The Happy Prince by Oscar Wilde: Summary, Analysis and Review

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The Happy Prince is a short story written by Oscar Wilde. It is the story of a compassionate statue and how it falls in love with a bird which is separated from its flock.

Every now and then, I feel myself drawn to children’s books – mostly because I am drawn to children; things about them, things for them – they’re all so exciting. Adult novellas feel drab in comparison.

And it was one of those days, I happened to pick up a copy of the Happy Prince and Other Tales, a short story collection by Oscar Wilde.

The Happy Prince: Summary and Plot Analysis

Happy Prince revolves around our Happy Prince, the only catch being that our Happy prince is a statue!

He lived in a town full of poor, suffering people but had no idea that was the case, as he lived in a palace with all material comforts and where sorrow was not allowed to enter.

We also have a swallow (a migratory swift-flying songbird with a forked tail and long pointed wings) in the story, who has been left behind, as the rest of the flock flew away to Egypt.

The swallow, upon finding a sweet spot in the new town on her way, settled down at the feet of the Happy Prince and is almost about to doze off when she feels rain drops over her. Curious at this occurrence, as there are no clouds in the sky, she realizes that it was tears from the Happy Prince statue.

She learns that the Happy Prince is appalled by the poverty around him and requests the swallow to take the gems from ‘his body’ (the statue) to help those in need – the sick, the lonely, the children.

The beautiful statue covered in gold leaf, first loses the ruby from the hilt, the sapphire from its eyes and the golden leaves all over its body.

The swallow initially insisted on leaving to join her flock but eventually decided to stay back out of compassion as the statue was blinded after losing both the sapphires that it had for its eyes.

As her final day approached she flew over to say one final goodbye to the prince. The prince confesses her love for the swallow, they kiss and the swallow dropped dead at its feet.

Devoid of all the adornments, the statue was not a pleasant sight anymore. The mayor of the town orders the removal of the statue to erect his own in its place.

The metal from the statue is melted while the frozen and broken heart of the statue was thrown out in the heap of garbage along with the dead bird. Both of these are taken up to heaven by an Angel that considers them the two most precious things in the city.

God then decrees that they live forever in His “city of gold” and garden of Paradise.

Want to read The Happy Prince?

The Happy Prince is a part of a short collection written by Oscar Wilde, which is available on Amazon if you want to get yourself this book. You can use the links given below to check the price of this book:

Check Price on Amazon US
Check Price on Amazon India

The Happy Prince: Review, Quotes and My Thoughts

Okay, so confessions first.

You all know that one person in the group that cries at the drop of a hat.

I bet you will get a flood of tears out of them when they read this – 

It is not Egypt that I am going. I am going to the house of death. Death is the brother of sleep. Is he not? Kissed the prince on the lips and fell down dead on his feet.

After so many selfless deeds, when the swallow saw the Prince for one last time, and the Prince unable to understand that it was her death that she was talking about – assuming she was flying away to her flock – wishes her luck, although his heart broke.

He still did that out of love. His final confession of love for the bird was simply heartbreaking, not to say that the bird dropped dead shortly after.

When I was alive and had a human heart. I did not know what tears were, for I lived in the palace of Sans-souci where sorrow is not allowed to enter.

It was remarkable how compassionate the Prince was, considering the fact that he had never seen poverty or sorry of any kind. It’s only when he becomes a metal statue does he feel all these emotions. Ironic isn’t it?

We had a lovable machine way before Wall-E, my friends!

“Bring me the two most precious things in the city” said God to one of his angels; and the angel brought him the leaden heart and the dead bird.

“You have rightly chosen” said God, “for in my garden of Paradise, this little bird shall sing for evermore, and in my city of Gold the Happy Prince shall praise me”.

And for this deceptively simple lesson in kindness and compassion –  is as appealing to an adult as it is to a kid.

You don’t have to trust me on this. So many on-screen adaptations of this story worldwide are a testimony to that very fact going as far back as 1936 to as recent as 2016. 

What does that tell us?

Oscar Wilde’s stories age better than whiskey.

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