(My rating: 4/5)
Though The Picture of Dorian Gray has been sitting on my bookshelf, unread, for many years, it is Oscar Wilde’s 9 fairy tales – which I purchased only a few of weeks ago – that I have read first. I think reading his fairy tales was an excellent way to be introduced to the writer and I am glad I never read these as a child, for I feel I would not have appreciated them half as much as I have now, as an adult. Indeed, I feel that many of these tales may not be appropriate for children!
For some reason, it took me a while to settle into Wilde’s style of writing, but once I got into the swing of things – somewhere into the third story – I was a fan. I admire his vivid imagination, his deep understanding of human nature and his ability to merge the two into stories that leave you thinking long after you have finished reading them. And then of course there is that wit and sarcasm for which he is so famous!
I think if I had to choose just one favourite from the collection, The Nightingale and the Rose would be it. This is a story about how we often get so caught up in the pursuit of an idea of what love is/should be that we fail to notice true love right under our noses. Often we don’t even know about the sacrifices (born out of love) that someone has made for us.
The Devoted Friend was another story that really appealed to me. It has as its central characters two very different personalities – one who is so self absorbed that he simply cannot think beyond his own needs, desires and gratification, even to the detriment and destruction of those he claims as his good friends, and another who is generous and thinks about the well being of others, even to the detriment and destruction of himself.
While reading The Remarkable Rocket, I marvelled at Wilde’s imagination. To think of using fireworks and their inherent characteristics to highlight various types of personalities, including the romantic, the self-contained, the happy-go-lucky and the self-important! Here is an extract from the story, which I thought so accurately vocalises what (I imagine) must be going on in the minds of the pompous, arrogant people I come across!
The Star Child and The Selfish Giant are heart-warming stories with characters that learn the errors of their ways. The former is another one of my favourites and reminds me of a quote by Roald Dahl that I recently read and which has become a favourite too – “If you have good thoughts they will shine out of your face like sunbeams and you will always look lovely.”
I liked the fact that several of the stories – The Birthday of Infanta, The Fisherman and His Soul, The Devoted Friend – didn’t have a happy ending, but were more like life lessons to be heeded, based very much on the reality of the moral dilemmas and harsh realities of human nature one is likely to encounter in life. It also reminds us to introspect and watch out for these ‘bad elements’ of human nature that may exist (in large or small measures) within each one of us human beings.
Whether it is a firecracker or a little swallow, I am sure you will find that many of Oscar Wilde’s fairy tale characters will remind you of someone you know!