the reasons I love fantasy as a genre is for the mythical creatures.  Unicorns, griffins, minotaurs - I love the imagination of new beasts and monsters and one of my favorites is the Phoenix.  I knew the legend of the bird that dies by immolation and is reborn from its own ashes and of course, I loved how J. K. Rowling used Fawkes the Phoenix as a hero and symbol of hope in the Harry Potter series (most notably in book/movie two: Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets).

But I was intrigued when I discovered that Hans Christian Andersen had his own story about and titled after The Phoenix Bird (click the link to read the story).  It's a short tale - more akin to the origin type story told in The Ear of Corn by the Brothers Grimm than the usual fairy tale style I've come to associate with Andersen - but I do like it.  If you're not familiar with it, take the time to read it before continuing with this post because my favorite part really is the ending. 

There are a few things that speak to me about this story.  If we take the Phoenix as a symbol for the spirit of creativity and imagination, we see that it has been around since the dawn of creation.  As long as there have been human beings, this spirit has lived among them.  Andersen writes, "The bird flutters round us, swift as light, beauteous in color, charming in song," and one can imagine the natural gift of creativity in the form of a mythical bird swooping through Andersen's pen as this tale was composed.  We can also see that the Phoenix is shown to be universal - belonging to no single land or culture - and with the varied lands described in the story it is clear that the Phoenix "is not the bird of Arabia alone." Andersen ends the story with a lovely tribute to the bird in proclaiming a name for it:
"...thy right name was given thee—thy name, Poetry."
I think this is a fitting conclusion to the simple story because in its essence this piece is much more of a poem than a traditional  tale.  The short length of the work and the vibrant writing speak much more of poetry than of a typical fairy story with a happily ever after ending.  What do you think about Hans Christian Andersen's The Phoenix Bird

This post is part of my 2011 Fairy Tale Challenge (2 of 12) and continues the Fairy Tale Fridays meme originally begun by Tif of Tif Talks Books.  I'd love to hear your thoughts on this story or any other fairy tale of your choice!  Leave a link in the comments below if you're joining the Fairy Tale Fun this week!

3 Response to "The Phoenix Bird (Fairy Tale Fridays)"

  1. Ellen Stewart (aka Ellie/El/e) says:
    February 12, 2011 at 5:26 PM

    I remain blown away by the amount of reading you get done and your voice-filled commentaries.

  2. Jen the bibliophile says:
    February 16, 2011 at 4:32 PM

    I have a love of this particular bird of fairytale lore. Not only do I have a love of such mythical creatures, but living here in Arizona makes me think of this one so very often. I think due to my relative closeness to Phoenix the city. I like Anderson's story, but I'd like to think there is more than just the one. Given it is supposed to be a mythical bird so in hindsite my hopes dont so much matter. Still the mind is an interesting thing in this regard.

    I really did love Jk Rowlings presentation of Fawkes. In book six the presentation of the phoenix's lament brought me to tears.

  3. Tif says:
    March 7, 2011 at 12:22 PM

    How did I miss this one?!? I've got to go and read it right now!

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