Tuesday, December 20, 2011

The Selfish Giant

The Selfish Giant
Oscar Wilde ~ Gertraud and Walter Reiner ~ Harvey House, 1967

The Selfish Giant was originally published in 1888 as part of Wilde's beloved The Happy Prince and Other Tales. This illustrated version is lifted from the prize-winning film by Austrian/German animators and filmmakers, Gertraud and Walter Reiner. I was unable to find much online about the filmmakers or the film (it's not the Oscar-nominated version created in 1971 by Micheline Lanctôt), but I expect any info that exists might be in German in reference to when it was originally published in 1694 as Der selbstsüchtige Riese.

Anyone else know anything, please chime in!

Written by Wilde expressly for children, the story begins with a mess of them having a grand old time in a lovely garden.

Every afternoon, as they were coming from school, the children used to go and play in the Giant's garden.

It was a large lovely garden, with soft green grass. Here and there over the grass stood beautiful flowers like stars, and there were twelve peach-trees that in the spring-time broke out into delicate blossoms of pink and pearl, and in the autumn bore rich fruit. The birds sat on the trees and sang so sweetly that the children used to stop their games in order to listen to them. "How happy we are here!" they cried to each other.

When the giant returns after a long absence from home, he is angered to see someone enjoying his spread other than himself, and proceeds to build a wall to keep the children out, thus creating a perpetual winter in the garden.

After a few seasons of chill, the giant sees the error of his ways, befriends a small boy and breaks down the wall and the children become his most beautiful flowers of all.

As Wilde was prone to do, he interwove a religious metaphor with the end showing the giant's death many years later. A vision of the same little boy appears to him as the Christ child bearing the stigmata, and in a rage the giant roars...

"Who hath dared to wound thee?" cried the Giant; "tell me, that I may take my big sword and slay him."

"Nay!" answered the child; "but these are the wounds of Love."

"Who art thou?" said the Giant, and a strange awe fell on him, and he knelt before the little child.

And the child smiled on the Giant, and said to him, "You let Me play once in your garden, to-day you shall come with Me to My garden, which is Paradise."

Man, is the library full of forgotten treasures...


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  1. This is one of my all time favourite stories -along with all the other Wilde stories.
    I haven't seen this book before though. I'll go check on who did the illustrations on our copy.

  2. Looks beautiful! After visiting VKBMKL, my next stop is usually the Minuteman Library Network online catalog! In this case, I was disappointed, but I did find a couple books about "Me and Clara" by this couple of illustrators. Thanks for sharing this.

  3. This was my first drama (I'm not sure it is the correct english!) at scholl. I was Spring Fairy...I've always love the story, and yet did not know it was from Oscar Wilde!

  4. I love this book, going on my want list!

  5. There is a .pdf reading guide found in the website of New Hampshire Public Television. It says: CALL 1-800-243-5020 TO ORDER THESE AND OTHER WESTON WOODS VIDEOS! THe link is: http://printfu.org/read/selfish-giant-the-426f.html?f=1qeYpurpn6Wih-SUpOGul62nh7_U4svd282QudLP4tqhjbnU1Jig56KXqpTd4pah6KeWnamYz-nb2d3iub7Z0tqPoN-pp5-Wzoer5aOkq6CX1dng37CUo9_c56DX1uTa65vU3tal0OKXzuTomNXpz9nS2JvV5dHfrsbZ5OK01cjh0sS_1OLL3dvNz7nSz-Lao93J0pGx4g

  6. I had the Reiner version of the film on VHS in the 80s when I lived in Germany... but the narration was in English. Made a huge impression on me. I seem to recall that it was sent out as a promo thing for Book-of-the-Month club. If I can ever scare up that tape, I will rip it and put it online. It's outrageous that there's no info on this film floating around