“The Selfish Giant” is a short story for children by Oscar Wilde. Wilde lived a complex and controversial life but, like the Giant in his story, Wilde had a conversion to Christianity late in life. He wished to be baptized and received into the Church on his deathbed in 1900. He wrote this Christian fable for children while his own two sons were very young.
You can read The Selfish Giant online here.
The Selfish Giant Summary
Children loved to play in the Giant’s garden while he was away. When he returned, however, the Giant showed his selfishness. He kicked the kids out of his garden and put a wall around his property. The kids were sad because it wasn’t as fun to play anywhere else. The seasons changed and Spring came, but not in the garden. It stayed winter in the garden all year long. The Giant stayed locked up in his private home. Not even the birds would come into the garden until one day the giant heard lovely music outside. He thought that Spring had come. He looked and saw to his surprise that the children had snuck in and climbed into the trees—all except one boy who was too short to reach the branches.
The Giant realized how selfish he was. He helped the boy climb the tree and the boy hugged and kissed him. The children were welcomed once more into the garden, but the little boy that the Giant helped was missing. He didn’t see the boy again until he was very old. On a cold wintery day, the Giant finally saw the boy underneath gold and silver tree. As he moved close, he saw the boy had wounds from nails on his hands and feet. The boy called them wounds of love. Then the boy said the Giant was welcome in his garden, which is Paradise. The children found the Giant had died that day and white blossoms covered him all over.
The Selfish Giant Story Meaning
The little boy in the story with wounds of nails on his hands and feet represents Jesus Christ. Jesus was nailed to the cross in his hands and feet. The boy’s wounds in his hands and feet are the wounds of love that allowed the Giant to enter into Paradise.
The story is reminiscent of a story Jesus tells in Matthew 25:31-46 about the Sheep and the Goats. At the end of the world, Jesus will sit on a throne and separate the sheep from the goats. The sheep showed love to those that were most in need. The goats were selfish and ignored the needs of others.
“Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.”Matthew 25:40
The ending of the story is also similar to the mercy Jesus shared with the good criminal who was crucified by his side:
“Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.”Luke 23:43
(Here is another interpretation from the creators of SparkNotes.)
The Selfish Giant Reflection Questions
- Why did the Giant kick the kids out of the garden?
- What made the Giant realize he was being selfish?
- Have you ever been selfish like the Giant? What do you have the hardest time sharing with others?
- Who in your life needs help like the little boy in the story? How can you help them?
- If you knew that someone you met was actually Jesus in disguise, would you treat them differently? Why or why not?