Fairy Tales of Oscar Wilde Vol. 5
The Happy Prince is arguably the most famous and well loved of Oscar Wilde's nine fairy tales, rivaled only by The Selfish Giant. It is also a very timely tale at a time of controversy over the increasing chasm between rich and poor. The Happy Prince has lived a life of opulence but has died young, and his soul inhabits a beautiful ruby encrusted statue covered all over in gold leaf. From his perch high above the city he is witness to all the poverty, misery, and hopelessness in which his people have been living. When a small barn swallow in flight to the warm south ahead of the approaching winter stops to rest upon the statue the Happy Prince prevails upon him to delay his travels in order to remove his gold leaf a piece at a time and shower it upon the poor citizens. Out of love for the Happy Prince the swallow does his bidding. As the days pass the Prince's beauty is stripped away and as winter sets in the bird's fate is sealed. In the spring the townspeople finding only a dull statue with a broken lead heart and a dead bird consign the worthless objects to the ash heap. Only an emissary of God recognizes them as the most valuable treasures of the city and brings them to the gardens of heaven.
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