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November Books 11) The Happy Prince

11) The Happy Prince and Other Stories, by Oscar Wilde

Have had this ebook from FictionWise sitting on my Blackberry for ages, but airport / waiting for meetings to happen gave me the incentive to go through it. I was familiar with two of the stories, The Happy Prince and The Selfish Giant, from children's anthologies, but the others (The Nightingale And The Rose, The Devoted Friend and The Remarkable Rocket) were all new to me.

I'm not actually certain that I would give these stories to a child to read - they are all so very sad. The one with the happiest ending is The Selfish Giant, and even then he dies, if not quite as tragically as the protagonists of the other stories! Knowing what I do about Wilde's own life and death, I was on the lookout for reflections in the stories: but in fact what there is is rather surprising - The Selfish Giant is an explicitly Christian allegory, and The Remarkable Rocket, full of his own pretension, arrogance and snobbery, eventually terminally expends his considerable talents and energies in such a way that nobody notices.

These are uncomfortable stories, and should only be read by children (and perhaps even adults) under strict supervision.


( 9 comments — Leave a comment )
Nov. 28th, 2007 07:39 pm (UTC)
The book format should have a page inside the front cover saying these stories are not intended for children. They were always intended for adults - as allegories If that's the right word. They were never children's stories. They were supposed to be uncomfortable.
Nov. 28th, 2007 09:11 pm (UTC)
Wilde and HC Andersen would have been a great double act at kiddies parties. And indeed, on Have I Got News For You.
Nov. 28th, 2007 09:41 pm (UTC)
Wilde did write them for his own children... I see I got my copy for my 11th birthday - probably a good age to read them. I remember my brother being distraught when he was read 'The Nightingale and the Rose'...
(Deleted comment)
Nov. 29th, 2007 12:39 pm (UTC)
See lizatgreenside, above; though irishkate has a different impression!
Nov. 29th, 2007 01:25 pm (UTC)
I feel a little dense, because I don't see what makes them unsuitable for children (I probably read them some time in junior school so aged 7-11). I tend to view them very much as Victorian children's stories so the moral tended to be 'the bad end badly and the good end sadly'.

All that being said, I'm with snapesbabe on my reaction.
Nov. 29th, 2007 10:07 pm (UTC)
Yeah, it seems a bit fogeyish to talk about children reading them under supervision. So they read them and are sad, big mickey. I was always struck by how sadface The Happy Prince was, though I first came across it as a cartoon, but although I was struck my its miserableness, it did not obviously launch me on the path of introspection and despair.

I think maybe the selfish giant was apapted into one of our reading books in school.
Nov. 29th, 2007 10:13 pm (UTC)
it did not obviously launch me on the path of introspection and despair.

So what did, Ian?
Nov. 30th, 2007 10:34 am (UTC)
I'm not so sure whether fogeyish is the word I'd use, I just find it interesting. I've just finished reading Northern Lights and the combo has made me interested in the progression of children's stories.
Dec. 18th, 2007 01:20 pm (UTC)
Just found this post nearly a month later and have to agree with your basic assessment. They are such terribly grim, depressing stories, and I say this as someone who likes unexpurgated Grimm's Fairy Tales, the melancholy Moomintroll books, etc, etc, etc. I learned the hard way - I was stuck in Argentina with nothing to read, and all I could find in terms of English books for kids was - yes - Oscar Wilde's Fairy Tales.

:::shudders::: Yeah, that was a cold, dark week in Buenos Aires...
( 9 comments — Leave a comment )

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