Page 45 Review by Stephen
"The ugliness of the dwarf is almost ostentatious
he would show much better taste if he looked sad."
With this, the reprints are complete! All five of P. Craig Russell's adaptations of Oscar Wilde's socially scathing yet coruscating Fairy Tales - including the immaculately articulated HAPPY PRINCE - are freely available to make you beam at their splendour while giving you much pause for thought. You can find them in our Literary Adaptations.
Though fond of much finery himself, Wilde's themes included the over-indulgence of the rich, mindless of the suffering on the poor; crafted opulence versus the beauty of nature; manners and the mannered in lieu of honesty, kindness and genuine good will; pomposity, self-regard and self-aggrandisement through the belittling of others on grounds that are always absurd. Birds and roses seem to feature quite heavily too.
So today is the twelfth birthday of the beautiful Infanta, the Princess of Spain, and what a splendid day it shall be! There will be music and dancing and performances galore! A bear in chains and Barbary Apes firing off guns and parading like soldiers with swords. The little children even enact a bullfight, right to the throat-slitting end!
"On ordinary says she was only allowed to play with children of her own rank
so she played alone. But her birthday was an exception
She walked slowly down the steps towards the garden, the other children following in strict order of precedence, those who had the longest names going first."
Best of all, however, is the hideous, hunchbacked, young dwarf, newly bought from his father (who was glad to be rid of him), waddling around on his crooked legs. Oh, how they all shrieked with delight!
"Perhaps the most amusing thing about him was his complete unconsciousness of his own grotesque appearance. Indeed he seemed quite happy and full of the highest spirits. When the children laughed, he laughed as joyously and as any one of them, and freely."
He revels in their joy and the knowledge he was perhaps responsible for it. But his day is made when the Infanta throws him the perfect white rose from her hair. She only did it in jest, and to tease her cold, sanctimonious guardians. It was a very funny thing to do!
But during the siesta before his second, hastily scheduled performance, the young man takes it completely to heart, imagining their life together in the forest where they could dance and play surrounded by nature, he standing guard outside her bedroom window at night, protecting her from the wolves. He understands her; she would be free and delighted. What a fabulous future!
With all the courtiers asleep he is left to wander round the palace alone, exploring the chapel, the throne room and more
before encountering his first-ever mirror.
No one so ugly should ever be allowed to be happy.