The Selfish Giant

Read by Marc Thompson

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"The Selfish Giant" by Oscar Wilde

Every afternoon as they were coming home from school, the children used to play in the Giant's garden. It was a lovely garden, with soft green grass and flowers like stars. The birds sat in 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 visiting his friend the ogre, and had stayed with him for seven years. But now he was determined to return to his own castle, and when he arrived, he was surprised to see the children playing in the garden.

"What are you doing here?" he cried in a gruff voice, and the children ran away.
"My own garden is my own garden," said the Giant. "Anyone can understand that, and I'll allow nobody to play in it but myself." So he built a high wall around it, and put up a notice that said, "Trespassers will be prosecuted."
He was a very selfish Giant.

The poor children now had nowhere to play. They tried to play on the road, but it was very dusty and full of hard stones, and they didn't like it. They wandered 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 spring came, and all over the country, there were little blossoms and little birds. But it remained wintertime in the garden of the selfish Giant. The birds did not care to sing in it as there were no children, and the trees forgot to blossom. Once, a beautiful flower poked its head out from the grass, but when it saw the notice, it was so sorry for the children that it slipped back into the ground again.

The only ones who were pleased were the Snow and the Frost. "Spring has forgotten this garden," they cried, "so we'll live here all 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 around the garden and blew the chimneys down. "This is a delightful spot," he said. "We must ask the Hail to visit." So the Hail came, too. Every day for three hours, he rattled the roof of the castle until the shingles fell off, his breath like ice.

"I can't understand why spring is so late in coming this year," said the selfish Giant, as he sat at the window and looked out over his cold white garden. "I hope there will be a change in the weather."

But the spring never came, nor the summer. The autumn brought golden fruit to every garden but the selfish Giant's. So it was always winter there, and the North Wind, the Hail, the Frost, and the Snow danced around the bare trees.
One morning, the Giant was lying awake in his bed when he heard some lovely music. It was only a little bird singing outside his window, but it had been so long since he had heard a bird sing in his garden that it seemed to him the most beautiful music in the world. Then the Hail stopped dancing over his head, and the North Wind stopped roaring. "I believe spring has come at last," said the Giant, as he jumped out of bed and looked outside, where he saw the 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 he could see, there was a little child. And 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 twittering with delight, and the flowers were looking up through the green grass and laughing.

It was a lovely scene, except that 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 couldn't reach the branches, and he was crying bitterly. The poor tree was still quite covered in frost and snow, and it tried to bend its branches as low as he could, but the boy was too tiny to reach.

The Giant's heart melted as he looked out, and he was really very sorry for what he'd done. "How selfish I've been!" he said. "Now I know why spring wouldn't come. I'll put that poor little boy on top of the tree, and then I'll knock down the wall, and my garden will be the children's playground forever and ever."

So he crept downstairs and went out into the garden. But when the children saw him, they were so frightened that they all ran away, and it quickly became winter again.

Only the little boy didn't run, because his eyes were too full of tears to see the Giant coming. And so the Giant inched up behind him and took him gently by the hand, and lifted him up into the tree. And the tree blossomed at once, and the birds came to sing on it, and the little boy flung his arms around the Giant's neck in thanks.

And the other children, when they saw the Giant was no longer mean or selfish, came running back, and with them, came spring. "It's your garden now, little children," said the Giant, and he took an axe and knocked down the wall. And when the people walked by on their way to town, they found the Giant playing with the children in the most beautiful garden they'd ever seen, as he did every afternoon from that day on.