The Complete Fairy Tales is a collection of stories composed by the Irish poet Oscar Wilde. It consists of two collections of assorted stories such as The Happy Prince and Other Tales, written in 1888 and A House of Pomegranates, written in 1891.
These have stories of morality, unconditional love and wit. These stories are often considered to be a part of children’s literature.
Fairy Tales analysis
The Complete Fairy Tales is a well-balanced work of Wilde of themes and styles and social concerns. These features are portrayed both, all together and individually, beautifully.
The Happy Prince
The first story of the collection is The Happy Prince. This story is the most famous story among all the other ones. The story is basically based on a theme of depression. It is not like the other fairy tales that have, a perfect happy ending, or a love story. This feature makes it different from other tales.
The Happy Prince is basically about a statue of a prince, who is not precisely happy because of his tenants, and a Swallow. The Swallow gets spiritual renewal as he loves the Prince. The prince is very selfless and sympathetic towards his tenants that he gives up all his valuable wealth to take of care them. In this tale, the sacrifice of the hero is disregarded, as happens in most of Wilde’s works.
Wilde personifies a bird in this tale. The love between a bird and a statue of the prince brings out the idea of homosexuality. Spiritually the love between the Prince and the Swallow is pure and God has blessed it to let them live in heaven forever.
Scholar Robert K. Martin comments, “Oscar Wilde expressed some of his deepest concerns and record his own growing commitments, including one to homosexual love, in a way which would have been impossible without the protection offered by the conventions of fantasy.”
The Selfish Giant
The next tale, The Selfish Giant has some basic traditional features of the fairy tale. It contrasts the innocence of the children with the selfishness of the Giant. It has personified natural objects and a beautiful garden and a happy ending to the story. The story mainly focuses more on the Giant and he becomes a hero.
This fairy tale has a Christian aspect and the special boy is the representative of Christ. It has preached to be moralistic and kind to others. Even After many years, the Giant cannot resist himself to think about the boy, whom he helped.
At the end of the tale, the Giant learns language and humanity and becomes a hero but he has to pay his life for it. Michael C. Kotzin comments, “The Giant becomes a melancholy figure.”
The Devoted Friend
The last tale of The Happy Prince and Other Tales is, The Devoted Friend. It is a classic fairy tale which has irony in its theme and lacks a happy ending. It is infused with the pressure between social classes and heterosexual love.
Hugh uses Hans and deprives him of his material assets. Hans could have punished Hugh but never does. Hans passes away at the end. Sara Marsh mentions, “This moral shrewdly describes the plight of the Victorian poor. Wilde was deeply concerned about this situation.”
The Remarkable Rocket
The next tale is The Remarkable Rocket, which portrays an evil. The Rocket is extremely obsessed with him and expects everyone to be the same. He is a spoiled person. Ironically no one gives importance to him. Critic John Allen Quintus sees this tale as “the most humorous of the collection.”
The Nightingale and the Rose
The Nightingale and the Rose is an irreducible tale of a nightingale and a rose, where the Nightingale sacrifices her life for her love for the unworthy. She is silly according to the Student as he listens to her meaningless song. Wilde does not want to represent this text as an act of heterosexual or reproduction.
John-Charles Duffy focuses on the theme of homosexuality in the act of penetration.
Critic Matthew Schultz comments, “The tale carries a message of sacrifice that is misunderstood, unappreciated, and ultimately forgotten.” Schultz equalizes the Nightingale’s sacrifice with the Crucifixion.
The Young King
The very next tale is a usual moralistic tale. In this tale, the main character is enthusiastic, selfless and moralistic. He decides not to be materialistic and narcissistic. He is aware of other’s troubles. He is aesthetic and artistic.
Critic Justin T. Jones suggests, ”The young King’s revised aesthetic isn’t as deeply felt as it may seem, though, for he will continue to live and rule in the palace. His ceremonial rejection of his magnificent raiment does not mean he doesn’t still worship in the palace of art.
he whole scene at the altar is an act of the young King’s fanciful, artistic vision of the event. Essentially this is superficial altruism and superficial rejection of the material.”
The Birthday of the Infanta
The story of, The Birthday of the Infanta, revolves around a selfish character who is only concerned about her own contentment. She is spoiled and never punished for anything. She and her companions keep continuing to be this way forever and are less bothered about it.
The Dwarf brings ugliness into this world. The dwarf looks into the mirror and finds himself ugly. This symbolizes the cruel realities of the world. When he realizes the reality, it destroys the flower given to the Dwarf and ultimately it leads him to death. The Infanta thinks he is pretending everything, even at the moment of his death.
Justin T. Jones mentions, “As long as the spectacles contain no vestiges of reality, they hold no ugly appeals to conscience and do not threaten the pure beauty of the Infanta’s fairy tale world.”
The Star Child
The next tale, The Star Child, features a narcissistic central character. He finds her mother to be offensive because she is ugly. His life changes when tragedy hits him hard. He drowns into the ocean of sufferings, ugliness, struggles and later death.
Wilde portrays the male beauty in the detail of the protagonist in this tale. Youthful male beauty is celebrated in the story and the adjectives used for describing the beauty signifies Wilde’s own desire for homosexuals. This reveals the theme of homosexuality even if it’s very subtle.
The Fisherman and His Soul
The longest tale, written by Oscar Wilde is The Fisherman and His Soul. It has the aspect of the Holy Bible. It is filled with great imageries, detailed information, and enriched with languages.
Wilde suggests that the Soul and the Body need each other. The body and the soul balance life and make it worthy. When the Fisherman disconnects his Soul from himself, he is unable to feel his emotions but he can live with the Sea-Folk.
By the grace of God, the Fisherman and the Mermaid establish their love as a votive for the community.
The fisherman is an ordinary man but has the knowledge and real love. Ultimately, the Fisherman attains innocence and life after death.
Critic Christopher Nasser comments, “The Fisherman and His Soul is derived from Anderson’s The Shadow. It consists of a man sending his Shadow out into the world to observe a young woman, and there the Shadow learns and does terrible things. By the end of the story, the Shadow has attained power over the man and taken his life for himself.”
John-Charles Duffy describes, “The relationship between the Fisherman and Mermaid is non-reproductive but sanctified. The Priest seeing their relationship as an abomination works with this interpretation.”
Duffy again writes, “This type of relationship is depicted as sanctified, strong, and beautiful. The flowers that emerge on the altar make their love seem reproductive but in terms of the spirit, not the body.”