What’s The Selfish Giant all about?:
Oscar Wilde’s beloved tale tells the story of the selfish giant who built a wall around his beautiful garden to keep children out. It was always winter in the garden, for no other season would venture there. Then one morning, a special child brought Spring back, and the giant’s heart melted along with the snow.
What did I think?:
My only brush with Oscar Wilde up until now has been The Importance Of Being Earnest, widely classed as his masterpiece which I adore. I’ve always meant to read more and was excited to see The Selfish Giant as part of this collection. Stories To Get You Through The Night is broken up into small sections, The Selfish Giant being the last of “Stories to make you glad to be alive,” and while I’m not jumping down the street in a mad sort of glee, I guess I’m kind of glad to be still around! The story is essentially a fairy tale about a giant who comes back home after a holiday of seven years visiting his old friend the Cornish Ogre. He is startled to see children playing in his garden and making those terrible happy sort of noises so he scares them away, builds a huge wall around his property and even goes to the lengths of putting up a notice: TRESPASSERS WILL BE PROSECUTED. After all, thinks the Selfish Giant:
“My garden is my own garden, anyone can understand that, and I will allow nobody to play in it but myself.”
While some of us may understand where the Giant is coming from, the children now have nowhere to play and become very miserable. Soon, even the seasons, birds and flowers come out in sympathy with the kids and as a result, it is always Winter in the Giant’s garden. The trees remain covered in snow and frost, no flowers bloom and no birds chirp. Before long, the Giant begins to see the error of his ways but this may be also due to the North Wind and Hail being invited to stay who find the wintry garden delightful. The children meanwhile have crept back into the garden and with their return, almost immediately blossom covers each tree branch whilst birds fly overhead. In one corner of the garden however, winter remains while one little boy attempts to get up onto a tree branch but is too tiny to reach. The sight of this breaks the Giant’s selfish heart and he hurriedly lifts the boy to where he may sit on the tree. The Giant’s heart is filled with so much love that he declares that the children should always play in his garden and knocks down the huge wall.
Although this story is shorter than I expected it to be, it did have quite a remarkable ending that put a religious slant on things which I wasn’t expecting. Thinking back on it, I’m still not certain how I feel about the ending but can understand how it ticks that little box of making you glad to be alive. I love a good fairy tale and Oscar Wilde writes absolutely beautifully, giving unique little quirks and personalities to every living and inanimate object that made it very fun to read.
Would I recommend it?:
Star rating (out of 5):
NEXT SHORT STORY: Cain Rose Up by Stephen King from the collection Skeleton Crew