The creative versatility of the Irish poet and playwright Oscar Wilde (1854-1900) was such that at the height of his brilliant-but-brief literary career he turned his pen towards stories for children.
The result was The Happy Prince and Other Tales, published in 1888 which includes the story of The Selfish Giant.
The tale is set in a beautiful garden in which children play upon returning from school. Our eponymous giant takes offence at their presence, however, and builds a wall to keep them out. Perpetual winter ensues. One day, the children find a way in through a gap in the wall. The giant approaches them. The children flee bar one boy. Relenting, the giant declares: “It is your garden now, little children”. Spring returns. The boy, however, does not return and the giant is heartbroken.
One winter morning, many years hence, the now-elderly giant awakes to find one part of the garden in full bloom.
There, again, is the boy. The giant notices the child’s hands and feet are wounded. It is the Christ child.
“You let Me play once in your garden,” he says to the awe-struck giant, “to-day you shall come with me to my garden, which is paradise.” Soon after, the happy giant dies.
As with any good nursery story, the moral of Wilde’s Christmas tale is meant for children of all ages. Firstly, that God’s perennial loving search for humanity leads to the Christ child entering our world. Secondly, that the presence of that Christ child brings warmth, light and life to our existence. Thirdly, that right relationship with the Christ child turns our hearts away from an introspective, lonely sadness and towards a cheerful, communitarian liberality. My prayer this advent is that each of us discover, or rediscover, that same Christ child and I wish you, your family and all the readers of a very happy and holy Christmas.