Wilde’s anthropomorphizing parables are beautifully written, emotionally moving and exquisitely poignant; praising the laudable virtues of the Catholic Church and warning of the shameful outcomes of the seven deadly sins. Themes of friendship and charity feature heavily with Christian overtones, which normally I find off-putting, but I didn’t here. (I’m an athiest.) I think my favourite would have to be The Nightingale and the Rose. I’d definitely give this to children despite the unhappy endings.
The Happy Prince – Sins & Virtues: humility & charity
A formerly human prince is now a gold plated, jewel-encrusted statue watching over the city. His privileged human life didn’t prepare him for the misery of the poor and unfortunate. Despite his nickname as the Happy Prince, he is sad and wishes to bring joy to those in need but is unable to as an inanimate object. A migrating swallow comes by on his way out of the city for his annual migration south to Egypt for the winter and is taken by the Prince’s tears, feeling compelled to act out the statue’s wishes by taking the Prince’s decorative riches and delivering them to those in need. When the Prince is left blind and unadorned having given up his treasures for the greater good, the swallow vows to stay and become the Prince’s faithful companion despite the deadly cold.
The Nightingale and the Rose – Sins & Virtues: lust & charity
A kind, charitable and beloved nightingale makes the ultimate sacrifice for what she thinks is love between a young man and a well-off young woman. If the man can produce a red rose out of season then the woman will dance with him. Only a heart’s blood can create a red rose. The nightingale dies believing she has done a good deed, producing an everlasting legacy. The young lady lied and the rose is discarded without a second thought. What a waste.
‘The birds did not care to sing in it as there were no children, and the trees forgot to blossom.’
Spring visits everywhere but the garden, leaving it barren and in the throes of winter. Until a child enters the garden and birdsong and blooming, perfumed flowers return stunning the giant into realising the repercussions of what he’s done, and again allows children to play and share in the joys of his garden.
The Devoted Friend – Sins & Virtues: pride, acedia, sloth & diligence
A Linnet tries to teach a self-important Water-rat about the reciprocity of relationships via a story about an unequal friendship between two friends with radically different beliefs in what what friendship means. Hans is hardworking but poor. He is generous to a fault and never asks for anything in return. The other, is the wealthy and selfish Miller. His one generous act towards his so-called friend is used as blackmail for further favours, favours that Hans cannot afford to fulfil but does anyway because he doesn’t want to let the Miller down. The Miller takes advantage and believes he’s the best friend a man could ever have; sitting in his large, warm house sitting on his butt with a full stomach while Hans is impoverished and hungry, working his fingers to the bone, struggling to survive the harsh winter.
“Why, if little Hans came up here, and saw our warm fire, and our good supper, and our great cask of red wine, he might get envious, and envy is a most terrible thing, and would spoil anyone’s nature. I certainly will not allow Hans’ nature to be spoiled.”
The Miller stands by while he works Hans into his grave. And the moral entirely escapes the Water-rat.
The Remarkable Rocket – Sins & Virtues: pride & vainglory
A vain and an unjustly boastful rocket believes he is better than every other firework and rebuts any indication that he is not with more prideful boasting, and is met with a most undignified end still under the delusion that he is the best of the rest.
*Available for free from Project Gutenberg.