The Happy Prince and Other Tales

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This article is about Wilde's short story. For Christopher Wheeldon's 2007 ballet, see The Nightingale and the Rose (ballet). For Elena Firsova's 1994 opera, see The Nightingale and the Rose (opera).
First 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"[edit]

Illustration for the first edition by Walter Crane

In a town where a lot of poor people suffer, a swallow who was left behind after his flock flew off to Egypt for the winter meets the statue of the late "Happy Prince", who in reality has never experienced true happiness. Viewing various scenes of people suffering in poverty from his tall monument, the Happy Prince asks the swallow to take the ruby from his hilt, the sapphires from his eyes, and the golden leaf covering his body to give to the poor. As the winter comes and the Happy Prince is stripped of all of his beauty, his lead heart breaks when the swallow dies as a result of his selfless deeds. The statue is then torn down and melted leaving behind the broken heart and the dead swallow. These are taken up to heaven by an angel that has deemed them the two most precious things in the city by God, so they may live forever in his city of gold and garden of paradise.

Adaptations[edit]

  • A radio drama adaption by Columbia Workshop was broadcast on 26 December 1936.
  • A record album was produced in the 1940s by American Decca Records, with Orson Welles narrating and Bing Crosby as the Prince.[1]
  • In 1969 New Zealand group the La De Das recorded and performed a rock opera based on the story. Band members Bruce Howard and Trevor Wilson conceived the idea in 1967, composing the music with Australian poet Adrian Rawlins narrating the story.
  • An animated film adaptation of the story was produced in 1974, starring Glynis Johns as the swallow and Christopher Plummer as the Prince.[2]
  • Happily Ever After: Fairy Tales for Every Child presented a version of the title story set in New York City featuring Ed Koch as the Happy Prince (who was the statue of the city's previous mayor) and Cyndi Lauper as a streetwise pigeon named "Pidge" (in place of the Swallow).
  • Leo the Lion Records released a reading of the story performed by Richard Kiley on a recording (#GD01603) including a dramatization of "The Magic Fishbone" by Charles Dickens featuring Julie Harris and Ian Martin and a reading of Rudyard Kipling's story "The Potted Princess" performed by Ms. Harris.
  • McDull, Prince de la Bun was partially based on this story.
  • In 2012 the Irish composer Vincent Kennedy and playwright John Nee adapted the story for narrator, chorus and orchestra. The Happy Prince was premiered in County Donegal, Ireland in April 2012 with John Nee narrating and acting and Vincent Kennedy conducting and performing. It was broadcast on RTÉ Junior.[3]
  • A 1992 musical written by Sue Casson based on the story.[4]
  • In 2014, composer Stephen DeCesare released and published his adaption of the "Happy Prince" as a children's musical.

"The Nightingale and the Rose"[edit]

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 roses tells her there is 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 pressing into a thorn, sacrificing her life. Seeing the student in tears, and valuing his human life above her bird life, the nightingale carries out the ritual. She 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.

Adaptations[edit]

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

Literary adaptations[edit]

  • A Sufi poem called al-Zib wa al-Kis reworks Oscar Wilde's plot around a mystical theme

"The Selfish Giant"[edit]

The Selfish Giant owns a beautiful garden which has 12 peach trees and lovely fragrant flowers, in which children love to play after returning from the school. On the giant's return from seven years visiting his friend the Cornish Ogre, he takes offense at the children and builds a wall to keep them out. He put a notice board "TRESSPASSERS WILL BE PROSECUTED". The garden falls into 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 a tree. The giant helps this boy into the tree and 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 return and the Giant is heartbroken. Many years later after happily playing with the children all the time, the Giant is old and feeble. One winter morning, he awakes 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 that the boy is actually the Christ Child and is furious 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.

Adaptations[edit]

English light music composer Eric Coates wrote the orchestral Phantasy The Selfish Giant in 1925.[5] 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 in the 1940s by American Decca, narrated by Fredric March, with a full unnamed supporting cast.

In 1971, Peter Sander wrote and produced an animated version of The Selfish Giant for CTV in Canada. The music was by Ron Goodwin. It was nominated at the 44th Academy Awards (1972) in the Animated Short Subject category, one of only three films to receive a nomination. It was first broadcast in November that year.[6]

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 2009, composer Stephen DeCesare adapted the "Selfish Giant" as a musical.

In 2010, composer Dan Goeller wrote an orchestral interpretation of the story. That same year Chris Beatrice created new illustrations for the story. In 2011 they released a combination of a CD containing the orchestration and new narration by Martin Jarvis, plus the newly illustrated book.

An illustrated and abridged version was published in 2013 by Alexis Deacon.

"The Devoted Friend"[edit]

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's 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's 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"[edit]

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[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Orson Welles & Bing Crosby - The Happy Prince (1946) (Part 1)". YouTube. 2009-06-13. Retrieved 2013-09-25. 
  2. ^ [1]
  3. ^ "RTÉjr - Listen". Rte.ie. Retrieved 2013-09-25. 
  4. ^ [2]
  5. ^ "Orchestral Works of Eric Coates". Musicweb-international.com. Retrieved 2013-09-25. 
  6. ^ "The Selfish Giant (1972) Theatrical Cartoon". Bcdb.com. Retrieved 2013-09-25. 

External links[edit]