A beautiful nightingale lives in a faraway land and sings the most beautiful songs anyone has ever heard. The Emperor learns of the bird and orders it be brought to court to sing for him. He loves the bird's voice so much he keeps it in a golden cage and makes it sing to him and his people all the time. When the Emperor receives a musical mechanical bird, gilded and bejewelled, as a gift, the real nightingale escapes. No one understands why the nightingale would have flown away after it had been treated so well at the palace but they enjoy the songs of the mechanical bird as well so they listen to it sing instead. Eventually the mechanical nightingale breaks down from overuse and the emperor falls ill. On his deathbed the living nightingale comes to visit him and its songs bring the Emperor back from the brink of death. The Emperor wants the nightingale to come and live with him at the palace again but the bird wants to be free so it refuses but promises that it will come and visit if the Emperor keeps the visits a secret.