A Treasury of Literary Classics -
Short Story Series


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The Happy Prince

Oscar Wilde

Oscar Wilde (16 October 1854 - 30 November 1900) was an Anglo-Irish playwright, novelist, poet and critic. He is regarded as one of the greatest writers of the Victorian period. In his lifetime he wrote nine plays, one novel, and numerious poems, short stories, and essays. Wilde believed in "art for art's sake", which means the aesthetic values of writing should come before its moral values. He is best remembered for his plays The Importance of Being Honest and An ideal Husband and his novel The Picture of Dorian Gray, but he also wrote some famous short stories such as "The Happy Prince", "The Selfish Giant" and "The Nightingale and the Rose".

1. Who is the main character of the story?

A. the Happy Prince
B. the little bird
C. a beautiful girl
D. God

Your answer:

The story evolves around the Happy Prince.

2. Who is the narrator (i.e. teller) of the story?

A. the little bird
B. the Happy Prince
C. God
D. a third person

Your answer:

The narrator is not involved in the story or connected to any of the characters.

3. Why was the bird wet at the beginning of the story?

A. The bird cried because he was cold and hungry.
B. The bird felt sorry for the Happy Prince.
C. The Happy Prince shed tears of sadness on the bird.
D. The bird missed his friends in Egypt.

Your answer:

"The bird asked the prince, "Then why are you crying? I am wet with your tears."

4. Which of the following descriptions of the little bird are true?

  1. The bird wanted to go to Egypt at first.
  2. The bird comforted a sick boy.
  3. A seaman promised to take the bird to Egypt.
  4. The bird developed a deep friendship with the Happy Prince.
  5. The bird told the Happy Prince stories about the strange lands and his city.

A. (i), (ii), (iv) & (v)
B. (i), (ii), (iii) & (v)
C. (i), (ii), (iii) & (iv)
D. (i), (iv) & (v)

Your answer:

5. Which of the following persons did not receive a jewel from the Happy Prince?

A. the seamstress with a sick son
B. the beautiful girl with a lover
C. the young writer
D. the little girl selling eggs

Your answer:

On page 2 of the story:

- "He passed the palace and heard the sound of dancing. A beautiful girl - was at a window with her lover. 'I hope my dress will be ready for the dance next week,' she said. 'Those women are so lazy.'"
- "The bird passed over the river and flew and flew ..."

6. Why did the bird choose to stay with the Happy Prince till his death?

A. The seaman refused to take him to Egypt.
B. He needed the shelter and protection from the Happy Prince.
C. His friends in Egypt abandonded him.
D. He told pity on the blind Happy Prince.

Your answer:

On page 4 of the story:

"The little bird became colder. He did not leave the prince, because he loved him too much. But he was dying."

7. Put the events in the correct order based on the story.

  1. The bird told the Happy Prince the suffering of men and women in the city.
  2. The workmen pulled own the statue of the Happy Prince.
  3. An important man in the city commented that the Happy Prince looked like a beggar.
  4. The Happy Prince became blind.
  5. The Happy Prince decided to pull off his layers of fine gold to help the poor.

A. (iv) --> (iii) --> (i) --> (v) --> (ii)
B. (i) --> (v) --> (iv) --> (ii) --> (iii)
C. (iv) --> (i) --> (v) --> (iii) --> (ii)
D. (v) --> (iv) --> (i) --> (ii) --> (iii)

Your answer:

8. Which of the following adjectives does not describe the Happy Prince?

A. greedy
B. selfless
C. compassionate
D. benevolent

Your answer:

A. Greedy describes someone who has a selfish desire for wealth or power.

B. Selfless describes someone who is concerned more with the needs and wishes of others than one's own.

C. Compassionate describes someone who feels or shows sympathy and concern for others.

D. Benevolent decribes someone who is kind and helpful.

9. Which is the theme of the story?

A. death
B. poverty
C. sacrifice
D. power

Your answer:

10. Which of the following proverbs best summarises the message of the story?

A. Birds of a feather flock together.
B. It's better to give than to receive.
C. Money does not grow on tree.
D. What goes around comes around.

Your answer:

Re-think your answer after reading the following meaning of the proverbs:
A. People with same interests and characters stay together.
B. Giving is better than taking.
C. It's not easy to earn money.
D. If you treat other badly, you will be treated badly by others too.

11. Powerful adjectives and similes are often used to portray the setting and characters in a story to appeal to our five senses. (i.e. sight, hearing, smell, taste, touch). Read the following excerpts and answer 11a, 11b and 11c.

Excerpt One

At noon they yellow lions come down to the water's edge to drink. They have eyes like green beryls, and their roar is louder than the roar of the cataract." "Swallow, swallow, little swallow," said the Prince, "far away across the city I see a young man in a garret. He is leaning over a desk covered with papers, and in a tumbler by his side there is a bunch of withered violets. His hair is brown and crisp, and his lips are red as a pomegranate, and he has large and dreamy eyes.

Excerpt Two

Then the snow came, and after the snow came the frost. The streets looked as if they were made of silver, they were so bright and glistening; long icicles like crystal daggers hung down from the eaves of the houses, everybody went about in furs, and the little boys wore scarlet caps and skated on the ice.

11a. List all the adjectives.

Excerpt One

Hint 10 adjectives

Excerpt Two

Hint 4 adjectives

11b. Identify two similes from each excerpt.

Excerpt One

Excerpt Two

11c. State which senses (i.e. sight, hearing, smell, taste, touch) the description can appeal to.

Excerpt One

Hint 3 senses

Excerpt Two

Hint 2 senses

The Happy Prince

Score Sheet

Questions Results
Question 1
Question 2
Question 3
Question 4
Question 5
Question 6
Question 7
Question 8
Question 9
Question 10
Question 11a Excerpt One
Question 11a Excerpt Two
Question 11b Excerpt One
Question 11b Excerpt Two
Question 11c Excerpt One
Question 11c Excerpt Two

Extension: Think and Share

12. If you were the little bird, would you stay with the Happy Prince until you die?

13. What is the purpose of mentioning the Town Councillors at the beginning and towards the end of the story?

They are dramtic foils to contrast with the selfless Happy Prince and Swallow. The superficial Town Councillors only see the physical appearance and material value of the gold statue and fail to appreciate the charity and sacrifice of the Happy Prince. Their comments like "He is little better than a beggar" and "We must really issue a proclamation that birds are not to be allowed to die here" also create dramatic irony and a comic effect in the story.

14. Could you share an incident in your life when you truly feel that it is better to give than to receive?