The Happy Prince and Other Tales (also sometimes called The Happy Prince and Other Stories) is an 1888 collection of stories for children by Oscar Wilde. It is most famous for The Happy Prince, the short tale of a metal statue who becomes friends with a migratory bird. Together they bring some happiness to others in life and in "death."
The stories included in this collection are:
The stories convey an appreciation for the exotic, the sensual and for masculine beauty.
The protagonist of the story is a gilt and bejewelled statue of a prince, who stands on a tall column overlooking a city. A swallow, who has delayed his migration to Egypt for the love of a reed, rests on the statue's plinth; the Prince is crying at the injustices he can now observe, having been isolated from the realities of his society while he was alive. The Prince asks the swallow to remove the ruby that adorns his sword, and give it to a poor seamstress with a sick child; the swallow does so. The swallow stays with the Prince over the ensuing weeks, distributing the jewels and gold from the Prince to the poor of the city. When the Prince is completely denuded of gold, the swallow realises he is dying from cold; the Prince asks the swallow to kiss him on the lips. The swallow dies, and the Prince's lead heart breaks. The next day, the Mayor of the city observes the state of the statue, and orders it to be removed and melted down. The Prince's heart does not melt in the furnace, and it is discarded on to the same dust-heap where the swallow's body is lying:
"Bring me the two most precious things in the city," said God to one of His Angels; and the Angel brought Him the leaden heart and the dead bird.
"You have rightly chosen," said God, "for in my garden of Paradise this little bird shall sing for evermore, and in my city of gold the Happy Prince shall praise me."
"Who hath dared to wound thee?" cried the Giant; "tell me, that I may take my big sword and slay him."
"Nay!" answered the child; "but these are the wounds of Love."
"Who art thou?" said the Giant, and a strange awe fell on him, and he knelt before the little child.
And the child smiled on the Giant, and said to him, "You let Me play once in your garden, to-day you shall come with Me to My garden, which is Paradise."
Finally seeing the long lost child the happy giant dies; his body is found lying under the tree, covered in blossoms.
Hans is a gardener, the devoted friend of a rich miller. On the basis of this friendship, the miller helps himself to flowers from Hans' garden, and promises to give Hans an old, broken wheelbarrow, to replace one that Hans was forced to sell so that he could buy food. Against this promise, the miller compells Hans to run a series of arduous errands for him; one stormy night, the miller asks Hans to fetch a doctor for his sick son. Returning from the doctor, Hans is lost on the moors in the storm, and drowns in a pool of water. After Hans' funeral, the miller's only emotion is regret, as he has been unable to dispose of the wheelbarrow.
The story is told by a linnet to an intellectual water-rat, who fancies himself a literary critic; the water-rat is sympathetic to the miller rather than Hans, and storms off on being informed that the story has a moral.
This story concerns a firework, who is one of many to be let off at the wedding of a prince and princess. The rocket is extremely pompous and self-important, and denigrates all the other fireworks, eventually bursting into tears to demonstrate his "sensitivity". As this makes him wet, he fails to ignite, and, the next day, is thrown away into a ditch. He still believes that he is destined for great public importance, and treats a frog, dragonfly, and duck that meet him with appropriate disdain. Two boys find him, and use him for fuel on their camp-fire. The rocket is finally lit and explodes, but nobody observes him - the only effect he has is to frighten a goose with his falling stick.
The Remarkable Rocket, unlike the other stories in the collection, contains a large number of Wildean epigrams:
"Conversation, indeed!" said the Rocket. "You have talked the whole time yourself. That is not conversation."
"Somebody must listen," answered the Frog, "and I like to do all the talking myself. It saves time, and prevents arguments."
"But I like arguments," said the Rocket.
"I hope not," said the Frog complacently. "Arguments are extremely vulgar, for everybody in good society holds exactly the same opinions."
Morrissey Pen Drips with Poison and Wildean Wit ; Autobiography by Morrissey Penguin Pounds 8.99 Review by John Meagher
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