The Happy Prince Characters

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  • 0:03 The Happy Prince
  • 0:27 The Main Characters
  • 2:52 Those in Need
  • 3:56 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Erica Schimmel

Erica has taught college English writing and literature courses and has a master's degree in children's literature.

Oscar Wilde's classic fairy tale 'The Happy Prince' teaches an important lesson about helping others. But, what characters does Wilde use to teach this lesson? Find out in this lesson.

The Happy Prince

What would you do if you saw someone in need? Would you give up something valuable in order to try and help them? These are the questions at the heart of Oscar Wilde's classic fairy tale ''The Happy Prince.'' While many fairy tales focus people sacrificing for their loved ones, ''The Happy Prince'' focuses more on ideas of charity - even for people you never meet. Let's learn about the characters in the story.

The Main Characters

The Happy Prince

With a name like the Happy Prince you might be expecting a person, but the prince in Wilde's tale is actually a statue that sits ''high above the city, on a tall column.'' It's a very handsome statue, too. The Happy Prince is a golden statue with beautiful sapphire eyes and a bright red ruby decorating his sword-hilt. Everyone admires his beauty and his happiness - some mothers even tell their children they should be happier, like the Happy Prince.

But things aren't always what they seem. The Happy Prince is not solid gold - he is actually only ''gilded,'' or coated, with gold. And he isn't as happy as he seems. He says that when he ''was alive and had a human heart'' he didn't have a care in the world. He never cried because he never had any reason to cry. He spent all his time playing and dancing inside the castle walls, surrounded by beautiful things. That's where he earned the nickname the ''Happy Prince,'' because he was always happy.

Now, though, the statue can see how everybody else lives. He is not the self-centered little boy he was when he was alive. Even though he is a statue now, and his heart is made of lead instead of being human, he feels terrible for ''all the ugliness and all the misery'' he sees in the town. The Happy Prince's heart might be made of lead, but it is still a generous one. He wants to help the people he sees suffering, so he donates every part of his own body that is valuable - the gold, the sapphires, the ruby - to people who need the money.

The Swallow

The Happy Prince couldn't donate his valuable pieces without the help of his new bird friend, the Swallow. Like most swallows, this Swallow is a graceful, ''agile'' flyer, who is also a bit of a romantic. You see, the Swallow should have already flown to Egypt for the winter, but he got delayed because he fell in love with a Reed. Things didn't work out, and so the Swallow is on his way to Egypt when he needs to find a place to spend the night. That's how he finds the Happy Prince.

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