The Selfish Giant and Other Tales
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By Oscar Wilde
The task of the fairy tale, in the words of Chesterton, is not to make children afraid, nor is it to introduce to them the notion of the evil, the ugly, or the false—those ideas are already in the them, for they are already in the world. Instead, the task of the fairy tale is to show that the final word belongs not to evil, ugliness, or falsehood, but to goodness, truth, and beauty, and that justice and mercy alike repay princes and princesses, giants and mermaids, fireworks and flowers, according to their deeds.
And the child smiled on the Giant, and said to him, “You let me play once in your garden, today you shall come with me to my garden, which is Paradise.”
If such is indeed the task of fairy tales, Oscar Wilde achieves it beautifully with these nine stories, including “The Happy Prince,” “The Young King,” and “The Birthday of the Infanta,” as well as the impeccable title-tale. Strongly influenced by the Brothers Grimm, Hans Christian Andersen, and Irish folklore, Wilde’s fairy tales mark clearly and cleverly the boundaries of good and evil, whispering and shouting in turn “the tale of their perilous joys.”
Oscar Wilde (1854–1900) was an Irish poet, playwright, and writer. First achieving fame with his novel, The Picture of Dorian Gray, he found continued success as a playwright with his witty satires like The Importance of Being Earnest. After self-indulgence and scandal paid an abrupt end to his success, he spent two years in prison. Wilde’s lifelong fascination with the Catholic faith was completed on his deathbed when he was formally received into the Church and given Last Rites.
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