In Reply to: Blue bird of happiness posted by ESC on October 06, 2008 at 13:18:
: : : Does anyone know where the 'blue bird of happiness' comes from and what exactly it means?
: : It is from Maurice Maeterlinck's play of the same name, first produced in London in 1910. "Brewer's Dictionary of Phrase and Fable" revised by John Ayto (HarperCollinsPublishers, New York, 2005, Seventeenth Edition).Page 163.
: Looking further, there is a long literary tradition regarding the blue bird. See Wikipedia -- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bluebird_of_happiness It says there that "The moral is that happiness comes more from the journey than the reward and that happiness is fleeting."
: The elusive bird of happiness. (Now I'm really depressed.)
The Wikipedia article cited by ESC is worth anyone's attention. It begins:
"The mythology of the bluebird has deep roots that goes back[sic]to thousands of years. Indigenous cultures across the globe hold similar myths and beliefs about the bluebird. It is the most universally 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."
There are references to bluebird myths and symbolism in Navaho culture, in Europe and in Asia. The author mentions Maeterlinck's play, "L'Oiseau Bleu," which by a coincidence I once read. I didn't really appreciate it at the time, although it has the "moral" mentioned by ESC. Materlinck's play is based on a fairy tale published, as "L'oiseau bleu," by Madame D'Aulnoy in the 17th century.
Most Americans know of the Bluebird of Happiness from a song of that name written by Jan Peerce and Art Mooney, introduced by them in 1948 with Peerce's voice (a classical tenor) and Art Mooney's Orchestra. It was inspirational and immensely popular for a time.
Unfortunately most Americans do NOT know the bluebird from having seen one. The importation of English sparrows and starlings in the 19th century crowded the shy bluebird out of most of its habitat. I was lucky enough to see a pair in a large Pennsylvania arboretum. Seeing one is enough to make one understand all the muthology and symbolism. Making bluebird boxes used to be a popular pastime among bird lovers and amateur carpenters.