"The Selfish Giant" is a short fantasy story for children by the Irish author Oscar Wilde. It was first published in 1888 in the anthology The Happy Prince and Other Tales, which, in addition to its title story, also includes "The Nightingale and the Rose", "The Devoted Friend" and "The Remarkable Rocket".
The story's plot revolves around a giant who builds a wall to keep children out of his garden, but learns compassion from the innocence of the children. The short story contains significant religious imagery.
A group of children would play in the garden belonging to a giant each day after school. One day, the giant returns home from a seven year visit to his friend, a Cornish ogre. Furious at finding the children trespassing, he chases them out and proceeds to build a wall around his garden. He erects a sign reading: TRESPASSERS WILL BE PROSECUTED." The children are very sad, as playing on the road is a poor substitute.
When spring comes, life begins to blossom everywhere except the giant's garden, where it remains winter. A single flower blooms but sinks back into the earth when it reads the sign on the gate. The Snow and the Frost decide to stay in the garden, and invite the North Wind and Hail to join them. Seasons pass but it stays winter in the giant's garden.
One morning, the giant hears a linnet singing outside his window, and is astonished to find the spring weather has finally come to his garden. He sees the cause- some children have snuck through a hole in his wall and are playing in his garden. He sees a small boy crying because he cannot reach the lowest branches. This corner of the garden is still covered in snow. The giant is moved by pity, realizing how selfish he has been. He enters the garden, the children flee and winter returns. But he lifts the litle crying boy and places him in the tree, telling the children the garden is theirs now. The children return to play and the garden turns to spring once more.
The children return but the crying boy has vanished. Over the years, the giant grows old and watches the children play from his armchair. One day he sees the small boy under the same tree, which has turned beautiful and white. The giant approaches and sees the boy has wounds on his hands and feet. He asks the boy who injured him, so that the giant may avenge him, but the child says they are the wounds of love, and as the giant allowed him to play in his garden, so would the boy take the giant to his garden in Paradise. Later, the other children find the giant lying dead under the tree, covered in white blossom .
- Sound file of public domain audiobook of "The Selfish Giant", originally from Holiday Songs and Stories.com