The Selfish Giant

the selfish giantThe Irish writer Oscar Wilde is known today for his plays (most notably The Importance of Being Earnest), his famous novel The Picture of Dorian Gray, and his short stories such as “The Canterville Ghost”. He also wrote a number of children’s stories. One of the best known of these is “The Selfish Giant”. The two main s of the story are greed sharing, and Christian love. However, if you look at the story in terms of the of the songs below (taken from the 1971 Video), you will see that the story carries some other important lessons for people of all religions.

English Learner Vocabulary Help

The words and expressions in our Simplified English story which are not in our Pre-Intermediate Level 1200 word list are: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , and .

General Comments on the Story

We are always happy to receive requests for stories. The Selfish Giant was suggested by a reader from Scotland. She wrote:

“Another story which might be added is ‘The Selfish Giant’ by Oscar Wilde. When I was away at school over 40 years ago our Headmistress would always read us a story with meaning on Sunday evening. One of them was The House with Golden Windows already on your list. A longer tale was that of ‘Greyfriars Bobby”. My friends and I have remembered these tales all our lives – they can still bring a tear to the eye !.”

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the happy princeThe Selfish Giant first appeared in a a book called The Happy Prince and Other Tales, which was published in 1888. According to Wilde, that these stories were designed to be read TO children rather than read BY them. The Happy Prince can be downloaded in various e-book forms from Project Gutenberg here. An audiobook is available from Librivox here.


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(n: theme pl themes) In literature, a central idea that is communicated in a story. Note that a theme may be an idea that the writer wishes to convey, or another idea that a reader or group of readers interpret into the story. Most themes are implied through the plot rather than stated directly. (หัวข้อ) 4000

(prep: vs; abbreviation for 'versus') Against; used to indicate the two people, teams, etc., that are fighting or competing against each other or two different things, choices, etc., that are being compared or considered. (ต่อสู้กับ) 3000

(n: lyrics, plural) The words of a song. 5000

blossom(n: blossom pl blossoms) A flower, especially of a fruit tree. 6000

branch(n: branch pl branches) An arm-like part of a tree that grows out from the central part. 2000

breath(n: breath pl breaths) The air that you take into your lungs and send out from your lungs. His breath smells like garlic. 3000
(idiom: hold your breath) To stop breathing for a short time, such as when you dive into water.
(idiom: take a deep breath) To take a lot of air into your lungs.

chimney(n: chimney pl chimneys) A part of a building through which smoke rises into the outside air. 3000

dare(v: dare, dares, dared, daring) To not be too afraid or shy to do something. (2000)
I dare you to. Used to ask someone to do something you think they may be afraid to do.
Don't you dare! Used to forcefully tell someone not to do something.
How dare you! Used to show someone that you are angry about what they have done or said.

dust(n: dust, noncount) A fine powder made up of very small pieces of earth, sand, etc. The furniture was covered in dust.
(adj: dusty; dustier, dustiest) Filled or covered with dust. He cleaned the dusty shelf. 2000

frost(n: frost pl frosts) A thin layer of ice that forms on the ground, on grass, etc., when the air becomes cold. 3000

hail(n: hail, noncount) Pieces of ice that fall from clouds like rain. 5000

joy(n: joy pl joys) A feeling of great happiness.
(adj: joyful or joyous) Filled with, showing or causing joy. 2000

paradise(n: paradise -pl paradises) 1. A place or state of great happiness. 2. When used as a proper noun [beginning with a capital letter], another word for Heaven; the place where God or the gods live, and good people go when they die. 4000

prosecute(v: prosecute, prosecutes, prosecuted, prosecuting) To bring a legal action against someone.
(n: prosecutor pl prosecutors) A government lawyer who accuses a person of a crime and who tries to prove in court that the person is guilty. 4000

scene(n: scene pl scenes) 1. That which is or can be seen when you look at something. 2. A loud or noticeable show of anger, especially in a public place. There was quite an ugly scene as they argued at the restaurant. 2000

selfish(adj: selfish) Having or showing concern only for yourself and not for the needs or feelings of other people. 1000

trespass(v: trespass, trespasses, trespassed, trespassing) To enter someone's land illegally. (การล่วงล้ำ) 7000

wicked(adj: wicked) 1. Morally bad; evil; sinful. A wicked witch. (ชั่วร้าย) 2. (informal) Having or showing slightly bad thoughts in a way that is funny or not serious. She wore a wicked smile after beating me at tennis. 3. (informal) Very bad or unpleasant. She had a wicked case of food poisoning. 4. (informal) Very good. He is a wicked dancer. 3000

wound(n: wound pl wounds) An injury that is caused when a knife, bullet, etc., cuts or breaks the skin. (บาดแผล) 3000

This sound-track is from a well-known vinyl recording of the story, spoken by Academy Award winning actor Frederick March. To download the mp3, click here.

An excellent 25 minute animated film produced for Reader’s Digest Canada. Wonderful music and very true to the original story. To watch online, click here. To download the mp4, click here.

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