Short summary - The Blue Bird - Maurice Maeterlinck

French literature summaries - 2021

Short summary - The Blue Bird
Maurice Maeterlinck

Christmas Eve. The woodcutter's children, Tiltil and Mytil, sleep in their beds. Suddenly they wake up. Attracted by the sound of music, the children run to the window and watch the Christmas party in the rich house opposite. There is a knock on the door. An old woman appears in a green dress and a red cap. She is hunchbacked, chrome, one-eyed, crocheted, walks with a stick. This is the Berilyun Fairy. She tells the children to go in search of the Blue Bird. It annoys her that children do not distinguish between obvious things. “You have to be brave to see what is hidden,” says Berilyuna and gives Tyltil a green cap with a diamond, turning which a person can see the “soul of things”. As soon as Tyltil puts on his hat and turns the diamond, everything around him is wonderfully transformed: the old witch turns into a fairy-tale princess, the poor atmosphere of the hut comes to life. The Souls of the Hours, the Souls of the Caravans appear, the Fire appears in the form of a rapidly moving man in a red tights. The Dog and the Cat also take on a human form, but remain in the masks of a bulldog and a cat. The dog, having gained the ability to clothe his feelings in words, with enthusiastic cries of "My little deity!" jumps around Tiltil. The cat, coyly and incredulously, stretches out its hand to Mityl. Water begins to gush from the tap with a sparkling fountain, and from its streams a girl appears with loose hair, in seemingly flowing clothes. She immediately engages in combat with Fire. This is the Soul of Water. A jug falls from the table, and a white figure rises from the spilled milk. It is a timid and bashful Soul of Milk. A sugary fake creature in blue and white clothes emerges from the sugar loaf, tearing the blue wrapper off. This is the Soul of Sahara. The flame of the fallen lamp instantly turns into a radiant girl of incomparable beauty under a sparkling transparent veil. This is the Soul of Light. There is a strong knock on the door. Tiltil, in fright, turns the diamond too quickly, the walls of the hut fade, the Fairy becomes an old woman again, and Fire, Bread, Water, Sugar, Soul of Light, Dog and Cat do not have time to return back to Silence, the fairy orders them to accompany the children in search of the Blue Bird, predicting their death at the end of the journey. Everyone, except the Soul of Light and the Dog, does not want to go. However, promising to choose the right outfit for everyone, the fairy takes them all through the window. And Mother Til and Father Til, who have looked through the door, see only peacefully sleeping children.
In the palace of the Fairy Berilyuny, dressed in luxurious fabulous costumes, the souls of animals and objects are trying to plot against children. They are headed by the Cat. She reminds everyone that before, “before the person” whom she calls “despot”, everyone was free, and expresses the fear that, having taken possession of the Blue Bird, a person will comprehend the Soul of Things, Animals and Elements and finally enslave them. The dog objected vehemently. When the Fairy, children and the Soul of Light appear, everything calms down. The cat hypocritically complains about the Dog, and he gets it from Tiltil. Before a long journey to feed the children, Bread cuts off two slices from its belly, and Sugar breaks off its fingers for them (which immediately grow back, so Sahara always has clean hands). First of all, Tyltil and Mytil will visit the Land of Remembrance, where they must go alone, unaccompanied. There Tiltil and Mityl visit their deceased grandparents, and there they also see their dead brothers and sisters. It turns out that the dead are, as it were, immersed in sleep, and when loved ones remember them, they wake up. After tinkering with the younger children, having lunch with the whole family, Tyltil and Mityl hurry to leave so as not to be late for a meeting with the Soul of Light. At the request of the children, grandfather and grandmother give them a thrush, which seemed completely blue to them. But when Tyltil and Mytil leave the Land of Remembrance, the bird turns black.
The Cat is the first to appear in the Palace of Night to warn the hostess of the impending danger - the arrival of Tyltil and Mytil. Night cannot forbid a person to open the gates of her secrets. The Cat and the Night can only hope that the person does not catch the real Blue Bird, the one that is not afraid of daylight. Children appear, accompanied by the Dog, Bread and Sugar. Night tries first to deceive, then to intimidate Tiltil and not give him the key that opens all the doors in her palace. But Tiltil opens the doors one by one. Because of one, several fearless Ghosts slip out, because of the other, where the diseases are, Runny nose manages to run out, because of the third, they almost break free of war. Then Tyltil opens the door, behind which the Night keeps extra Stars, its favorite Scents, Wandering Lights, Fireflies, Dew, Nightingale Singing. The next, large middle door, Night advises against unlocking, warning that behind it are hidden visions so formidable that they do not even have a name. Tiltil's companions - all except the Dog - hide in fright. Tiltil and the Dog, struggling with their own fear, open the door, behind which there is a wondrously beautiful garden - a garden of dreams and night light, where magical blue birds flutter tirelessly among the stars and planets. Tiltil calls his companions, and, catching each of several blue birds, they leave the garden. But soon the captured birds die - the children were unable to find the only Blue Bird that can endure the light of day.
Forest. The Cat enters, greets the trees, talks to them. Set them on children. Trees have a reason not to love the woodcutter's son. And now Tyltil is thrown to the ground, and the Dog barely freed himself from the bond of Ivy, he is trying to protect the owner. Both of them are on the verge of death, and only the intervention of the Soul of Light, which tells Tiltil to turn the diamond on the cap to plunge the trees into darkness and silence, saves them. The cat manages to hide its involvement in the riot.
The children are looking for the Bluebird in the cemetery. At midnight, Tyltil fearfully turns the diamond, the graves open, and whole sheaves of ghostly, magically beautiful white flowers appear from them. The birds sing rapturous hymns to the Sun and Life. "Where are the dead? .. - There are no dead ..." - Tiltil and Mityl exchange remarks.
In search of the Blue Bird, the children and their escort find themselves in the Gardens of Beatitudes. Fat Beatitudes almost draw Tyltil and his companions into their orgies, but the boy turns the diamond, and it becomes clear how miserable and ugly the Fat Beatitudes are. Domestic Beatitudes appear, which are amazed that Tyltil is unaware of their existence. It is the Bliss of Being Healthy, Bliss of Loving Parents, Bliss of the Blue Sky, Bliss of Sunny Days, Bliss of Seeing Lightening Stars. They send the swiftest Bliss to Run Through the Rose Barefoot to notify the arrival of children Great Joys, and soon there appear tall, beautiful angel-like beings in shining clothes, Among them the Great Joy of Being Fair, Joy of Being Good, Joy of Understanding and the purest Joy of Mother's Love. She seems to children like their mother, only much more beautiful ... Mother's Love claims that at home she is the same, but with closed eyes nothing can be seen. Having learned that the children were brought by the Soul of Light, Mother's Love summons other Great Joys, and they welcome the Soul of Light as their mistress. Great Joys ask the Soul of Light to throw back the veil, which still hides the unknown Truths and Bliss. But the Soul of Light, fulfilling the order of its Lord, only wraps itself up in a veil more tightly, saying that the hour has not yet come, and promising to come someday openly and boldly. Embracing goodbye, she leaves the Great Joys.
Tyltil and Mytil, accompanied by the Soul of Light, find themselves in the Azure Palace of the Kingdom of the Future. The Azure Children come running to them. These are children who will one day be born on Earth. But one cannot come to Earth empty-handed, and each of the children is going to bring there some invention of his own: the Happiness Machine, thirty-three ways to prolong life, two crimes, a car flying through the air without wings. One of the kids is an amazing gardener who grows extraordinary daisies and huge grapes, the other is the King of the Nine Planets, another is called to destroy Injustice on Earth. Two azure kids are hugging each other. They are lovers. They cannot look at each other and kiss and say goodbye incessantly, because on Earth they will be separated by centuries. Here Tyltil and Mityl meet their brother, who is soon to be born. Zarya is engaged - the hour when children are born. Time appears, a bearded old man with a scythe and an hourglass. He takes those who are about to be born to the ship. The ship that takes them to Earth sails and hides. Distant singing is heard - this is the singing of Mothers meeting children. Time in amazement and anger notices Tiltil, Mityl and the Soul of Light. They escape from him by turning the diamond. The Soul of Light hides the Blue Bird under the veil.
At the fence with a green gate - Tiltil does not immediately recognize his home - the children part with their companions. The bread returns to Tyltil the cage for the Blue Bird, which remains empty. “The Blue Bird, apparently, either does not exist at all, or changes color as soon as it is placed in a cage ...” says the Soul of Light. Souls of Objects and Animals say goodbye to children. Fire almost burns them with stormy caresses, Water murmurs farewell speeches, Sugar utters false and sugary words. The dog impulsively rushes to the children, he is horrified by the thought that he will no longer be able to talk with his adored master. Children persuade the Soul of Light to stay with them, but this is not in its power. She can only promise them to be with them "in every gliding moonbeam, in every tenderly looking star, in every busy dawn, in every lighted lamp", in every of their pure and clear thoughts. Strikes eight o'clock. The gate opens and immediately slams behind the children.
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The lumberjack's hut has magically changed - everything here has become newer, more joyful. Jubilant daylight shines through the closed shutters. Tyltil and Mityl are sleeping sweetly in their beds. Til's mother comes to wake them up. The children begin to talk about what they saw during the trip, and their speech frightens the mother. She sends her father for a doctor. But then Berlengo's Neighbor appears, very similar to the fairy Berilyun. Tyltil begins to explain to her that he was unable to find Bluebird. The neighbor guesses that the children have dreamed something, perhaps when they were sleeping, moonlight fell on them. She herself talks about her granddaughter - the girl is unwell, does not get up, the doctor says - nerves ... Mother persuades Tiltil to give the girl the turtledove she dreams of. Tyltil looks at the turtledove, and it seems to him a Blue Bird. He gives the bird cage to a neighbor. Children see their home with new eyes and what is in it - bread, water, fire, a cat and a dog. There is a knock at the door, and Berlengo's Neighbor enters with a blonde, unusually beautiful Girl. The girl hugs Tiltil's turtledove to her chest. Tiltil and Mityl's neighbor's granddaughter seems to be like the Soul of Light. Tiltil wants to explain to the Girl how to feed the turtledove, but the bird, taking advantage of the moment, flies away. The girl is crying in despair, and Tyltil promises to catch the bird. Then he turns to the audience: "We ask you very much: if one of you finds it, then let him bring it to us - we need it in order to become happy in the future ..."