Core Knowledge UK
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Year 5 Language and Literature

language and literature owl

This is a story adapted from the Language and Literature section of the What Your Year 5 Child Needs to Know resource book.
To learn more about using Core Knowledge UK resource books, please visit the dedicated pages for teachers, parents, grandparents and home educators.

The Happy Prince

happy prince

Adapted from a story by Oscar Wilde that was published in 1888.

High above the city, on a tall column, stood the statue of the Happy Prince. He was covered all over with thin leaves of fine gold, for eyes he had two bright sapphires and a large red ruby glowed on his sword-hilt.

One night there flew over the city a little Swallow, on his way to Egypt. ‘Where shall I rest?’ he said. Then he saw the statue on the tall column. ‘I will rest there,’ he cried; ‘it is a fine position with plenty of fresh air.’ So he alighted just between the feet of the Happy Prince.

‘I have a golden bedroom,’ he said softly to himself as he looked round, and he prepared to go to sleep; but just as he was putting his head under his wing a large drop of water fell on him. ‘What a curious thing!’ he cried, ‘there is not a single cloud in the sky, and yet it is raining.’

Then another drop fell.

‘What is the use of a statue if it cannot keep the rain off?’ he said; ‘I must look for a good chimney-pot,’ and he determined to fly away.

But before he had opened his wings, a third drop fell, and he looked up, and saw - Ah! What did he see?

The eyes of the Happy Prince were filled with tears, and tears were running down his golden cheeks. His face was so beautiful in the moonlight that the little Swallow was filled with pity.

‘Who are you?’ he said.

‘I am the Happy Prince.’

‘Why are you weeping then?’ asked the Swallow.

‘When I was alive and had a human heart,’ answered the statue, ‘I lived in the palace of Sans-Souci, where sorrow is not allowed to enter. In the daytime I played with my friends in the garden, and in the evening I led the dance in the Great Hall. Round the garden ran a very high wall, but I never cared to ask what lay beyond it, everything about me was so beautiful. My courtiers called me the Happy Prince, and happy indeed I was, if pleasure be happiness. But now that I am dead they have set me up here so high that I can see all the misery of my city, and though my heart is made of lead, I cannot choose but weep.’

‘Far away,’ continued the statue in a low musical voice, ‘far away in a little street there is a poor house. One of the windows is open, and through it I can see a woman seated at a table. Her face is thin, and she has red hands, all pricked by the needle, for she is a seamstress. She is embroidering flowers on a satin gown for the loveliest of the Queen’s maids-of-honour to wear at the next Court-ball. In a bed in the corner of the room her little boy is lying ill. He has a fever, and is asking for oranges. His mother has nothing to give him but river water, so he is crying. Swallow, Swallow, little Swallow, will you not bring her the ruby out of my sword-hilt? My feet are fastened to this pedestal and I cannot move.’

Find out if the Happy Prince can help the little boy and read the rest of this story on pages 42-47 of What Your Year 5 Child Needs to Know. Click below to see additional stories from other volumes.

language and literature owl
language and literature owl
language and literature owl