Rejoice in the Lord always; again I say, rejoice.
Let your forbearance be known to all,
for the Lord is near at hand;
have no anxiety about anything,
but in all things, by prayer and supplication,
with thanksgiving, let your requests be known to God.
Lord, you have blessed your land;
you have turned away the captivity of Jacob.
Philippians 4:4–6; Psalm 85 (84):1
Introit for the Third (Gaudete) Sunday in Advent
Oscar Wilde is known for his comedies of (often ill-)manners and as the master of the bon mot or cutting witticism but amongst his works are nine remarkable fairy tales. Fairy Tales? Oscar Wilde? Really? Yes really! And I would dare say that at least two are known to you from your childhood reading or television watching. And there is a good chance that most of us are unaware that they came from the pen that launched a thousand quips.
In 1888 Wilde published The Happy Prince and Other Tales which included the eponymous story as well as perhaps the best known of all his fairy tales: The Selfish Giant. Of the three remaining stories The Devoted Friend is the least recognized but both the The Remarkable Rocket and The Nightingale and the Rose have been adapted into various forms and are more familiar.
A House of Pomegranates, four more fairy tales, was published three years later. Of this collection Wilde said that it was “intended neither for the British child nor the British public.” The Fisherman and His Soul and The Birthday of the Infanata have had some popularity but The Star Child and The Young King remain largely unknown. Three of the four stories have unhappy endings, not uncommon in many fairy tales but here tinged with an air of bitterness and cynicism which may justify Wilde’s description. However The Young King has an almost Byzantine air of mystery about it and ends in an affirming miracle.
Of the nine my own favourites are The Selfish Giant and The Young King. Both have been analyzed and written about at length as possible Christian allegories. Wilde, though raised in the Church of Ireland, flirted with conversion to Roman Catholicism for much of his life but his thoughts on Christianity and religion are difficult to categorize. Rather than thinking of any of his fairy tales as “Christian” stories rather it is better to think of them as stories with morals influenced by Christianity.
As most of us have read, heard or seen The Selfish Giant in one form or other I thought I would suggest The Young King as my story for the Third Sunday in Advent. The introit for this Sunday bids us “Gaudete (Rejoice)” and though in these troubled times it may be an act not easily accomplished might I suggest you take the 10 or 15 minutes to read Wilde’s tale of the Young Shepherd who becomes a King and rejoice in the writing, the tale and the message.
A left click on the image of the Shepherd-King will take to you The Young King by Oscar Wilde.
On this day in 1931: Statute of Westminster 1931: The British Parliament establishes legislative equality between the UK and the Dominions of the Commonwealth—Australia, Canada, Newfoundland, New Zealand, South Africa, and Ireland.