The Happy Prince and Other Tales by Oscar Wilde

December 13, 2016 Leave a comment Go to comments

The Happy Prince and Other Tales by Oscar Wilde (1888)

Before visiting the Oscar Wilde exhibition in Paris I killed two birds in one stone by reading The Happy Prince and Other Tales. I was immersing myself in a side of Wilde’s work I’d never read and I was progressing on my #TBR20 project. It is a collection of short stories composed of

  • The Happy Prince
  • The Nightingale and the Rose
  • The Selfish Giant
  • The Devoted Friend
  • The Remarkable Rocket

wilde_happy_princeThe Happy Prince is my favourite story. The Happy Prince is a statue of someone who was known for his sunny character. The statue is richly decorated and make the mayor and his clique very proud. Arrives a Swallow who’s stayed behind in Europe instead of flying to Egypt with his friends and family. He was in love with a Reed and was reluctant to leave her. The Happy Prince is no longer happy. He’s very sad because he realised that he had spent a happy life only because he was sheltered in his castle and had no idea of the poverty and misfortunes of common people outside his castle. He now feels terrible and convinces the Swallow to stay and help him right his wrongs.

The Nightingale and the Rose is the story of a Nightingale who sacrifices her life to make a red rose bloom so that a Student desperately in love can conquer the girl he fancies.

The Selfish Giant tells the story of a Giant who closed his garden to the neighbouring children who used it as a playground and as soon as he bans them from their paradise, Winter and his friends take possession of the place.

The Snow covered up the grass with her great white cloak, and the Frost painted all the trees silver. Then they invited the North Wind to stay with them, and he came.

The Devoted Friend is about selfish Hans and his so-called definition of friendship that makes him shamelessly take and take from his friend without never giving anything back in return.

The Remarkable Rocket is the story of a delusional and snooty rocket. He’s part of a fireworks team and he thinks he’s the most beautiful and impressive of the lot until he screws things up. But he’s so full of himself …

“I am not going to stop talking to him merely because he pays no attention. I like hearing myself talk.  It is one of my greatest pleasures. I often have long conversations all by myself, and I am so clever that sometimes I don’t understand a single word of what I am saying.”

…that he never realises that people around him see him differently.

I really enjoyed these stories and this is a side of Wilde I didn’t know. There’s an immediate and simple story suitable for children and underlying meanings and comments for adults.

“Shall I love you?” said the Swallow, who liked to come to the point at once, and the Reed made him a low bow. So he flew round and round her, touching the water with his wings, and making silver ripples. This was his courtship, and it lasted all through the summer. “It is a ridiculous attachment,” twittered the other Swallows; “she has no money, and far too many relations”; and indeed the river was quite full of Reeds. Then, when the autumn came they all flew away.

Isn’t it both poetic and ironic? Since a lot of animals are involved in these tales, a lot of personifications happen. And my native language, French, has genders for everything. And in case of personification, I tend to imagine the animal or the object according to its grammatical gender, even when I’m reading in English. So, for me a Reed or a Nightingale is a He, not a She. A Swallow or Hail is a She, not a He. It is strange the first time I hear about a reed referred to as a she and then I get used to it. If you’re a reader fluent in several languages, does it happen to you too?

I had a great time reading these tales. I didn’t know what to expect but I thought that Wilde showed a gentle caring soul in these tales. In the exhibition about him in Paris, they said he used to read stories to his children when he was there.

After this I started The Importance of Being Earnest.

  1. December 14, 2016 at 12:25 am

    I hope you like The Importance of Being Earnest. It is a very popular play, even now after so many years, and the part of Lady Bracknell has been played by many great actors.


    • December 14, 2016 at 1:55 pm

      I loved The Importance of Being Earnest. I’d swear it’s a French play.


  2. December 14, 2016 at 7:20 am

    I read these as a child and found them terribly sad. I love the Importance of Being Earnest. saw a stage adaptation years ago.


    • December 14, 2016 at 1:57 pm

      These tales are sad but it’s normal since he wanted to emulate Andersen. Andersen’s fairy tales are sad too.
      I loved The Importance of Being Earnest. Billet coming soon.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. December 14, 2016 at 9:42 am

    I have a vague recollection of hearing some these stories as a child, possibly from my grandfather as he used to read aloud to me when we stayed at his house during the summer holidays. The title story and The Selfish Giant definitely sound familiar. I like the idea that these stories have something to say to readers of all ages, not just children but adults too.


    • December 14, 2016 at 2:03 pm

      It’s a quick read and I’m sure children like these tales. They won’t perceive the little slaps and full blows sent to the society but there’s still something good to get out of it. I also like this double level of reading very much.


  4. December 14, 2016 at 10:21 am

    I loved this one so much as a child, kept crying though… You can see that underneath all the froth and humour, he was fundamentally a rather serious and sad man. And a kind one, underneath all the irony and satire.
    As for The Importance of Being Earnest – very different, huge fun, great to see it performed. (I played the governess in that when we performed it at uni).


    • December 14, 2016 at 2:10 pm

      The Happy Prince is terribly sad, like The Little Match Girl by Andersen.
      These tales say a lot about Wilde as a man. Behind the funny dandy socialising in high circle, there was a man with social awareness. He was a lot deeper that his image let on, both in empathy and in reflexion.


  5. December 15, 2016 at 5:34 pm

    I remember back in the 70s, I saw some lovely animated versions on BBC of The Selfish Giant and The Happy Prince. Good to see they’re still available:

    I liked The Remarkable Rocket best, as that was the funniest.

    I do think though that The Importance of Being Earnest is far and away the finest of Wilde’s works. It is consistently funny – even on repeated readings/viewings. There’s a lovely film version with Edith Evans as the definitive Lady Bracknell.


    • December 17, 2016 at 4:53 pm

      Hello Himadri,

      It’s good to find a comment from you, it means you’re feeling better. And I’m glad you do.

      This animated versions of Wilde’s tales are lovely.

      The Importance of Being Earnest is fantastic. Billet coming soon.


  1. December 17, 2016 at 6:41 pm

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