The Easter Egg by Saki

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I was looking around for some “Easter-type” short stories to read for this weekend and found one on line, H.H. Munro’s (a.k.a. Saki) “The Easter Egg” that I thought would fit the bill. I was actually looking more for stories in the “spirit” of Easter than this one turned out to be, but I’m glad I read it nonetheless…

Madame Barbara is ashamed of her son, Lester, who has proven time and time again that, unlike the “good fighting stock” of the family which he was born into, he has all the worst qualities of a coward. Saki describes Lester and his shortcomings wonderfully:

“As a child he had suffered from childish timidity, as a boy from unboyish funk, and as a youth he had exchanged unreasoning fears for others which were more formidable from the fact of having a carefully-thought-out basis. He was frankly afraid of animals, nervous with firearms, and never crossed the Channel without mentally comparing the numerical proportion of life belts to passengers. On horseback he seemed to require as many hands as a Hindu god, at least four for clutching the reins, and two more for patting the horse soothingly on the neck.”

If the hapless Lester were not offered some chance to redeem himself for his life of craven timidity, this wouldn’t be a short story worthy of Saki, though, would it? The opportunity presents itself when he and his mother travel to Knobaltheim “…one of those small princedoms that make inconspicuous freckles on the map of Central Europe.” It seems the Prince, a steadfast representative of the old guard of Europe and opposed to “progress” is coming to town for some grand affair. Among the gifts for this dignitary is the Easter Egg in the title of the story. But something seems not quite right about this and Lester is the first to notice…

I’ll leave the details for those industrious enough to read the story. I was particularly fond of the last lines of this story, which are quite good and almost goose-bump inducing. A very short story and worth a read.

The story may be read at http://www.eastoftheweb.com/short-stories/UBooks/EasEgg.shtml

Or listen via YouTube at http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=wc6EUa7Mra4

I own a copy of Saki’s collected stories, pictured above, but rather than dig it out, I read this one on line at the link provided above.

(below: Illustration from Oscar Wilde’s “The Selfish Giant”)

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Two other short stories I like to read around Easter are Oscar Wilde’s “The Selfish Giant”  and Leo Tolstoy’s “The Three Hermits” (which I also once blogged about here). Both are quite good and are appropriate for the season, I think.

Have you read any of these stories? What do you think of Saki’s works? Do you do any special reading around this holiday?

(Below: gratuitous picture of my Mom’s Easter Egg tree.  Did anyone else grow up with an easter egg tree in the house each year?)

 

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Oscar Wilde and The Picture of Dorian Gray


The way in which I’ve first become aware of literary works has been quite varied.  This one I discovered quite by accident.  I was probably around 28 years old and was looking forward to watching A Tale of Two Cities on the TNT network (the great, classic 1935 version with Ronald Coleman of course).  It didn’t come on until late at night so when I began watching, I switched on the VCR (yes, this was in a world before TiVo) so that “if I fell asleep” I would be able to watch the rest of the movie the next day.  Well, of course I fell asleep off and on all night long, but the serendipitous side of this story is that the movie that came on after A Tale of Two Cities was none other than the 1945 version of  “The Picture of Dorian Gray” starring Hurd Hatfield in the title role.  I woke the next morning with a vague memory of being intrigued by “some other movie” with a haunting musical score and snappy dialogue.  I ended up watching the whole thing the next morning and then several other times in the next few years.  It became one of my “all-time” favorite movies in fact.

For those who don’t know, the novel is the story of a young, “beautiful” man in London who poses for a painting by the artist, Basil Hallward.  During the portrait’s creation, Dorian’s friend, Lord Henry Wotton, mentions that the portrait “will remain forever young” while Dorian himself ages.  Dorian later says “How sad it is! I shall grow old, and horrible, and dreadful. But this picture will remain always young. It will never be older than this particular day of June… If it were only the other way! If it were I who was to be always young, and the picture that was to grow old! For that-for that-I would give everything! Yes, there is nothing in the whole world I would not give! I would give my soul for that!”
The Picture of Dorian Gray, Chapter 2

Dorian Gray’s picture before the “corruption” sets in…

and after…

And of course, his wish is “granted”…

The 1945 movie takes some liberties with the plot, but also leaves several of the better quotations intact.  There are also some scenes of the movie that are shot in technicolor – as in the shocking ‘reveal’ of what the picture has become while Dorian remains young.  Rent or buy this movie.  Now.  🙂

P.S.  Yes, that’s a young Angela Lansbury in the movie poster, in the role of Sybil Vane (one part of the novel that the movie drastically changes)