Introduced by Jeanette Winterson
Illustrated by Grahame Baker-Smith
A complete collection of Wilde’s enchanting fairy tales, introduced by Jeanette Winterson with illustrations by Grahame Baker-Smith.
Novelist, playwright and satirist Oscar Wilde was also an incomparable teller of fairy tales. In these stories, written for his two sons, he takes the elements of faerie since time immemorial – giants and princes, fishermen and mermaids –and creates enchanting, heartfelt fables that rank amongst his best-loved works.
‘I will put that poor little boy on the top of the tree, and then I will knock down the wall, and my garden shall be the children’s playground for ever and ever.’
This complete collection sparkles with Wilde’s characteristic wit. In ‘The Remarkable Rocket’, a vain and self-important firework declares: ‘I am always thinking about myself, and I expect everybody else to do the same. That is what is called sympathy.’ Like all the greatest fairy tales, these contain sorrow and heartbreak as well as love and redemption. In ‘The Selfish Giant’, the Giant drives the children out of his garden, and is punished by a perpetual winter until he lets them play there again. Sacrifice is a recurring theme: in ‘The Nightingale and the Rose’, the nightingale gives her heart’s blood to create a red rose for a student, who ends by throwing it away. In ‘The Happy Prince’, a royal statue allows himself to be stripped of gold and jewels to provide for the poor people of his town, with the aid of a swallow who delays his migration to Egypt to help the prince. In the end, the denuded statue is melted in a furnace, its leaden heart thrown on a rubbish-heap – until an angel claims it for heaven.
‘They have everything: love, betrayal, selflessness, purity, evil, sacrifice, beauty, brutality and truth’
Grahame Baker-Smith is one of the leading children’s book illustrators working in Britain today, winner of the prestigious Kate Greenaway Medal and illustrator of several Folio Society editions. For this collection he has created enchanting mixed-media images including several that incorporate the face of Wilde himself. Award-winning author Jeanette Winterson has contributed a new introduction, placing these stories at the heart of Wilde’s career and describing how ‘fairy stories tell us what science and philosophy cannot and need not’.
Oscar Wilde was born in Dublin in 1854. He was educated at Trinity College, Dublin, and Magdalen College, Oxford, and while at Oxford he began to propagandise the new Aesthetic Movement. In 1884 he married Constance Lloyd, with whom he had two sons. He is best known for his novel, The Picture of Dorian Gray (1891) and his social comedies, including A Woman of No Importance (1893), An Ideal Husband (1895) and The Importance of Being Earnest (1895). In 1895 Wilde was sentenced to two years’ imprisonment for ‘acts of gross indecency’, as a result of which he wrote The Ballad of Reading Gaol (1898) and De Profundis (1905). Following his release from prison in 1897 he lived in self-imposed exile in Europe. He died in Paris in 1900.
Jeanette Winterson is the author of ten novels, including Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit (1985), The Passion (1987) and Sexing the Cherry (1989); a book of short stories, The World and Other Places (1998); a collection of essays, Art Objects (1995); and a memoir, Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal? (2011), as well as many other works, including children’s books, screenplays and articles. Her writing has won the Whitbread Award for Best First Novel, the John Llewellyn Rhys Memorial Prize, the E. M. Forster Award and the Prix d’Argent at the Cannes Film Festival.
Grahame Baker-smith is a self-taught illustrator. He began to experiment with digital techniques, including Photoshop, several years ago, and now combines painting and drawing in traditional media with photographed and scanned textures, enjoying the control that digital methods give an artist over every aspect of the image. He has illustrated sixteen books for The Folio Society, including Journey to the Centre of the Earth by Jules Verne (2001), The Siege and Fall of Troy by Robert Graves (2005) and Pinocchio by Carlo Collodi (2011).
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Review by anon on 9th Jan 2015
"This is a beautiful book, but it is most oddly portrayed between the web site pictures and its actual production product. First of all the margins in the book are very odd. They are fully 1.63 inches ..." [read more]
Review by anon on 1st Oct 2013
"Be reinspired and amazed by the talent of Oscar Wilde. These stories are extraordinary. Not least the wonderful 'The Fisherman and his Soul' - I wouldn't be surprised to discover that Italo Calvino ..." [read more]