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Synopsis

Nine lovely, tragic tales, the nine magically airy yarns in this collection are definitely enchanting stories.

The Happy Prince and The Selfish Giant are perhaps the most famous of the nine. In the first story, the golden statue of a prince weeps for all the suffering people he sees and begs a swallow to strip him of his riches and distribute them to the masses. In the second tale, a giant builds a wall around his beautiful garden to keep out the noisy children, only to find out that he has also locked out the Spring.

The Young King is a variation on the theme of A Happy Prince. When a young monarch learns of the suffering and misery caused by his requirement for a robe, a crown, and a sceptre, he refuses to handle any of these riches and is given a more fitting raiment by a Divine Power. Keeping with the royal theme is The Star-Child, about a beautiful but horrible young boy whose physical appearance grows to match his ugly spirit. Another little bird appears in The Nightingale and the Rose, to help a young man win the heart of the woman he loves.

The stories themes include beauty, tragedy, agony, compassion, innocence, and (Platonic) love. Some characters give their lives, or sell their souls, in the name of love. There are also the same archetypes that appear in dreams: the Divine Child, the Trickster, the Wise Old Man or Woman, the Number 3, and more. Add all this to Wildes delicate writing and gilded imagination, and you get some of the most original tales ever written.

Though most of these stories end happily, all end tragically. That is to say, even when the endings are happy, someone always dies. Each story manages to associate everything thrilling and exquisite about beauty with the starkness of death. Accordingly, not all of these tales are suitable for children. For example, one scene in The Fisherman and His Soul features witches dancing before the devil and the princess in The Birthday of the Infanta is a heartless child whose mockery leads to the death of a little dwarf.

The keening, poignant loveliness shines through, making you want to read each story again and again and again.

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