In the story, a young man falls in love with a girl, who tells him that she will dance with him at the upcoming ball if he hands her a red rose. However, the boy only has white roses growing in his garden and he becomes very upset. A nightingale hears him crying and is taken by his story. The bird decides to get a red rose for him.
He flies to two different bushes asking them for a red rose, but they have only yellow and pink roses. He then flies to a bare bush that tells him that it can grow a red rose only if the nightingale gives up his life for it and sings to him the entire night as the thorn pierces his heart. The blood of the bird will help to grow a beautiful red rose. So the bird decides to do this and kills himself.
The next day, the boy finds the flower and brings it to the girl. The girl responds that another man gave her jewelry and that is a far more expensive gift than any flower…and rejects him.