Books My Mother Gave Me: The Happy Prince and Other Stories (Oscar Wilde) Short Story Review

Published October 21, 2013 by ElisaChristy

The Happy Prince and Other Stories originally only had five stories in it (The Happy Prince, The Nightingale and the Rose, The Selfish Giant, The Devoted Friend and The Remarkable Rocket.) Although, my copy seems to have four more stories added on the end. Though these added stories are longer than the others and seem to have much happier endings than the original five, which may be why they were added to what is after all a children’s book.

The Happy Prince:

“The fact is that the leaden heart had snapped right in two. It certainly was a dreadfully hard frost.”

The happy prince tells the story of a statue of a prince, made out of gold, with sapphires for eyes, and everyone knows that the prince the statue is of was happy while alive.

But now he is dead, and his statue has been placed high above the castle walls so he can finally see the suffering of his city, and so is not happy anymore. An eagle sees him crying and helps the statue give away his eyes made from sapphire and the gold leaf covering him to the poor, meaning the statue is finally happy, but no longer beautiful.

“As he is no longer beautiful, he is no longer useful.”

The now ugly statue is taken down, but the wording of the quote above does seem to serve a point. The prince was useful to the poor only while he was beautiful as he could give away his sapphire eyes and gold leaf, but once it is gone and he is ugly, he is not useful to the poor any longer, for he has nothing left to give them, being just a statue, though a happy one for having helped the poor.

The Devoted Friend:

“Flour is one thing, and friendship is another, and they should not be confused. Why, the words are spelt differently, and mean quite different things.”

This story is a moral story about friendship, though what the moral of the story is, is never explained and depending on which side you are on, the moral seems to change dramatically.

A Gardener becomes friends with a miller, or rather, the miller takes things from him and the gardener allows him to because he believes them to be friends. At one point the miller offers the gardener an old wheelbarrow he has, as the gardener’s is broken. However, he never actually produces this wheelbarrow, instead uses it to make the gardener do more and more things for him, because he’s giving him his wheelbarrow at some point in the future, so the gardener must do all these things for him.

Both characters seem to have much to learn; the gardener must learn to not be gullible, while the miller, who believes himself generous, must learn the true meaning of generosity – i.e what the gardener does for him, not the other way round.

The Remarkable Rocket:

“Love is not fashionable anymore, the poets have killed it. They wrote so much about it that nobody believed them, and I am not surprised.”

The moral of this story seems to simply be: don’t think yourself too important, or you will end up not being noticed at all. The story follows a rocket firework, on the night of the wedding between a king and queen, but while the rocket thinks he is much more important than the other fireworks, and that he is going to be the firework that ends the show and makes everybody amazed; he ends up being too damp to burn, and instead ends up being set off in the day time when no-one can see him.

The Nightingale and The Rose: 

“For want of a red rose is my life made wretched.”

A student wishes to dance with the daughter of one of his professors, but he refuses unless he can bring her a red rose. A nightingale overhears and decides to get him one, the only way she can do this is to sing while letting the thorn of a white rose bush pierce her heart and kill her, the student takes it, but the professor’s daughter has already found someone else and refuses to dance with him anyway.

This story is a very sad one, although the poetic style of the writing makes it less so, the ending seems to be a cliff-hanger, although it isn’t. The story is wrapped up, but you can’t help feeling as if there should be more, as the student gives up on love at the end, you want more story where he realises love is not futile, but it’s only a short story and we don’t get that. It’s a wonderfully written story, although sad, and maybe the sadness is the reason I did not remember being read this story before. Though this story especially, and the entire book is definitely worth a read, as they are bittersweet, but poetically written, even if you don’t like the morals and the symbolism in some of the stories, you can still enjoy the writing.


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