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Literature / The Happy Prince

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"The Happy Prince" is a fairy tale by Oscar Wilde about a romantic swallow and the statue of a prince, who, after spending all his life in luxury, is turned into a statue who watches all the misery outside his palace.

It's currently in public domain, and can be read in full here.

This tale provides examples of the following tropes:

  • But Now I Must Go: Subverted. Happy Prince doesn't let the Swallow go despite the latter's repeated pleas.
  • Died Happily Ever After: "for in my garden of Paradise this little bird shall sing for evermore, and in my city of gold the Happy Prince shall praise me."
  • Friend to All Living Things: Happy Prince oversees humans suffering and sympathizes for them all.
  • Gilded Cage: The Prince more or less lived in one of these when alive, since he wasn't even allowed to experience sadness and felt shocked when he looked onto the town as a statue and saw mostly poverty and misery.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Happy Prince sacrifices all the gold leaves he is covered with. The Swallow helps him delivering them until he dies, as he can't stand the cold weather. And nobody finds them of any value afterward.
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  • Humans Are Flawed: Given Wilde's sarcastic tone seen in the descriptions of the human characters. Also provoked in the end where the humans do not acknowledge Happy Prince's sacrifices and see him as an old, ugly statue decorated with a dead swallow, all while the readers know what's really going on.
  • Interspecies Romance: The swallow is in love with a reed plant early in the story.
  • Ironic Name:
    "Who are you?" [The Swallow] said.
    "I am the Happy Prince."
    "Why are you weeping then?"
  • Samaritan Syndrome: The Happy Prince can't abide seeing people in misery when he can sacrifice the precious jewels and metals he's made of to help them get out of their poverty.
  • Stealth Pun: The description of the reed, which is full of double entendres about plants
    [...]The Reed shook her head, she was so attached to her home.
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  • Spoiled Sweet: Happy Prince's back story is depicted as an absolute happy person who knows no sadness and hardship, and retains his kindness even after death.
  • Symbolically Broken Object: The Happy Prince's heart of lead breaks with a loud crack at the same moment that the swallow dies.
  • Take That!: Toward human teachers, philosophers, and those who are attached to logic and judge things by the covers.


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