The Selfish Giant by Oscar Wilde
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.
One day the Giant came back. He had been to visit his friend
the Cornish ogre, and had stayed with him for seven years. After
the seven years were over he had said all that he had to say, for his
conversation was limited, and he determined to return to his own castle.
When he arrived he saw the children playing in the garden.
“What are you doing here?” he cried in a very gruff voice,
and the children ran away.
“My own garden is my own garden,” said the Giant; “any
one can understand that, and I will allow nobody to play in it but myself.”
So he built a high wall all round it, and put up a notice-board.
He was a very selfish Giant.
The poor children had now nowhere to play. They tried to play
on the road, but the road was very dusty and full of hard stones, and
they did not like it. They used to wander round the high wall
when their lessons were over, and talk about the beautiful garden inside.
“How happy we were there,” they said to each other.
Then the Spring came, and all over the country there were little
blossoms and little birds. Only in the garden of the Selfish Giant
it was still winter. The birds did not care to sing in it as there
were no children, and the trees forgot to blossom. Once a beautiful
flower put its head out from the grass, but when it saw the notice-board
it was so sorry for the children that it slipped back into the ground
again, and went off to sleep. The only people who were pleased
were the Snow and the Frost. “Spring has forgotten this
garden,” they cried, “so we will live here all the year
round.” The Snow covered up the grass with her great white
cloak, and the Frost painted all the trees silver. Then they invited
the North Wind to stay with them, and he came. He was wrapped
in furs, and he roared all day about the garden, and blew the chimney-pots
down. “This is a delightful spot,” he said, “we
must ask the Hail on a visit.” So the Hail came. Every
day for three hours he rattled on the roof of the castle till he broke
most of the slates, and then he ran round and round the garden as fast
as he could go. He was dressed in grey, and his breath was like
“I cannot understand why the Spring is so late in coming,”
said the Selfish Giant, as he sat at the window and looked out at his
cold white garden; “I hope there will be a change in the weather.”
But the Spring never came, nor the Summer. The Autumn gave
golden fruit to every garden, but to the Giant’s garden she gave
none. “He is too selfish,” she said. So it was
always Winter there, and the North Wind, and the Hail, and the Frost,
and the Snow danced about through the trees.
One morning the Giant was lying awake in bed when he heard some lovely
music. It sounded so sweet to his ears that he thought it must
be the King’s musicians passing by. It was really only a
little linnet singing outside his window, but it was so long since he
had heard a bird sing in his garden that it seemed to him to be the
most beautiful music in the world. Then the Hail stopped dancing
over his head, and the North Wind ceased roaring, and a delicious perfume
came to him through the open casement. “I believe the Spring
has come at last,” said the Giant; and he jumped out of bed and
What did he see?
He saw a most wonderful sight. Through a little hole in the
wall the children had crept in, and they were sitting in the branches
of the trees. In every tree that he could see there was a little
child. And the trees were so glad to have the children back again
that they had covered themselves with blossoms, and were waving their
arms gently above the children’s heads. The birds were flying
about and twittering with delight, and the flowers were looking up through
the green grass and laughing. It was a lovely scene, only in one
corner it was still winter. It was the farthest corner of the
garden, and in it was standing a little boy. He was so small that
he could not reach up to the branches of the tree, and he was wandering
all round it, crying bitterly. The poor tree was still quite covered
with frost and snow, and the North Wind was blowing and roaring above
it. “Climb up! little boy,” said the Tree, and it
bent its branches down as low as it could; but the boy was too tiny.
And the Giant’s heart melted as he looked out. “How
selfish I have been!” he said; “now I know why the Spring
would not come here. I will put that poor little boy on the top
of the tree, and then I will knock down the wall, and my garden shall
be the children’s playground for ever and ever.” He
was really very sorry for what he had done.
So he crept downstairs and opened the front door quite softly, and
went out into the garden. But when the children saw him they were
so frightened that they all ran away, and the garden became winter again.
Only the little boy did not run, for his eyes were so full of tears
that he did not see the Giant coming. And the Giant stole up behind
him and took him gently in his hand, and put him up into the tree.
And the tree broke at once into blossom, and the birds came and sang
on it, and the little boy stretched out his two arms and flung them
round the Giant’s neck, and kissed him. And the other children,
when they saw that the Giant was not wicked any longer, came running
back, and with them came the Spring. “It is your garden
now, little children,” said the Giant, and he took a great axe
and knocked down the wall. And when the people were going to market
at twelve o’clock they found the Giant playing with the children
in the most beautiful garden they had ever seen.
All day long they played, and in the evening they came to the Giant
to bid him good-bye.
“But where is your little companion?” he said: “the
boy I put into the tree.” The Giant loved him the best because
he had kissed him.
“We don’t know,” answered the children; “he
has gone away.”
“You must tell him to be sure and come here to-morrow,”
said the Giant. But the children said that they did not know where
he lived, and had never seen him before; and the Giant felt very sad.
Every afternoon, when school was over, the children came and played
with the Giant. But the little boy whom the Giant loved was never
seen again. The Giant was very kind to all the children, yet he
longed for his first little friend, and often spoke of him. “How
I would like to see him!” he used to say.
Years went over, and the Giant grew very old and feeble. He
could not play about any more, so he sat in a huge armchair, and watched
the children at their games, and admired his garden. “I
have many beautiful flowers,” he said; “but the children
are the most beautiful flowers of all.”
One winter morning he looked out of his window as he was dressing.
He did not hate the Winter now, for he knew that it was merely the Spring
asleep, and that the flowers were resting.
Suddenly he rubbed his eyes in wonder, and looked and looked.
It certainly was a marvellous sight. In the farthest corner of
the garden was a tree quite covered with lovely white blossoms.
Its branches were all golden, and silver fruit hung down from them,
and underneath it stood the little boy he had loved.
Downstairs ran the Giant in great joy, and out into the garden.
He hastened across the grass, and came near to the child. And
when he came quite close his face grew red with anger, and he said,
“Who hath dared to wound thee?” For on the palms of
the child’s hands were the prints of two nails, and the prints
of two nails were on the little feet.
“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
“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.”
And when the children ran in that afternoon, they found the Giant
lying dead under the tree, all covered with white blossoms.