This little book includes three fables that Oscar Wilde wrote shortly after the birth of his children. Wikipedia says that these are children’s stories, but… The Nightingale and the Rose? Really? That one just doesn’t seem like a children’s story to me. But its the last of the three stories, so I am getting ahead of myself. I should say a bit about the other two stories first.
The Happy Prince — In this story, the soul of a dead prince inhabits a gilded statue. He recalls how, during his life, he was sheltered and kept ignorant of the suffering of his city’s residents. Now that he is dead, he sets out to alleviate their misery. He enlists the help of a migrating swallow who stops to rest in the city on his way south. I was reminded a bit of the story of the Buddha, who grew up as a prince. During his early life is said to have been shielded from the knowledge of suffering, until he left his palace to meet his subjects.
The Selfish Giant — This is the story of a giant who prevents the children of a nearby town from playing in his beautiful garden. His selfishness causes the garden to wither until he learns his lesson.
|The Nightingale and the Rose, illustration from Wikimedia Commons|
The Nightingale & the Rose — This tale is definitely the highlight of this little book. In this story, a nightingale overhears a student complaining that the professor’s daughter has refused to dance with him unless he gives her a red rose, and he has no red roses in his garden. The nightingale feels sorry for him and sets out to help him. I don’t want to give too much away about this story, but if you are interested in a more detailed discussion, check out Mari Ness’s insightful commentary on this story over at Tor.com. It is one of her blog posts for the series “On Fairy Tales.”