The Happy Prince and Other Tales

1st edition

The Happy Prince and Other Tales (sometimes called The Happy Prince and Other Stories) is a collection of stories for children by Oscar Wilde first published in May 1888. It contains five stories, "The Happy Prince", "The Nightingale and the Rose", "The Selfish Giant", "The Devoted Friend", and "The Remarkable Rocket". It is most famous for its title story, "The Happy Prince".


"The Happy Prince"

A swallow meets the statue of the late "Happy Prince", which houses the soul of the original prince, who in reality had never experienced true happiness. The statue inspires the swallow to selfless acts.


"The Nightingale and the Rose"

A nightingale overhears a student complaining that his professor's daughter will not dance with him, as he is unable to give her a red rose. The nightingale visits all the rose-trees in the garden, and one of the white roses tell her that there's a way to produce a red rose, but only if the nightingale is prepared to sing the sweetest song for the rose all night with her heart touching the rose, and sacrifice her life to do so. Seeing the student in tears, the nightingale carries out the ritual, and impales herself on the rose-tree's thorn so that her heart's blood can stain the rose. The student takes the rose to the professor's daughter, but she again rejects him because another man has sent her some real jewels, and "everybody knows that jewels cost far more than flowers." The student angrily throws the rose into the gutter, returns to his study of metaphysics, and decides not to believe in true love anymore.


There are many adaptations of this story in the form of operas and ballets. These include:

  • One act opera by Renzo Bossi, an Italian composer, (Como 1883 - Milan 1965) in one act, op. 18, 1910 (libretto by Bossi, after Wilde,: The Nightingale and the Rose), Italian Radio Turin, 9 August 1938; staged Parma, Teatro Regio, 9 January 1940); see the link.
  • A cantata by Henry Hadley, an American composer and conductor, (Somerville, Massachusetts, 1871 - New York, 1937) The Nightingale and the Rose, (libretto E.W. Grant), op. 54, S, SSAA, orchestra (New York, 1911); see the link.
  • An opera by Hooper Brewster-Jones, an Australian composer (Orroroo, S. Australia, 1887 - Adelaide, 1949) The Nightingale and the Rose, 1927 (after Wilde of which only an orchestral suite survives.
  • A ballet by Harold Fraser-Simson, an English composer, (London, 1872 - Inverness, 1944) The Nightingale and the Rose, (based on Wilde) (1927); [ see the link].
  • A ballet by Janis Kalnins, a Canadian composer and conductor of Latvian parentage. (Pärnu, Estonia, 3 November 1904 - Fredericton 30 November 2000) Lakstigala un roze [The Nightingale and the Rose], (after Oscar Wilde), Riga, 1938.
  • A ballet by Friedrich Voss, a German composer and pianist (b. Halberstadt, 1930) Die Nachtigall und die Rose (G. Furtwängler, after Oscar Wilde), 1961; Oberhausen, 5 January 1962; see the Breitkopf’s page
  • An opera by Jonathan Rutherford, a British composer (b 1953) – The Nightingale and the Rose, (after Wilde, 1966; link.
  • One act opera by Margaret Garwood, an American composer (born Haddonfield, NJ, 1927) The Nightingale and the Rose, (libretto by Garwood, after Oscar Wilde, Chester, Widener College Alumni Auditorium, 21 Oct 1973
  • One act chamber opera by Elena Firsova, a Russian composer, op. 46 (1991) The Nightingale and the Rose, (libretto by Firsova, after Oscar Wilde, premiered on 8 July 1994 at Almeida Theatre, Almeida Opera;at the Boosey & Hawkes page.
  • One act ballet by David Earl, a South African composer (b 1951) - The Nightingale and the Rose, 1983

"The Selfish Giant"

The Selfish Giant of the title owns a beautiful garden which had 12 peach trees and lovely fragrent flowers, in which children love to play. On the giant's return from visiting his friend the Cornish Ogre, he takes offence at the children, and builds a wall to keep them out. As a consequence of this, the garden is condemned to perpetual winter. One day, the giant is awakened by a linnet, and discovers that spring has returned to the garden, as the children have found a way in through a gap in the wall. He sees the error of his ways, and resolves to destroy the wall . However, when he emerges from his castle, all the children run away, except for one boy, who was trying to climb up a tree . The giant helps this boy into a tree that he wants to climb; the boy kisses him in return. The giant announces: "It is your garden now, little children," and knocks down the wall; the children once more play in the garden, and spring returns. But the boy that the Giant helped does not, and the Giant is heartbroken. Many years later, the Giant is old and feeble, and awakes, one winter morning, to see the trees in one part of his garden in full blossom. He descends from the castle, to discover the boy that he once helped lying beneath a beautiful white tree that the Giant has never seen before. The Giant sees that the boy bears the stigmata. He does not realize at first that the boy is actually the Christ Child. The Giant is furious at the idea that somebody has wounded him.

"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."

Shortly afterwards the happy giant dies; that same afternoon his body is found lying under the tree, covered in blossoms.


English light music composer Eric Coates wrote the orchestral Phantasy The Selfish Giant in 1925.[1]. In 1933–1934, violinist-composer Jenő Hubay adapted the story into a Hungarian language opera, Az önző óriás (Der selbstsüchtige Riese), Op. 124. The libretto was written by László Márkus and Jenő Mohácsi.

A record album was produced (again in the 1940s by American Decca), narrated by Fredric March, with a full unnamed supporting cast.

In 1972, Peter Sanders wrote and produced an animated version of The Selfish Giant, which was nominated for an Academy Award. [3]

In the 1990s, the Australian team of composer Graeme Koehne and choreographer Graeme Murphy created a children's ballet based on The Selfish Giant.

In the 1997 film Wilde, based on the life of the author, portions of the The Selfish Giant are woven in, with Wilde and his wife telling the story to their children, the portions reflecting on his relationship with them and others: the sadness of the children who can no longer play in the giant's garden is reflected in that of Wilde's sons as their beloved father spends more time with his lovers than with them.

In 2011, composer Dan Goeller of Noteworthy Books wrote an orchestral interpretation of the story.

"The Devoted Friend"

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 compels 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.

"The Remarkable Rocket"

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."


See also

External links

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