Review: Fairy Tales of Oscar Wilde, adapted & illustrated by P. Craig Russell

Oscar Wilde told André Gide that he had put his genius into his life, and only his talent into his writing.  It’s a typical Oscar Wilde thing to say, especially since he’d all but stopped writing at that point, and if you’ve read about Oscar Wilde, you’ll know it’s best to take anything he says with a grain of salt.  Because, you know, hello to the self-dramatizing!  But I have to say, in reference to this remark: although I read about Oscar Wilde all the time, I almost never read anything he’s written.  Sometimes I’ll get in a mood and just tear through my big pink Complete Works, but by and large, if I’m in an Oscar Wilde mental place, I’m rereading Gary Schmidgall or H. Montgomery Hyde or whatever.  So yeah, Oscar Wilde may have had a point.

That said, I love P. Craig Russell, and when I saw that the Graphic Novel Challenge has a mini-challenge for January to read graphic novel adaptations of classic works, I thought, hey, perfect opportunity to check out Russell’s adaptations of Oscar Wilde’s fairy tales.  My library had the volume with “The Devoted Friend” – where a woodland creature tells other woodland creatures about a miller who was such a terrible friend to a poor little gardener boy that the gardener boy eventually died – and “The Nightingale and the Rose”, where a nightingale kills herself to get a red rose for this guy who wants to give it to his true love, and then she scorns him utterly and he gives up love forever.

I felt so fond of both Russell and Wilde when I was reading this.  Russell draws really lush, gorgeous comics – must take him ages! – and Oscar Wilde, bless him, was exactly like Oscar Wilde was.  Which is to say, revoltingly overdramatic, and in the next breath poking fun at the thing he was just emoting over.  So he waxes maudlin over the nightingale giving her life to make the rose, and two pages later the student who wanted the rose in the first place gets rejected by the object of his affections and says:

What a silly thing Love is.  It is not half as useful as Logic, for it does not prove anything, and it is always telling one of things that are not going to happen, and making one believe things that are not true. In fact, it is quite unpractical, and, as in this age to be practical is everything, I shall go back to Philosophy and study Metaphysics.

And then the student goes off and reads a book.  It’s so Oscar Wilde.

Can I make a confession?  It’s been weighing heavy on my soul.  When I was in high school, my good friend’s dog had puppies, and as I had just then started to be interested in Oscar Wilde, and was spending all my time telling her the new facts I had learnt about him, she named one of the puppies Oscar Wilde.  He was very goofy and bouncy, and she used to call him “Mr. Wibbles” as a nickname.  She’d say, “Oscar Wilde!  Hey Oscar Wilde!  You’re my Mr. Wibbles!”  So now – um.  Well, sometimes now – please don’t judge me – when I am feeling exceptionally fond of the real Oscar Wilde, or when I see a picture of him unexpectedly, and all my love for him rushes to the surface, it unbalances me and I think of him as Mr. Wibbles.

This is the very real danger of a time machine, y’all.  Suppose someone invents a time machine, and I use it to go back in time and meet Oscar Wilde, odds are I’d see him and become seriously overset and call him Mr. Wibbles by accident.  And then Oscar Wilde would be like, I hate you.  And then, who knows what would happen?  I’d be really sad!  In my pain and misery, I might go way back in time and stomp on a butterfly, out of spite.

30 thoughts on “Review: Fairy Tales of Oscar Wilde, adapted & illustrated by P. Craig Russell

  1. I sometimes imagine having a dinner party and inviting Rudyard Kipling and George Orwell. I would make them promise to discuss only the novels of Charles Reade and the Katy books (What Katy Did, What Katy Did At School, etc.), because if they started talking about politics they would not get along at all. But then I remember that I would turn into a babbling idiot if I met either one of them, so meeting both of them at the same time would be a very bad idea.

    • *giggles* You know what you should do? You should invite along a neutral third party to act as a buffer – some society lady with good manners – and she could keep ’em in line for you, and keep the conversation going while you were getting over being star-struck. 😛

  2. I didn’t know this existed either! Want, want, want!

    I have this really vivid memory of watching an animated adaptation of “The Nightingale and the Rose” when I was little. It took me years to find out that was even an Oscar Wilde fairy tale, but anyway, I remember the final scene SO well. And also how much it upset me, but despite that, the memory is not a bad one.

    • I can see what you mean, though I think Wilde is really far more brilliant and amazing than his reputation has him (but I’m prejudiced because I am addicted to Oscar Wilde stories). And certainly he deserves every accolade The Importance of Being Earnest has ever received. 🙂

  3. Sad admission here: I’ve never read Wilde…well, with the exception of a few of his fairy tales in various anthologies. I started Dorian Grey once, and I liked it, but I was listening on audio and the beautiful British accent of the narrator put me straight to sleep every single time. Ugg!

    This one sounds great! I’m a fairy tale ho and I love graphic novels.

    • Not even The Importance of Being Earnest? It’s by far his best thing – see it performed if you can, of course, but it’s a lot of fun to read too! His fairy tales are quite sad, sadder than I like my fairy tales mostly, but some of them are lovely.

    • I only learned about it recently, when I was looking up P. Craig Russell. I’ve loved his work in Neil Gaiman’s Sandman for years, and was trying to find more of his beautiful artwork. So glad I did!

  4. I know I’ve read that Nightingale story, but I don’t know if I’ve read all of Wilde’s fairy tales. I think I’d like to read a graphic novel of those stories!

    • P. Craig Russell is a lush illustrator – even when I am not crazy about the stories he’s illustrating (not the case here!), I’d read them just for the beauty of the illustrations. I know he’s done several volumes of Wilde’s fairy tales; hope you can get ahold of them!

  5. Mr. Wibbles… bahahaha. Amazing! I wasn’t too fond of The Picture of Dorian Gray when I read it, but you’ve made me want to give him another shot. Any suggestions?

    • Honestly, his life is more interesting than anything he’s ever written, apart from probably The Importance of Being Earnest, which is wonderful. Merlin Holland edited a transcript of his first trial, when he sued his lover’s father for calling him a sodomite, and that book (Irish Peacock and Scarlet Marquess: The Real Trial of Oscar Wilde) is one of my favorite books about Wilde; Gary Schmidgall’s The Stranger Wilde: Interpreting Oscar is another. If, you know, you fancy learning lots of good things about Oscar Wilde. Who I love.

  6. I love Oscar Wilde’s writings, and this book seems like a unique take on his fairy tales. Actually, I’d read his fairy tales as a kid, and a couple of his plays as a student, but I never related this Oscar Wilde to that one for a long time. It was only when I went back to read the fairy tales that I discovered the common things in both.

    • I haven’t read his fairy tales in years, since I first started learning all about him (about six years ago). I’ve read a lot more about him in the intervening years, and I think I like the fairy tales much better now. They’re so – HIM. They make me feel fond of him. 🙂

  7. I had no idea that he’d rewritten fairy tales. I will have to look them up – I’ve got Angela Carter’s rewrites of Perrault waiting for me, and I am most intrigued to see what Wilde does with the genre. Thank you!

    • Oh, they’re not rewrites – sorry! They’re not rewrites of existing fairy tales, they’re ones he made up. There’s lots of weeping for beauty and, you know, unrequited love. 🙂

    • Me too! I hope you’re able to get these – my bookshop hasn’t got the other volumes, which of course are the ones that contain my favorite of Wilde’s stories!

  8. I didn’t know Wilde wrote fairy tales. I must look it up. I’m about to read The Picture of Dorian Gray and I picked up the graphic novel adaptation too! I hope I like them both.

    • I love him too! He was so lovely! And P. Craig Russell, the illustrator, there are hardly enough good things in the world to say about him. Gorgeous gorgeous illustrations. Hope you can find a copy!

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