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The Selfish Giant by Oscar Wilde
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The Selfish Giant (1888)

by Oscar Wilde

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: The Happy Prince and Other Tales (3)

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English (12)  Spanish (2)  All languages (14)
Showing 1-5 of 12 (next | show all)
While a giant is away, children come and play in his wonderful garden. When the giant returns, however, he is selfish, and blocks off the garden from all the children. The flowers and trees miss the children, and fall into an eternal winter. When the children sneak in to play in the garden again, the giant sees how Spring comes again, and changes his mind. He allows all the children to play in his garden, and even helps one little boy climb a tree. However, the little boy never comes again and the children do not know who he is. One day, the giant sees the little boy and rushes out to greet him. Upon seeing that the boy is wounded, he is enraged, but the boy tells him that the wounds were made from love. The giant is in awe of the boy and asks who he is, and the boy tells him that as the selfish giant allowed him to play in the giant's paradise, the boy will allow the giant to play in his. The other children come to the garden to find that the giant - no longer selfish - has passed away and is covered in white blossoms.

Oscar Wilde flirted with Christianity, particularly Catholicism, off and on throughout his life, and many of his fairy tales for children reflect his interest. The Selfish Giant in particular is explicit with the connection: the little boy has wounds on the palms of his hands (stigmata), and even the language changes to reflect the more Biblical leanings, as when the giant asks, "Who art thou?". The overtly Christian message may turn off many people, but the story is well told in a distinctly fairy tale rhythm and language.

Most impressive are the paintings. Ritva Voutila chose to render the scenes on every page in oils, which is unusual for a children's book. However, the results are astounding. The style is classical, with a distinct feel of Hieronymus Bosch. Each painting is lavishly attentive: tiny people, meticulous in their detailing, lurk above stone arches and in the corners of rooftops. The scenes of the flowers blossoming in the garden are a sensation of color painted in rich blues and vibrant purples. Watercolors or acrylics could have never captured the lushness of hue that Voutila achieves on every page. Not surprisingly, the paintings took over a year to complete, but the talent shines on every page. At times, the paintings can feel dark; there is a distinct gloomy pall over them. However, for a child or adult who loves poring over paintings to capture the most tiny detail, Voutila's work is bound to amaze and capture their attention. ( )
  kittyjay | Feb 28, 2019 |
I read this book because Jacqueline Woodson referred to it in "Black Girl Dreaming" as the book that so inspired her, that she read it again and again until she memorized it. Of course I had to see how hard it might be to memorize...as well as how engaging the story might be. It reads like a fairy tale, which must have helped make it memorizable. However, I am baffled with the Christian references coming from Oscar Wilde. I have a hard time separating the witty playwright from the...moralizing? sentimental? storyteller. I'm curious to know more about what inspired him to write this story. As for what about it excited Jacqueline Woodson, I wonder if connected with her childhood experiences as a Jehovah's Witness.
  athertonl | Jul 25, 2017 |
Oscar Wilde! Oscar Wilde is awesome, right? Not to mention decadent, unconventional...?
Well, you wouldn't guess it from this tale.

This is a saccharine, moralizing story with a bit of a priggish attitude. The Christian allegory could not be more blatant if this were a retelling of a Bible verse.

A selfish giant doesn't allow any of the children to play in his garden. Because of his attitude, the garden becomes a bleak place where spring never blooms. But he eventually learns to mend his ways, and reaps the rewards... ( )
  AltheaAnn | Feb 9, 2016 |
I didn't know Oscar Wilde wrote this children's story, so when I found this in my college library I was excited to read it! It is a great tale about two young children and a giant. I think it would be a great fairy tale to read aloud! ( )
  RuthFinnigan | Jun 8, 2015 |
The Selfish Giant is a story about a giant who discovers two children playing in his garden. He then builds a wall around his garden to prevent them from playing. His garden remains in winter without the children. When he hears music outside of his window, he sees the children playing in his garden and winter has disappeared. He's overcome with joy, but when he notices a little boy who's trying to climb a tree he helps him onto the tree. I don't want to give more than that away as a way to intrigue others to read the story. I'd recommend this story for children to learn how being selfish prevents individuals from fully enjoying life. ( )
  jwesley | Apr 20, 2015 |
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» Add other authors (25 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Wilde, OscarAuthorprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Beatrice, ChrisIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Danska, HerbertIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Jarvis, MartinNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Orel, VladimirTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Parazzoli, P.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Zimdars, BertaIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0907234305, Hardcover)

A once selfish giant welcomes the children to his previously forbidden garden and is eventually rewarded by an unusual tiny child.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:11:08 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

A once selfish giant welcomes the children to his previously forbidden garden and is eventually rewarded by an unusual tiny child.

» see all 6 descriptions

Legacy Library: Oscar Wilde

Oscar Wilde has a Legacy Library. Legacy libraries are the personal libraries of famous readers, entered by LibraryThing members from the Legacy Libraries group.

See Oscar Wilde's legacy profile.

See Oscar Wilde's author page.

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