Novelist, playwright and satirist Oscar Wilde was also an incomparable teller of fairy tales. In these stories, written for his two sons, he takes the elements of faerie since time immemorial – giants and princes, fishermen and mermaids –and creates enchanting, heartfelt fables that rank amongst his best-loved works.
This complete collection sparkles with Wilde’s characteristic wit. In ‘The Remarkable Rocket’, a vain and self-important firework declares: ‘I am always thinking about myself, and I expect everybody else to do the same. That is what is called sympathy.’ Like all the greatest fairy tales, these contain sorrow and heartbreak as well as love and redemption. In ‘The Selfish Giant’, the Giant drives the children out of his garden, and is punished by a perpetual winter until he lets them play there again. Sacrifice is a recurring theme: in ‘The Nightingale and the Rose’, the nightingale gives her heart’s blood to create a red rose for a student, who ends by throwing it away. In ‘The Happy Prince’, a royal statue allows himself to be stripped of gold and jewels to provide for the poor people of his town, with the aid of a swallow who delays his migration to Egypt to help the prince. In the end, the denuded statue is melted in a furnace, its leaden heart thrown on a rubbish-heap – until an angel claims it for heaven.
Grahame Baker-Smith is one of the leading children’s book illustrators working in Britain today, winner of the prestigious Kate Greenaway Medal and illustrator of several Folio Society editions. For this collection he has created enchanting mixed-media images including several that incorporate the face of Wilde himself. Award-winning author Jeanette Winterson has contributed a new introduction, placing these stories at the heart of Wilde’s career and describing how ‘fairy stories tell us what science and philosophy cannot and need not’