Friday, June 15, 2012

The Selfish Giant

Last week, I looked at the stats for this blog and discovered that I do have quite a few more readers than I expected in quite a few more countries than I would've imagined. But I don't know how many of you are really reading the blog, or if you just browse here by accident and close the window almost immediately. So if you are a loyal reader, let me know. Post some comments on the blog, send me an email or a Tweet, find me on Facebook. I'm mainly doing this for myself, but it would be nice to know that there are a few people out there who dig what I'm doing here. So, c'mon, internet. Let's hear from you every once in a while!

There are three kinds of people in the world: The ones who know Oscar Wilde for his most famous play, The Importance of Being Earnest; the ones who know him best for his novel The Picture of Dorian Gray; and, sadly, the ones who don’t know him at all or, at best, know only the (shall we say) controversial elements of his all-too-tragic life story. Putting aside for the moment the fact that he was considered criminally perverse by many people during his lifetime (it was Victorian England; it was almost impossible not to be criminally perverse in those prudish days), Oscar Wilde was one of the greatest writers ever to bless the English language with his custom. His marvelous, imminently quotable plays and stories have been tickling audiences for generations and will continue to do so for many years more.

Though best known for the works listed above, Wilde proved himself a master at writng fairy tales with his book “The Happy Prince and Other Stories.” I have, therefore, taken on the task of adapting what might be his best known short story, which I for one find enchanting in its simple beauty. Thanks for everything, Oscar.

The bell rang and the chidren were released from school. Of course, all children look forward to getting out of school, but the children of this community looked forward to the final bell more than most. Because once school was out, they all went to play in the garden. It was a huge, beautiful garden, full of the most remarkable flowers and trees you ever saw. The children would run through the grass, chase each other around the flowerbeds, wade in the pond and climb the trees for hours on end, until they finally had to go home at the behest of their parents.

So it went for many months, until the owner of the garden returned. He was a giant! And he had been away for the winter but had returned home now that the weather was getting warmer. And when he saw that his garden was crawling with children he was furious. He roared at them to get out and scolded them for being there in the first place. Terrified of the giant, the children all ran away.

The giant felt he was perfectly in the right demanding that the children leave. After all, he said to himself as he prepared bricks and mortar for a wall, it is my garden. It’s my property. I have the right to protect what’s mine, don’t I? Of course I do. So he built a wall around his garden which, while small by his standards, was more than sufficient to keep the children from coming back. He also hung a sign on the front gate which read “Trespassers Will Be Prosecuted.”

There, he thought. Now I can enjoy my garden in peace.

The weeks passed and the wall was having its effect. No children came to play in the giant’s garden anymore. The giant himself was free to look out his front window at the garden whenever he wanted, without having his view obstructed by a laughing child in a tree. Indeed, he was quite content, except for one thing: It still seemed to be winter in the garden. By all accounts, it should have been spring by this time, but spring refused to come to the giant’s garden. Looking beyond the wall, the giant saw that spring had sprung outside his property.

So why is it still winter in here?

The giant pondered this for many days until that fateful afternoon when he looked out his window and saw that his garden had changed. It had transformed overnight. It was spring! The trees were green and full of beautiful blossoms and there was no snow or ice anywhere. And playing under or in each and every tree were the children! He saw a large hole in the wall thorugh which the children had crept in order to play in the garden without being seen by the giant. That’s why it had remained winter for so long. The garden was lonely for the children. And, after all, what good is a garden if there’s no one to enjoy it.

Just as the giant was beginning to think he had behaved rashly, he looked out and saw one tree that was still shrouded in winter. A chill north wind shook its branches and its bare trunk was covered in snow. Then he saw a very small boy at the base of the tree, who was too small to climb up into it like the others were doing. It was the only tree without a child playing in it, and the only tree which had not yet bloomed.

The giant made up his mind and walked straight outside to his garden. The other children saw him and immediatley ran away through the hole in the wall. But the little boy who couldn’t get up into the tree was crying too hard to even notice the giant. The children watched through the hole in the wall, certain that something terrible was about to befall the poor boy…but instead, to their utter amazement, the giant gently lifted the boy up into the branches of the tree. The little boy was so grateful that he flung his arms around the giant’s neck and gave him a big kiss on the cheek.

At last the giant saw how selfish he had been to try to keep this garden all to himself. How much grander it was when he shared it wih the children. He took down the trespassers sign and knocked down the stone wall he had built. Then he turned to the children and said, “This is your garden now!”

And so, for the rest of his days, the giant let it be known that all children were welcome to play in his garden. And even when he passed away, he left the garden as a gift to all the children of the world, to come and play among its beautiful trees and flowers and to use their incredible gift for bringing springtime to the bleakest winter.


If You Liked My Story, You Might Enjoy:

  • Wilde (1997) This biopic of the author’s life (starring the incomparable [except perhaps to Wilde himself] Stephen Fry) uses this fairy tale as a storytelling device, and it is heard throughout the movie, which also stars a very young Jude Law.


"The Velveteen Rabbit"

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