The Happy Prince
Once upon a time there was a tiny swallow. This one was flying with his flock to Egypt for the winter.
Every year the swallows stopped to rest at the same little town on the way.
Our little swallow was so tired that he couldn’t wait to tuck his head under his wing and go to sleep. But he slept so deeply that when he woke up, the whole flock had set off.
Then he saw a very important-looking statue of a man, up high in the town square. It was covered in gold leaf.
The statue’s hat had beautiful blue sapphires and a big red ruby on his belt. The jacket buttons were made of gold and he had diamond cufflinks.
“He must be important”, thought the little swallow, “but he looks sad.”
“I can sleep up there!” he thought, “it will be safe and dry.”
That evening, he flew up and perched between the statue’s feet.
He put his head under his wing, ready to sleep when a great drop of water landed on him, splash!
“That’s funny,” he thought. He looked up and there wasn’t a cloud in the sky.
Another drop came down and landed on his beak.
“I’m off!” thought the swallow but he looked up to see the statue’s face. Big tears ran down his golden cheeks.
“Who are you?” asked the swallow.
“I am the Happy Prince,” said a sad voice from up above, “because when I was alive I had a very lucky life. As a boy I lived in a palace with gardens to play in. When I grew up, I had everything anyone could ever ask for. And I thought I was happy”.
“Why are you crying then, if you’re happy?”
“Up here, I can see things I never saw before and some things make me very unhappy,” said the prince.
“Sorry to hear that,” said the swallow.
“See that old house across the square?” said the prince.
“Yes”, nodded the swallow.
“Well, a very poor woman lives there. She works hard making clothes all day long and hardly ever eats as she can only just afford to feed her little boy,” said the prince.
“Oh dear, that’s no good.” replied the swallow.
“Little swallow, please be my helper for one day. You see, my legs are stuck and I can’t move.”
The swallow had a good heart and said, “I’ll stay here tonight and I’ll help out tomorrow. Then I’m off.”
Next morning the swallow woke up and the prince said, “Good morning, little friend, I hope you slept well?”
“Yes, thanks,” said the swallow, “and ready to help out!”
“Can you pull one of the gold buttons off my jacket?”
“I’ll try,” answered the swallow.
He flitted up and grabbed a button in his beak. He twisted and turned and worked the button loose.
The prince said, “Clever little bird! Now please take it to the woman I showed you last night and leave it where she will find it.”
The swallow flew straight off and was quickly back.
“Done it,” he said, “I flew through the open window and left it on her worktable.”
“Excellent,” said the prince, “now, see the old man begging in the square down there?”
“Yes,” nodded the swallow.
“He has become poor and a gold button would really help him.”
The swallow grabbed another button and soon had it in his beak. He flew down and dropped the gold button into the old man’s collecting box. The old man’s eyes opened wide with delight.
“Oh, my word! It’s like a gift from the sky,” exclaimed the old man.
Next, the prince told the swallow about a poor little girl who only had ragged clothes.
The prince told the little swallow to take a diamond cufflink off. The swallow got the cufflink in his beak and flew straight down to the little girl’s house, where she was sitting outside.
She looked up as the swallow hovered above her head and smiled in surprise.
“Hello, little bird, shouldn’t you be in Egypt with the other swallows?” she asked.
The swallow dropped the diamond cufflink into her lap. Her eyes lit up and the swallow flew off.
The prince told the swallow about people in the town who needed help. Every time the swallow took something valuable to them from the statue, the prince looked a little less sad.
Finally, all the precious things had gone except the gold leaf covering the statue and the red ruby on his belt.
“One last thing, please,” smiled the prince, “there is a little hospital and there’s no money to look after the sick people. Please pull all my gold leaf off and take it and the ruby to the hospital.”
The swallow grabbed a piece of gold leaf in his beak and before long there was a little pile of gold.
Then he flew off to the hospital and through an open window. He left the ruby on a desk, and then flew back for the gold. It took him several trips but he did it.
He was tired so he flew back to the statue, tucked his head under his wing and was soon fast asleep.
Next morning was his long journey.
“You have been the best little helper ever,” grinned the prince, “what good were all the jewels and gold when there were people who needed help?”
“Very true. Well, better be off,” said the swallow, “goodbye!”
The swallow turned to take one last look at the statue who had a great big smile on his face and thought, “Now he really is a Happy Prince.”