possibility of hope fills this as yet untainted wild. MacDonald’s imagination is apocalyptic; the conclusion of The
Princess and Curdle is what MacDonald calls in his sermon, “The Consuming Fire”, a “partial” revelation. In a universe of infinite meaning, created by an infinite God, all revelations must be partial, encouragements to keep us Ofl the look-out for further revelations [see Unspoken Sermons: First Series (Alexander Strahan, 1865), 35j.
Of course, McGillis’s interpretation draws upon sources other than the story itself. Within the story, it is not the
entire world that is
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destroyed, only Gwyntystorm, which, we know, has neighbours. Besides, there are “men” left, from whose lips the town’s name has ceased?ªthough in the telling of the story it has obviously been revived. In these respects, the
story itself supports MacGillis’s optimistic interpretation; but the strongest support for it within the fairytales themselves comes from the contrast between, on the one hand, the remaining “wildness of wild deer” and the
rushing and raving of the “rapid of the river” of this actual ending, and, on the other hand, the image presented in “The Light Princess” of the unmaking of a world:
It was fearful to think of the mud that would soon lie there baking and festering, full of lovely creatures dying, and ugly creatures coming to life, like the unmaking of a world.
(1864; Lurie, 1993:85)
Here the princess is imagining what will happen as a result of the swamp fairy Makemnoit’s evil action. The
deity’s action has quite different results, and her image remains in the rushing river whose movement mirrors the impressions of her hair in the long descriptive passages quoted above.
Oscar Fingall O”Flahertie Wilde (1854?ª1900) was born in Dublin, Ireland, but spent most of his adult life based in
England. While studying at Oxford, he met John Ruskin and Walter Pater, whose views he synthesised in his own concept of social aesthetics, blended later in his life with a strong influence from the American Transcendentalist Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803?ª82) (Murray, 1990:xi?ªxii).
Wilde’s first collection of fairytales, The Happy Prince and Other Stories, was published in 1888 and the
second, The House of Pornegranates, in 1891, the same year which saw the appearance of his essay “The Soul
of Man under Socialism” in The Fortnightly Review (February 1891; quoted here as 1891c; all page references
to the World’s Classic Edition, Oxford University Press, 1990). This essay contributed to current debate in the
periodical journals on “Individualism, Socialism, Anarchism, poverty, philanthropy, and the limitations of freedom” (Murray, 1990:xi). It is also, according to Zipes (1983:114?ª15), a key to understanding the fairytales.
In it, Wilde expresses his belief that human society will inevitably evolve towards socialism, and that socialism will lead to Individualism (1891c11990:2). According to Individualism, “the proper aim of human
190 The fairytale
life is not a self-denying altruism but rather a perfecting of the self (Murray, 1990:xi) which is achieved by opposing “conformity, consistency, imitation, philanthropy, charity, property, and the mob” (ibid. xii-xiii). The
perfecting of the self, however, is not by any means to be confused with selfishness, which is the pushing away of the other, exemplified in the fairytales by “the very lofty wall” (1888a/ 1979:95) around the garden of the Happy
Prince, and the “high wall” (18881/ 1979:110) the Selfish Giant builds around his garden. These walls are built to
protect from others what lies within them, that is, belongings, as expressed in the Giant’s truism: “My own garden is my own garden” (p. 110). But “the true perfection of man lies, not in what man has, but in what man is” (1891c/1990:7), and about what man is, or rather, will be, Wilde is thoroughly enthusiastic: It will be a marvellous thing?ªthe true personality of man?ªwhen we see it. It will grow naturally and simply, flower-like, or as a tree grows. It will not be at discord. It will never argue or dispute. It will not prove things. It