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 Mytyl: Why do they have to have war? What makes war, anyway?

Daddy Tyl: The same things that make trouble everywhere. Greed. Selfishness. Those who aren't content with what they have.

Mytyl: But you're not like that, Daddy. Why should you have to go?

Daddy Tyl: That's what's wrong about it, Mytyl. You can't be unhappy inside yourself without making others unhappy, too.

A play written in 1908 by Belgian playwright Maurice Maeterlinck. It has been adapted into five films and an anime series, with the best-known version being the 1940 film starring Shirley Temple, which provides the above dialogue.

The original play tells the tale of Mytyl and Tyltyl, two poor children. One night an old crone (who resembles their neighbor Berylune) arrives at their cottage and tells the children they must seek the Blue Bird of Happiness for her sickly daughter, and gives the boy a cap with a magic diamond that reveals the true spirits (anthropomorphic personifications) of all things -- including their cat Tylette and their dog Tylo, and those of Sugar, Bread, Milk, Water, Fire, and Light. This band serves as their companions as they venture through many lands and encounter everyone from the spirits of their grandparents to the decadent Luxuries to the simpler but more enduring Happinesses to Father Time himself. The Blue Bird proves elusive at every turn, but upon arriving home it turns out to be their own pet bird, which they give to Berylune's daughter. It flies away, and Tyltyl asks the audience to help them find it again...

In the 1940 film, Mytyl is a selfish bratty girl who always complains about not having everything the wealthy children have. One day she catches a bird in the royal forest and keeps it for herself rather than giving it to her bedridden sickly friend. Later, after complaining to her parents about how poor they are, her father gets a message telling him he must go to war. That night, she's visited by the fairy Berylune who tells her and her brother Tytyl that they can be happy if they find the Blue Bird of Happiness. The fairy transforms their dog Tylo and their cat Tylette into humans to help them and calls the Anthropomorphic Personification of Light to guide them. Together they visit the past, the land of luxury, the forest, and even the future, searching for the Blue Bird. Along the way, they learn some important lessons happiness and return empty-handed. Only to find that the bird Mytyl caught at the beginning was blue all along. She gives it to her friend and it flies away...

The second most famous adaptation, and the last film version, was directed by George Cukor in 1976 and was the first-ever cinematic collaboration between the U.S. and the U.S.S.R., featuring Elizabeth Taylor (Mother, Berylune, Light, and Maternal Love), Jane Fonda (Night), Cicely Tyson (Tylette), Ava Gardner (Luxury), and Russian performers in most of the minor roles. Due in part to the severe culture clash between the Americans and Russians, the shoot was difficult and the expensive result (while quite faithful to the play) was widely derided. It bombed at the box office, aired only a few times on American cable in the 1970s and '80s, and as yet has never had a legit video release in the U.S.


This play contains examples of:

The 1940 version includes examples of:

The 1976 version contains examples of:

  • All-Star Cast
  • Composite Character: In this version, the old crone Berylune is revealed to be Light herself, rather than a fairy.
  • Costume Porn: Elizabeth Taylor (as Light and Maternal Love), Jane Fonda, and Ava Gardner all get glamorous costumes.
  • Loads and Loads of Roles: Four for Elizabeth Taylor (three if you count Berylune and Light as one character, since the latter is the former's true appearance).
  • The Musical
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