The Gift of the Magi
|"The Gift of the Magi"|
|Published in||The Four Million|
|Publication date||December 10, 1905 (newspaper); April 10, 1906 (book)|
"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 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.
Mr. James Dillingham Young ("Jim") and his wife, Della, are a couple living in a modest flat. They each have only one possession 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 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.
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), Mickey's Once Upon a Christmas (1999), The Gift of the Magi (2004) and the short film for the Irish band The Script in 2010 called For the First Time. 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.
An off-Broadway musical version 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 Gift of the Magi is published – This Day in History – 4/10/1906". history.com. 2011. Retrieved November 16, 2011.
- "Pete's Tavern". Archived from the original on 2008-01-13. Retrieved 2011-11-06.
- "O'Henry and The Gift of the Magi". LiteraryTraveler.com.
- "The Gift of the Magi".
- Не буду гангстером, дорогая
- Mickey's Once Upon A Christmas at the Internet Movie Database
- O. Henry at the Internet Movie Database
- Raincoat at the Internet Movie Database
- St. Germain, Mark; Courts, Randy (1984). The Gifts of the Magi. New York: Dramatists Play Service, Inc. ISBN 978-0-8222-1461-8
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- "The Gift of the Magi" by O. Henry
- Audio book with text at Librivox of "The Gift of the Magi"
- "The Gift of the Magi" study guide, teacher resources, themes, quotes