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Mountain Bluebird (Sialia currucoides) from North America

The mythology of the bluebird of happiness has deep roots that go back thousands of years. Indigenous cultures across the globe hold similar myths and beliefs about the bluebird. It is a widely accepted symbol of cheerfulness, happiness, prosperity, hearth and home, good health, new births, the renewal of springtime, etc. Virtually any positive sentiments may be attached to the bluebird.

In magical symbology, bluebirds are used to represent confidence in the positive aspect and egotism in the negative. A dead bluebird is a symbol of disillusionment, of the loss of innocence, and of transformation from the younger and naive to the older and wiser.

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Bluebird symbology in America

In American symbolism, "bluebird" refers to true thrushes (Turdidae) of the genus Sialia, in particular the Mountain Bluebird (S. currucoides) which is almost completely bright blue.

Many Native American tribes considered the bluebird sacred.

According to the Cochiti tribe, the firstborn son of Sun was named Bluebird. In the tale "The Sun's Children" from Tales of the Cochiti Indians (1932) by Ruth Benedict: "She nursed him until the Sun father came back. Sun returned to the girl, and the girl offered the child to him, saying, 'Here is your baby. It is a little boy.' They named him Bluebird (Culutiwa)."

The Navajo hold the Mountain Bluebird to be a great spirit in animal form and associate it with the rising sun. The Bluebird Song is sung to remind tribe members to wake at dawn and rise to greet the sun:

Bluebird said to me,
"Get up, my grandchild.
It is dawn," it said to me.

The Bluebird Song is still used in social settings and is also performed in the nine-day Ye'iibicheii winter Nightway ceremony. It is the most revered song, as well as the closing act, performed just before sunrise on the final day.

A popular song performed by Jan Peerce and Art Mooney and His Orchestra titled Bluebird of Happiness was written by Edward Heyman and Sandor Harmati, was recorded in 1948, and was introduced at the Radio City Music Hall.

The blue bird of happiness is also mentioned in the film "K-Pax," as all the patients in the ward await the arrival of the blue bird.

A recent use in pop culture can be found in the episode "Time Flies" of the TV series "Six Feet Under," in which protagonist Nate Fisher beats a blue bird to death on his 40th birthday.

The blue bird is mentioned towards the end of the Beatles movie, "The Yellow Submarine", with the Bluemeanie leader saying, "You know I've never admitted it before, but my cousin is the bluebird of happiness."

Bluebird symbology in Europe

Adult male (bottom) and female Blue Rock-Thrush

The European "bluebird" is probably a reference to the Blue Rock-Thrush (Monticola solitarius), a chat (thrush-like Old World flycatcher) which occurs from the Mediterranean region eastwards. Its adult male is the only European passerine bird with all-blue plumage. In general, there are very few small birds in the western Palaearctic that have any conspicuous amount of blue in their plumage. The widespread Bluethroat (Luscinia svecica) and the Azure Tit (Cyanistes cyanus) from Russia and adjacent regions are notable exceptions.[1]

Bluebird mythology in Europe is noted in a fairy tale called L'Oiseau Bleu (The Blue Bird) by Madame d'Aulnoy (1650-1705). This seems to be the root source of most modern accounts of bluebird symbology and myth. In this tale, King Charming is transformed into a bluebird, who is the love interest of the younger princess Fiordelisa and aids her through her trials.

The Blue Bird was made into a 1908 stage play by Maurice Maeterlinck and into several films throughout the 20th century, including the 1940 original starring Shirley Temple, Gale Sondergaard, Spring Byington and Nigel Bruce. The story begins with two child heroes, Tyltyl and Mytyl, whom are sent out by the fairy BĂ©rylune (Jessie Ralph) into various lands to search for the Bluebird of Happiness. Returning home empty-handed, the children see that the bird has been in a cage in their home the whole time. Tyltyl later gives the bird as a present to a sick neighbor. However, the bird flies away and never returns. The moral is that happiness comes more from the journey than the reward and that happiness is fleeting.

In Russian fairy tales, the bluebird is a traditional symbol of hope. In more recent times, Anton Denikin characterized the Ice March of the defeated Volunteer Army in the Russian Civil War as follows:

"We went from the dark night of spiritual slavery to unknown wandering-in search of the bluebird."[2]

Bluebird symbology in Asia

A mythological Korean bluebird has similar symbolic meanings. Yet the bird also operates as a kind of metaphysical operative for the gods by flitting around and spying on the activities of mortals. This is reflected in the English colloquialism "A little bird told me."

In pop culture, Kyon mentions the story to Haruhi in episode 3 of the 2006 anime, The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya.

Footnotes

  1. ^ Snow et al. (1998)
  2. ^ Mawdsley (2005): p.21

References

  • Mawdsley, E. (2005): The Russian Civil War
  • Snow, David W.; Perrins, Christopher M.; Doherty, Paul & Cramp, Stanley (1998): The complete birds of the western Palaearctic on CD-ROM. Oxford University Press. ISBN 0192685791

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