The Happy Prince

‘’ in English

Part 1

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High above the city stands the statue of the Happy Prince. He is covered with fine gold leaf. His eyes are two blue sapphires. He has a big red ruby on his sword.
Everyone loves him.

“Look at the Happy Prince!” says a mother to her son, who is crying his eyes out. “The Happy Prince never cries. Don’t you want to be like him?”

“Well, at least someone is happy in this town,” mutters a grumpy man, as he contemplates the beautiful statue.

“He looks like an angel!” say the children in the orphanage.

One night, a little swallow flies over the city. He is all alone. His friends all flew away to Egypt six weeks ago.

The swallow stayed behind because he had fallen in love with the most beautiful reed. She was tall, and slender, and she moved so gracefully in the wind.

The bird flying around a reed with love hearts above his head

The other swallows had laughed at this romance.

"It’s so ridiculous," they said.
“She has no money…”
“And no steady job…”

Then autumn arrived. The other birds left for Egypt, and the little swallow began to get tired of his lover.

"Well yes, she is beautiful. But does she like to travel?” he wondered. “Of course my future wife must like to travel”.

So… he asked the reed, “Will you come to Egypt with me? It'll be so much fun! I’ll show you the pyramids!”

But the reed shook her head.

"Very well! I will go alone!” replied the swallow. "Goodbye!" And he flew away, towards the city.

He arrives in the city after dark. "Now, where am I going to sleep?" he wonders.

He sees the statue of the Happy Prince. “Ah! I will sleep there! The view will be magnificent!”

The swallow lands between the feet of the Happy Prince. He looks around himself. "Amazing! I have a golden bedroom!” He is just about to fall asleep when - PLOP! - a drop of water falls on his head.
"What? Is it raining?" he wonders. "Strange… I don't see any clouds..."

Then … PLOP! … another drop falls on him.
“Lousy statue!”
he mutters. “It can't even protect me from the rain! Maybe I should find a nice chimney instead…”

The bird sitting at the feet of the prince with a splash of water on his head

But then - PLOP - another drop falls. The swallow looks up. And what does he see?

The eyes of the Happy Prince are filled with tears. Tears are streaming down his golden cheeks. His face looks so sad in the moonlight! The little swallow is filled with pity.

"Who are you?" he asks the statue.
“I am the Happy Prince.”
"Well… why are you crying then?" asks the swallow. "I'm all wet."

“Hmm. You know, when I was alive, and had a human heart, I never cried,” the statue says. “I lived in Sans-Souci Palace. There is no sorrow at Sans-Souci. Every night I danced in the great hall. During the day, I played with my friends in the garden.

There was a big wall around the garden, but I never asked what was on the other side. Why would I ask? Everything around me was so beautiful…

… When I was alive, everyone called me 'the Happy Prince'. And yes, I was happy — if pleasure and happiness are the same thing.

But then I died, and they put me here. Now I can see all the sadness and ugliness of my city. My heart is made of lead, but I cannot stop crying."

"What? He has a heart of lead? I thought he was solid gold!” thinks the swallow to himself. But he doesn't say it out loud. He's too polite.

“Far from here,” continues the statue, “Far from here, there is a small street. In this street, there is a small house. One of the windows is open, and I can see a woman. She is sitting at a table. Her face looks tired and worried. Her hands are red and calloused.

She is a seamstress, and she is sewing a dress for a wealthy lady. Her little boy is lying on the bed, ill with a fever. He wants oranges, but his mother does not have money to buy oranges. All she can give him to drink is water from the river. So the little boy continues to cry.

Little swallow, there is a ruby on my sword. Please take it to his mother. I am a statue now. I can't do it myself."

Illustration of the mother sitting at her sewing table with her sick son in the background

"I’m sorry, I can't," says the swallow. “I must fly to Egypt. My friends are waiting for me. They will be flying up and down the Nile, and talking to the lotus flowers. They will be sleeping in the tomb of the great King. I must go too!”

“Little swallow,” says the Prince. “Please be my messenger. Just for one night. The little boy is so thirsty, and his mother is so sad.”

"But I don't even like little boys," says the swallow. “Little boys throw stones at me. Of course, they never reach me. But who cares, it’s very rude!”

But the Happy Prince looks sad, and the swallow feels guilty.

“It's very cold here,” he says, “but I will stay one night and help you”.
“Thank you, little swallow,” says the Prince.

So the swallow removes the ruby from the Prince's sword. He holds it in his beak and flies over the roofs of the city.

He flies over the cathedral, with its angels made of white marble.
He flies over the river, and sees the lanterns hanging from the masts of the boats.
He flies over the market, and hears the seller shout “Oranges! Come and get your beautiful oranges!”

He flies over the palace, and hears the sound of music and dancing. A young girl and her boyfriend come out onto the balcony of the palace.

“The stars are so beautiful,” says the boyfriend. "And so are you…"
"I hope my dress will be ready in time for the ball," says the girl. “My seamstress is so slow!”

Finally, the swallow arrives at the woman's house. He looks through the window. The little boy is tossing feverishly in his bed. The mother is so tired that she has fallen asleep at her sewing table.

The swallow hops inside. He gently puts the ruby down on the table. Then he flutters around the little boy's bed, gently fanning him with his wings.

"Huh. I don’t feel so hot anymore," says the little boy. "I think I’m getting better..."

The swallow goes back to see the Happy Prince. He tells the prince what he did.

"It's strange," says the swallow. “The weather is really cold, but I feel quite warm now.”
"That’s because you have done something good,"
says the Prince.
The little swallow begins to think, then he falls asleep. (Thinking always makes him sleepy.)

In the morning, the swallow takes a bath in the river.
"Tonight I'm going to Egypt!" he says.

He is very happy. He spends the day visiting the tourist attractions of the city. Wherever he goes, the sparrows chirp and ask each other “Who is this distinguished stranger? It can't be a swallow. Here? In winter?!"

The swallow likes to be the center of attention. He enjoys himself immensely.

As the moon rises, the swallow flies back to the Happy Prince.

“Can I bring you back something from Egypt?” he asks. "I'm just about to leave."

“Little swallow,” says the Prince. "Please stay with me one more night."

“My friends will be waiting for me in Egypt,” replies the swallow. “Tomorrow they will go further up the river. There will be hippos in the tall grass. At noon, the yellow lions will come down to drink on the shore. Their eyes are green like emeralds. I absolutely must see this!”

“Little swallow,” says the Prince. “On the other side of town, I see a young man. He lives in a cramped, drafty attic. He is sitting at a desk covered with papers. He is trying to write a play, but his hands are too cold to hold a pen. He has no money to buy firewood, or food."

"All right. I will stay with you one more night” says the swallow. “Do you have another ruby?

“Alas, no,” says the Prince. "But I have my eyes. These are sapphires from India. Please take one of my eyes to the young man. He can use it to buy food, as well as wood. He can then finish writing his play.”

"Oh no! No way!" says the swallow. "I can't take one of your eyes!"
“Little swallow,”
says the Prince. "Please do as I ask."

So the swallow takes the Prince's eye and flies to the young man's attic. It's easy to get in - there's a hole in the roof!

The young man is resting his head in his hands. He doesn’t hear the rustling of wings as the swallow places the sapphire in front of him.

When the young man looks up, he finds the beautiful sapphire just lying there on his desk.
"A donation!"
he cries. “Someone likes my work! Now I can finish my play!”

Illustration of the student sitting at his desk, wrapped in a blanket

The next day, the swallow flies to the harbor. He lands on the mast of a large ship. He watches the sailors taking the cargo out of the holds of the ship. “Heave-ho! Heave-ho!”
“I am going to Egypt!”
he declares, but no one hears him.

When the moon rises, he flies to the Happy Prince.
“I’ve come to say goodbye,”
says the swallow.

“Little swallow,” says the Prince. "Please stay with me one more night."

“It’s winter now!” replies the swallow. “Soon it will snow! … But in Egypt the sun will be shining. I will see green palm trees. I will see crocodiles lying in the mud. My friends will be building their nests….

... Dear Prince, I must go. But I will never forget you! And next spring, I will bring you two beautiful jewels to replace the ones you have given away. The ruby will be as red as a rose and the sapphire will be as blue as the sea.”

“In the square just below us,” says the Prince, “there is a little girl selling flowers. She has dropped a lot of them on the ground, and now they're ruined.

Her family will starve if she doesn't bring some money home. She's crying. She has no shoes, or socks. She has no winter jacket, and no warm hat. Please take my other eye and give it to her.”

Illustration of the flower girl standing in the square, with flowers around her bare feet. She is crying.

The swallow sighs. "I can stay another night," he says. “But I can’t take your eye. You will be blind!”
“Little swallow,”
says the Prince. "Please do as I ask."

So the swallow removes the Prince's other eye. He flies down to the square. He swoops past the little girl and drops the jewel into her hand.
“Ooh! So pretty!" exclaims the little girl. She runs home laughing.

The swallow returns to the Prince.

"Now you are blind," he says. “So I am going to stay with you.”
“No, little swallow!”
says the poor Prince. “You have to go to Egypt!”
"No. I will stay with you forever.” says the swallow. And he falls asleep at the Prince’s feet.

The next day, the swallow sits on the Prince's shoulder. He tells stories to the Prince, because the Prince cannot see. He talks about Egypt — the desert, the camels, the Sphinx, the pyramids, and the huge snakes in the palm trees.

“Dear little swallow,” says the Prince. “You speak of such extraordinary things! But do you know what is even more extraordinary to me? The suffering of people. There is no mystery greater than misery. Fly over my city, little swallow, and tell me what you see!”

So the swallow flies over the city. He sees rich people living comfortably in their beautiful homes, while beggars sit at their doorsteps.

He sees hungry children sitting in the dark streets.

He sees two little boys huddled together under a bridge, trying to get warm.
“You can't sleep here!” says a policeman. “Go on! Get!”
And the boys scamper off into the rain.

The swallow returns to the Prince and tells him what he has seen.
“I am covered in gold,” says the Prince. “Peel it off and give it to the poor.”

Piece by piece, the swallow removes the thin layer of gold from the Prince. Soon, the Happy Prince appears dull and gray. Piece by piece, the swallow gives the gold to the poor. The children's faces grow rosy. They laugh and play in the street. “We have bread now!”

Then the snow comes. And then the frost. The streets turn white. Long icicles hang from the eaves of the houses. Everyone wears winter jackets, and the children skate on the ice.

The poor little swallow gets colder and colder. But he does not leave the Prince. He eats the crumbs from in front of the baker's door. He tries to warm himself by flapping his wings.

Then, finally, he knows he is going to die. He lands on the Prince's shoulder one last time.

“Goodbye, dear Prince,” he whispers.
"I'm glad you're finally going to Egypt, little swallow," says the Prince. "You have stayed here far too long."
"I'm not going to Egypt,"
says the swallow. “I am going to the House of Death. Death is the brother of Sleep, is he not?"

He kisses the Happy Prince, and falls down dead at his feet.
At that moment, a strange sound comes from inside the statue — CRACK! The prince’s lead heart breaks in two.

The next morning, the mayor of the city walks past the statue with his city councilors.

"Oh my! The Happy Prince does not look great!” he says.
“Not  great at all” the councilors say. (They always agree with the mayor.)

“Where is his ruby?” continues the mayor. “Where are his eyes?! And he is not golden anymore! Oh dear. He doesn't look like a Happy Prince! Why, he looks no better than a beggar!”
“No better than a beggar!”
the councilors say.

“And… What the?!... Oh my… My word… Goodness me!” says the mayor. “There is a dead bird at his feet! ...
We need to pass a new law: ‘Birds are not permitted to die on statues.’ Someone note that down!”

And someone notes it down.

They pull down the statue of the Happy Prince. "If it is not beautiful, then it is not useful," says an article in the newspaper.

They melt the statue in a furnace. But the heart of lead won’t melt.

"This is so weird!" says one of the foundry workers. “What should we do with this?”
“Meh… Just throw it away,”
says another. "And don't tell the boss!"

So they throw the Prince's heart on a pile of trash, right next to the dead swallow.

“Bring me the two most precious things in the city” says God to one of the angels.

The angel fetches the heart of lead…  and the dead bird.

“Ahh. You have chosen well!” says God. “This little bird will sing in the gardens of Paradise. And in my city of gold, the Prince will be happy once more.”

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