The Gift of the Magi

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This article is about the short story. For the Magi that visited baby Jesus, see Biblical Magi.
"The Gift of the Magi"
The Gift of the Magi.jpg
Author O. Henry
Country United States
Language English
Genre(s) Short story
Published in The Four Million
Publication type Anthology
Publication date December 10, 1905 (newspaper); April 10, 1906 (book)[1]

"The Gift of the Magi" is a short story, written by O. Henry (a pen name for William Sydney Porter), about a young married couple and how they deal with the challenge of buying secret Christmas gifts for each other with very little money. As a sentimental story with a moral lesson about gift-giving, it has been a popular one for adaptation, especially for presentation at Christmas time. The plot and its "twist ending" are well-known, and the ending is generally considered an example of cosmic irony. It was allegedly written at Pete's Tavern[2][3] on Irving Place in New York City.

The story was initially published in The New York Sunday World under the title "Gifts of the Magi" on December 10, 1905. It was first published in book form in the O. Henry Anthology The Four Million in April 1906.

Summary[edit]

Mr. James Dillingham ('Young Jim') and his wife, Della, are a couple living in a modest apartment. They have only two possessions between them in which they take pride: Della's beautiful long, flowing hair, almost to her knees, and Jim's shiny gold watch, which had belonged to his father and grandfather.

On Christmas Eve, with only $1.87 in hand, and desperate to find a gift for Jim, Della sells her hair for $20, and eventually finds a platinum fob chain for Jim's watch for $21. She found the perfect gift at last and runs home and begins to prepare dinner, with 87 cents left.

When Jim comes home, he looks at Della with a strange expression. Della then admits to Jim that she sold her hair to buy him his present. Jim gives Della her present – an assortment of expensive hair accessories (referred to as “The Combs”), useless now that her hair is short. Della then shows Jim the chain she bought for him, to which Jim says he sold his watch to get the money to buy her combs. Although Jim and Della are now left with gifts that neither one can use, they realize how far they are willing to go to show their love for each other, and how priceless their love really is.

The story ends with the narrator comparing the pair's mutually sacrificial gifts of love with those of the Biblical Magi:[4]

The magi, as you know, were wise men – wonderfully wise men – who brought gifts to the new-born King of the Jews in the manger. They invented the art of giving Christmas presents. Being wise, their gifts were no doubt wise ones, possibly bearing the privilege of exchange in case of duplication. And here I have lamely related to you the uneventful chronicle of two foolish children in a flat who most unwisely sacrificed for each other the greatest treasures of their house. But in a last word to the wise of these days let it be said that of all who give gifts these two were the wisest. Of all who give and receive gifts, such as they are wisest. Everywhere they are wisest. They are the Magi.

Adaptations[edit]

The story has been adapted to films, The Sacrifice (1909), Love's Surprises Are Futile (1916), The Gift of the Magi (1917), a segment of O. Henry's Full House (1952), The Gift of Love (1978), The Gift of the Magi (1958), Dary magów (Poland, 1972), Christmas Eve on Sesame Street (1978), I'll not be a gangster, love (Не буду гангстером, дорогая/Nebūsiu gangsteriu, brangioji, USSR, 1978),[5] Mickey's Once Upon a Christmas (1999),[6] The Gift of the Magi (2004) and the short film for the Irish band The Script in 2010 called For the First Time.[7] Love, another French movie, based some of its scenes on this story. Raincoat (2004), a Hindi film directed by Rituparno Ghosh is an adaptation of the story.[8] The Mexican film Nosotros Nosotros los Pobres includes this tale as a small sub-plot.

An off-Broadway musical version[9] premiered at Lamb's Theatre in New York City in 1984. Written by Mark St. Germain and Randy Courts, the play is regularly produced in schools and regional theaters. It also features elements from another O. Henry story The Cop and the Anthem as a sub plot.

The opera Gift of the Magi with music by David Conte and libretto by Nicholas Giardini premiered in 2000.

There's a Rugrats episode where Phil and Lil look to exchange gifts to one another, but have nothing to offer. Manipulated by Angelica to give up their most precious items, the twins barter their precious personal items in favor of being able to give a gift to their opposite. Although Phil no longer has his Reptar, and Lil no longer has her brush, the twins both believe the sacrifice is the greatest gift of all, leaving Angelica in bitter Christmas spirits until she returns the original gifts.

The Squirrel Nut Zippers song "Gift of the Magi" from their 1998 album Christmas Caravan is a duet sung from the point of view of both Jim and Della.

On folk punk band Andrew Jackson Jihad's 2011 album Knife Man, the second track is titled "Gift Of The Magi 2: Return Of The Magi".

Emmet Otter's Jug Band Christmas in a twist on The Gift of the Magi,is a children's storybook by Russell Hoban which was first published in 1971.In 1977, Muppet creator Jim Henson produced a one-hour television adaptation of the story filmed in Toronto for HBO in the United States, and CBC in Canada. The special premiered on HBO on December 17, 1978.[1][2] The special later aired on ABC in 1980 and on Nickelodeon in the 1990s. The special features several original songs written by song writer Paul Williams.

References[edit]

  1. ^ "The Gift of the Magi is published – This Day in History – 4/10/1906". history.com. 2011. Retrieved November 16, 2011. 
  2. ^ "Pete's Tavern". Archived from the original on 2008-01-13. Retrieved 2011-11-06. 
  3. ^ "O'Henry and The Gift of the Magi". LiteraryTraveler.com. 
  4. ^ "The Gift of the Magi". 
  5. ^ Не буду гангстером, дорогая
  6. ^ Mickey's Once Upon A Christmas at the Internet Movie Database
  7. ^ O. Henry at the Internet Movie Database
  8. ^ Raincoat at the Internet Movie Database
  9. ^ St. Germain, Mark; Courts, Randy (1984). The Gifts of the Magi. New York: Dramatists Play Service, Inc. ISBN 978-0-8222-1461-8

External links[edit]