The Selfish Giant crossed the Atlantic by plane, arriving in a package to an eight-year-old girl. She had never received anything by post before. She had never owned a vinyl record. And yet, for no particular reason, her aunt – who had never gifted her anything – had chosen to send this story to her.
The little girl stole away from her brothers and sister, away from the noise of life. She put the record on by herself. She gazed at the illustrations on the sleeve as the words, music and sounds carried her off to another land.
She pictured the frost painting the giant’s trees silver. She imagined the North Wind whirling around his castle and the hail dancing on his roof. She saw the snow covering the garden with her great, white, cloak. And the little flower who felt so sorry for the children banished from the garden that it slipped back into the ground again and returned to sleep. She loved the little boy that melted the giant’s heart. And grew to appreciate, as the giant had, the presence of children in the world and the power of nature and love. She felt better about being a child. She would try not to be selfish as the giant had been.
Every day, the little girl would listen to The Selfish Giant. She would follow the words on the sleeve with a finger, until she knew each one by heart. Years passed like turning pages. Magically, a day came when the girl was no longer little and she had children of her own. She shared The Selfish Giant with them, of course. But something had happened. The story had changed. Now, it pierced her heart and made her weep. For she saw something new in the story, something she had missed as a child.
Her children loved that the story made her cry. Every time. And so they asked her to read it to them, night after night. They gazed up at her face, waiting for the tears. And they came.
As the children grew, their mother began to imagine stories of her own. Those stories became books. And, though she did not intend them to, those books pierced people’s hearts and made them cry.
It was such an honour to be asked to write a foreword to a story that changed my life. I know that it will have the same effect on so many others. A story like The Selfish Giant by the great Oscar Wilde, is a very powerful thing. Read it here in English and Irish.