Somewhemtn bluebirdre over the rainbow
BlueBirds fly.
Birds fly over the rainbow.
Why then, oh why can't I?

Those lyrics from the film, The Wizard of Oz , shown in 1939, have enhanced the dreamy bluebird of happiness phrase. Judy Garland sang the words to "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" and more bluebird meanings became popular. Then, a year later in 1940 the film, The Blue Bird came out, starring Shirley Temple. It was based on the Nobel prize winning play, L'Oiseau Bleu . In English it is The Blue Bird (Fairy Play).

It was premiered in France in 1908, and acclaimed highly successful. The author was a Belgian who wrote in French – Maurice Maeterlinck. He was awarded the Nobel prize for literature in 1911.

Interestingly enough, another author Marie Catherine D'Aulnoy published The Fairy Tales of Madame D'Aulnoy in 1892. One of the fairy tales is L'oiseau bleu (The Blue Bird). This was published 16 years prior to Maeterlinck's play. Since both have French premiers, I wonder if Maeterlinck hadn't come across D'Aulnoy's tale before he penned his play. Although they differ in the telling, the search for happiness connected with the bluebird is ever present. Her fairy tale can be read online at surlalune fairy tales.

It is also likely that D'Aulnoy was familiar with the positive sentiments garnished by the bluebird from the international roots of worldwide cultures. Indigenous tales and meanings of the bluebird of happiness phrase have graced human consciousness for a very long time. The published writings mentioned are also known as bluebird happiness stories.

Tattooes of the bluebird of happiness signify various meanings:

  • finding one's way

  • love (bluebirds have life long partners)

  • a well traveled road

  • come a long way

  • good luck

  • victory in adversity

  • triumph in love and life.

Common lore is that sailors with tattooed bluebirds would help them get to land – especially after being at high seas for a long time. Any tattooed bird, not just bluebirds will do. Birds are the first thing sailors would see that gave them the knowledge that land was near.

Some prisoners have them tattooed on a hand. The wings are on the thumb and forefinger (bluebird body in-between). It signifies time spent in prison. Maybe the happiness part comes in with hope to fly away from the jail – flap the thumb and forefinger, and wave the hand good-bye. Also, the plumage could signify the eternal sky, eternal happiness.

When a bluebird is caged (in a fairy tale, reality, book, play), the cage often represents the human heart. Really, our hearts hold happiness, or so we are led to believe.

I am fortunate to see Mountain Bluebirds. They differ from the Eastern and Western Bluebirds because they are almost completely bright blue. Watching them fly about makes me dreamy and smiling, like I am witnessing a great treasure in the sky. The Navajo Indians believe the Mountain Bluebird is a great spirit in animal form. So do I.