May 8, 2013

Fairy Tales of Oscar Wilde

The Devoted Friend and The Nightingale and the Rose
by Oscar Wilde
illustrated by P.Craig Russell

This is volume four of the Wilde fairy tales illustrated by P. Craig Russell (I'm not reading them in order). I was familiar with one of the stories, the Nightingale, but not the other. "The Nightingale and the Rose" is about a young man pining after a beautiful girl he's in love with, who will dance with him only if he gives her a red rose. He can't find a red rose but a nightingale overhears his grieving and sacrifices herself to true love: she pierces herself on the thorn of the rosebush, and her life's blood paints the rose red. The young man is ecstatic to find the red rose and immediately takes it to the young woman but she scorns his gift and he goes home to bury his nose in books.

In the other story, a poor but good-hearted gardener is taken advantage of by a rich miller who takes liberties with his ideas of friendship until he has literally driven the gardener to his death. With hard work for favors never really returned in kind. I found both these stories rather bitter, and unsettling.

What was Wilde trying to say? The young woman was so petty, the heartsick young man seemed to make assumptions about her that weren't true at all, the nightingale died for an idea that wasn't a reality. And I rather liked the poor gardener but he wouldn't stand up for himself and the disgusting miller didn't even seem to care that he'd caused the man he erroneously called "friend" to die.

It seems a terrible observation on human nature. I do love the artwork but I'm not sure if I want to read more of Oscar Wilde's stories!

Rating: 3/5 ........ 32 pages, 2004

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