The Selfish Giant

: Boys And Girls Bookshelf


Every afternoon, as they were coming from school, the children used to

go and play in the Giant's garden.

It was a large, lovely garden, with soft green grass. Here and there

over the grass stood beautiful flower-like stars; and there were twelve

peach-trees that in the Springtime broke out into delicate blossoms of

pink and pearl, and in the Autumn bore rich fru
t. The birds sat on the

trees and sang so sweetly that the children used to stop their games in

order to listen to them. "How happy we are here!" they cried to each


One day the Giant came back. He had been to visit his friend the Cornish

Ogre, and had stayed with him for seven years. After the seven years

were over he had said all that he had to say, and he determined to

return to his own castle. When he arrived, he saw the children playing

in the garden.

"What are you doing there?" he cried in a gruff voice, and the children

ran away.

"My own garden is my own garden," said the Giant; "anyone can understand

that, and I will allow nobody to play in it but myself." So he built a

high wall all around it, and put up a notice board:




He was a very selfish Giant.

The poor children had now nowhere to play. They tried to play on the

road, but the road was very dusty, and full of hard stones, and they did

not like it. They used to wander round the high wall when their lessons

were over, and talk about the beautiful garden inside. "How happy we

were there," they said to one another.

Then the Spring came, and all over the country there were little

blossoms and little birds. Only in the garden of the Selfish Giant it

was still Winter. The birds did not care to sing in it, as there were no

children; and the trees forgot to blossom. Once a beautiful flower put

its head out from the grass, but when it saw the notice board it was so

sorry for the children that it slipped back into the ground again, and

went off to sleep. The only people who were pleased were the Snow and

the Frost. "Spring has forgotten this garden," they cried "so we will

live here all the year round." The Snow covered up the grass with her

great white cloak, and the Frost painted all the trees silver. Then they

invited the North Wind to stay with them, and he came. He was wrapped in

furs, and he roared all day about the garden, and blew the chimney-pots

down. "This is a delightful spot," he said, "we must ask the Hail on a

visit." So the Hail came. Every day for three hours he rattled on the

roof of the castle till he broke most of the slates, and then he ran

round the garden as fast as he could go. He was dressed in gray, and his

breath was like ice.

"I cannot understand why the Spring is so late in coming," said the

Selfish Giant, as he sat at the window and looked out at his cold, white

garden; "I hope there will be a change in the weather."

But the Spring never came, nor the Summer. The Autumn gave golden fruit

to every garden, but to the Giant's garden she gave none. "He is too

selfish," she said. So it was always Winter there, and the North Wind,

and the Hail, and the Frost, and the Snow danced about through the


One morning the Giant was lying awake in bed when he heard some lovely

music. It sounded so sweet to his ears that he thought it must be the

King's musicians passing by. It was really only a little linnet singing

outside his window, but it was so long since he had heard a bird sing in

his garden that it seemed to him to be the most beautiful music in the

world. Then the Hail stopped dancing over his head, and the North Wind

ceased roaring, and a delicious perfume came to him through the open

casement. "I believe the Spring has come at last," said the Giant; and

he jumped out of bed and looked out.

What did he see?

He saw a most wonderful sight. Through a little hole in the wall the

children had crept in and they were sitting in the branches of trees. In

every tree that he could see there was a little child. And the trees

were so glad to have the children back again that they had covered

themselves with blossoms, and were waving their arms gently above the

children's heads. The birds were flying about and twittering with

delight, and the flowers were looking up through the green grass and

laughing. It was a lovely scene, only in one corner it was still Winter.

It was the farthest corner of the garden, and in it was standing a

little boy. He was so small that he could not reach up to the branches

of the tree, and he was wandering all around it, crying bitterly. The

poor tree was still quite covered with frost and snow, and the North

Wind was blowing and roaring above it. "Climb up! little boy," said the

tree, and it bent its branches down as low as it could; but the boy was

too tiny.

And the Giant's heart melted as he looked out. "How selfish I have

been!" he said; "now I know why the Spring would not come here. I will

put that poor little boy on the top of the tree, and then I will knock

down the wall, and my garden shall be the children's playground for ever

and ever." He was really very sorry for what he had done.

So he crept downstairs and opened the front door quite softly, and went

out into the garden. But when the children saw him they all ran away.

Only the little boy did not run, for his eyes were so full of tears that

he did not see the Giant coming. And the Giant stole up behind him and

took him gently in his hand, and put him up into the tree. And the tree

broke at once into blossom, and the birds came and sang on it, and the

little boy stretched out his two arms and flung them round the Giant's

neck, and kissed him. And the other children, when they saw that the

Giant was not wicked any longer, came running back, and with them came

the Spring. "It is your garden now, little children," said the Giant,

and he took a great ax and knocked down the wall. And when the people

were going to market at 12 o'clock they found the Giant playing with the

children in the most beautiful garden they had ever seen.

All day long they played, and in the evening they came to the Giant to

bid him good-by.

"But where is your little companion?" he said, "the boy I put into the

tree." The Giant loved him the best because he had kissed him.

"We don't know," answered the children; "he has gone away."

"You must tell him to be sure and come here to-morrow," said the Giant.

But the children said that they did not know where he lived, and had

never seen him before; and the Giant felt very sad.

Every afternoon, when school was over, the children came and played with

the Giant. But the little boy whom the Giant loved was never seen again.

The Giant was very kind to all the children, yet he longed for his first

little friend, and often spoke of him. "How I would like to see him!" he

used to say.

Years went over, and the Giant grew very old and feeble. He could not

play about any more, so he sat in a huge, armchair, and watched the

children at their games, and admired his garden. "I have many beautiful

flowers," he said, "but the children are the most beautiful of all."

One winter morning he looked out of his window as he was dressing. He

did not hate the Winter now, for he knew that it was merely the Spring

asleep, and that the pretty flowers were resting.

Suddenly he rubbed his eyes in wonder, and looked and looked. It

certainly was a marvelous sight. In the farthest corner of the garden

was a tree quite covered with lovely white blossoms. Its branches were

all golden, and silver fruit hung down from them, and underneath it

stood the little boy he had loved.

Downstairs ran the Giant in great joy, and out into the garden. He

hastened across the grass, and came near to the child. And when he came

quite close his face grew red with anger, and he said: "Who hath dared

to wound thee?" For on the palms of the child's hands were the prints of

two nails, and the prints of two nails were on the little feet.

"Who hath dared to wound thee?" cried the Giant; "tell me, that I may

take my big sword and slay him."

"Nay!" answered the child; "but these are the wounds of Love."

"Who art thou?" said the Giant, and a strange awe fell on him, and he

knelt before the little child.

And the child smiled on the Giant, and said to him:

"You let me play once in your garden, to-day you shall come with me to

my garden, which is Paradise."

And when the children ran in that afternoon they found the Giant lying

dead under the tree, all covered with white blossoms.