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The Selfish Giant

Who hath dared to wound thee?

I remember seeing the animated version of this story when I was very young. I had enjoyed it as a kind of fairy story/fable. I felt the terror of the children when the giant returned, the cold of the snow and wind when they came to the giant’s garden and the joy when he took his axe to the wall and allowed the children back in. I liked the little boy in the tree alone surrounded by snow in the corner. The ending, though, had made little impression on me. I guess I must have been confused by it. Who was that little boy? What were the wounds of love? How could I feel both happy and sad at the same thing? The Selfish Giant by Oscar Wilde

I picked the book up in a second hand shop to for one of the kids and read it to him when he was about five. Wilde’s prose is super efficient; none of the verbal contortions and self-concious wit of his ‘adult’ books. I was taken gently along the path of a nice story that fleshed out as it drew towards the ending. What an ending. I was in tears now that I fully understood it. My boy enjoyed the story but was also confused by the ending, not least because of the effect it had on his dad.

If you’ve got a child, read this story to them. If you haven’t, read it aloud to yourself.

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