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Last Updated on March 5, 2020, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1179

Introduction

Published in 1908, The Blue Bird is a six-act play by Belgian writer Maurice Maeterlinck, which follows a pair of siblings on an enchanted journey one night as their parents sleep.

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Act One

Tyltyl and Mytyl watch their wealthy neighbors enjoy the Christmas festivities with much food and merriment. They have access to food and delicacies the children can only dream of. The children don't look with envy on the scene; instead, they enjoy it vicariously.

Suddenly, a fairy comes to them in the room. She gives them a magic hat that allows them to see the souls of all inanimate objects and to hear the voices of living things. She asks them to go on a journey for her to find a bluebird and then privately tells the characters Dog and Cat that the children will die on their quest. Light volunteers to accompany the children, along with several other characters such as Bread and Sugar.

Act Two

The previously inanimate objects dress in clothes resembling that of humans and present themselves to the children. The cat patiently explains that if Tytlyl finds the Blue Bird, he will know all and see all, and they will be completely at his mercy. Dog remains fiercely loyal to the boy as Cat begins to prove untrustworthy. The children journey to the Land of Memory, where they encounter their deceased grandparents who are sleeping—but they awaken when the children arrive. Granny Tyl explains that each time they are remembered by the living, they come to life in the Land of Memory and enjoy interacting with those who are still alive. There is an undercurrent of sadness in her excitement:

Lord, how pretty they are and how nice and clean! . . . Was it mummy who washed you? . . . And there are no holes in your stockings! . . . I used to darn them once, you know. . . . Why don't you come to see us oftener? . . . It makes us so happy! . . . It is months and months now that you've forgotten us and that we have seen nobody.

The grandparents comment that the living never quite seem to learn what is important as they rush about with the business of life. The children then see their seven siblings who have also died, and they run about playing together for a few moments. Then they all sit down to enjoy Granny Tyl's delicious cabbage soup. As instructed, the children have to leave before a quarter 'til nine, and they don't find the Blue Bird they seek in this land.

Act Three

The children converse with Night, who stands as guard to many of life's terrors. She guards the doors of rooms containing Ghosts, Sicknesses, Wars, Terrors, and Silence. Some of these have been greatly weakened by man, and Night is saddened by this. Night also shows them a door containing beauty: Stars, Perfumes of the Night, Fireflies, and Dew. The children find a room full of blue birds and think they have fulfilled their mission. They grab a few, but the birds are all dead when they encounter light.

In the next scene, the animals and trees of the forest begin to band together in a plot to overtake the children as revenge for all the death and destruction that humans have inflicted on them. After all, as the sheep tells Tyltyl, man has

Eaten my little brother, my two sisters, my three uncles, my aunt, my grandpapa and my grandmamma. . . . Wait, wait, when you're down, you shall see that I have teeth also.

One by one, the trees cower down and leave the task to the animals. As they begin the attack, the children are rescued by faithful Dog and Light.

Act Four

The children continue searching for the Blue Bird and travel to a place that Light describes as "the enchanted palaces where all men's Joys, all men's Happinesses are gathered together in the charge of Fate." They encounter Luxuries they have never known: The Luxury of Being Rich, The Luxury of Being a Landowner, the Luxury of Drinking when you are not Thirsty, the Luxury of...

(The entire section contains 1179 words.)

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