The Happy Prince, and Other Tails
by Aubrey Beardsley
The Narrow-Minded Giant
A reimagining of Oscar Wilde’s The Selfish Giant
Every afternoon, when the local dogs went out for their walk, they used to go and play in the little garden in the middle of all the very many buildings owned by the Giant.
It was really quite a lovely garden, not very large, but full of soft green grass and some interesting plants. There were little hills, and some little seats, and some plants like feathers, and some other plants that wave, and a little winding path from one end to the other. Sometimes there were birds and very very rarely there might even be a squirrel. “How happy we are here!” the dogs said to each other.
One day the Giant said that dogs would no longer be allowed in the little garden. “This garden is my garden,” said the Giant; “any one can understand that, and I will allow nobody to play in it. It is just to show that I have provided green space. It is not to be used!” So the Giant put locks on the gates and put up a notice: No Dogs Allowed. It was a very narrow-minded Giant.
So the poor dogs had now nowhere to play. And their poor humans had nowhere nearby to go and play with them. Even though some of those humans and dogs lived in the Giant’s buildings! So the dogs and their humans tried to get their exercise by just walking round and round the roads on their leads, but they never got to meet their friends anymore, and they did not like it. Some even stopped walking altogether.
Some dogs would occasionally wander round to the garden, and they would look through the fence and talk about the beautiful garden inside. “How happy we were there,” they said to each other.
And so the garden lay empty. People did not care to visit it, as they couldn’t take their dogs. Children did not care to play in it, because they felt so sorry for the dogs. So the children went off to find somewhere more fun. The only people who were pleased were the people who wanted to cause trouble in the garden, because nobody wanted to go there, and so nobody would disturb their rabble-rousing. “Fun has forgotten this garden,” they said, “so we will not have to worry about fun interfering with our trouble.” And so the grass withered, the plants grew thirsty, and the very very rare squirrel stopped visiting altogether.
“I cannot understand why nobody is in the garden,” said the Giant. “I have made it perfectly pristine and clean by stopping anyone interesting from using it. I hope people will visit again soon.”
But the dogs never came, nor the people. “The Giant is too narrow-minded,” they said. So it was always a sad, empty place in the garden, and the only thing that ran through the grass was trouble.
Then some of the humans decided that enough was enough. And they complained to the Giant. All over the country there were spaces for people to walk their dogs, with flowers and birds and very very rarely even a squirrel. So why were they not allowed to walk their dogs in the garden right near their own homes? “The Giant is too narrow-minded,” they said.
One morning the Giant was visiting his kingdom and he heard what sounded like lovely music. “I believe the people have come back to the garden at last,” said the Giant. And the Giant went to the garden and looked.
What did he see?
He saw a most wonderful sight. The dogs had gone back to the garden and they were running in the grass, and sleeping in the sun, and chatting to their humans, and playing at their feet. In every spot the Giant could see a little dog or a human, big and small. And the garden was so glad to have everyone back that the grass had turned green, and the plants had started waving again. It was a lovely scene.
But in one corner the Giant saw a kind woman standing alone, unable to get into the garden. The Giant’s heart melted. “How narrow-minded I have been!” He said. He was really very sorry for the “no dogs allowed” policy.
And so the Giant went into the garden. But all the dogs and all the people, big and small, were so frightened that they all ran away, and the garden was empty again. But the kind woman did not run. And the Giant went up, opened the gate, took the kind woman gently by the hand and led her into the garden.
And the garden at once grew alive again, and filled with birds, and dogs, and people, big and small, and even the very very rare squirrel.
“It is your garden now, everybody,” said the Giant, and with that the sign came down.
All day long the dogs and people, big and small, played in the garden. But day after day, the kind woman was nowhere to be seen.
“But where is your companion?” the Giant asked.
“We don’t know,” answered the dogs and people, big and small; “she has gone away.”
“You must tell her to be sure and come here tomorrow,” said the Giant.
And the next day, a marvellous sight, in the farthest corner of the garden the grass was greener and the beds were full of beautiful flowers, and standing there was the kind woman.
“Where have you been?” asked the Giant.
And the kind woman smiled at the Giant and said, “You let me play in your garden. Now I play in another garden, which is just there, over that rainbow bridge. And all the dogs are playing and all the people, big and small. But I still like to visit and see all my friends, playing in the garden.”
And the kind woman smiled again, “You see, there is a saying, if you would be happy all your life, plant a garden. This garden makes me happy, all my life.”
And with that, the kind woman smiled once more, and disappeared amongst the blossoms.
And all the dogs and all the people, big and small, were playing.
Dedicated to our dear friend, Georgia Speirs, who loved gardens, and worked so hard to keep her local greenspace dogfriendly. And she did.