The Happy Prince

by

Oscar Wilde

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The Swallow Character Analysis

The other protagonist of “The Happy Prince,” the Swallow, is a bird en route to Egypt for the winter. His trip is initially delayed due to his temporary passion for a Reed, foreshadowing to the thematic importance of love in this story. Although he wants to join his companions in the sunny land of Egypt, he begins to love the Happy Prince and remains in the town to help him deliver jewels and gold to townspeople in need. Although not as selfless as the Happy Prince—he repeatedly emphasizes his desire to leave and enjoy all of the beautiful things abroad—the Swallow comes to love the Prince and understand the value of doing good. In the mentor/mentee relationship developed between the pair, the Swallow plays the role of a younger mentee who needs to be set on the right track—at the start, he expresses trepidation at delaying his own pleasure for others, speaking in the context of the typical Victorian ideals Wilde criticizes throughout the story. However, his love for the Prince helps him grow and proves that moral behavior can be learned. In the end, the Swallow makes the ultimate sacrifice out of love—because the Prince goes blind after giving away his sapphire eyes, the Swallow decides to stay by his side forever, even though he knows that remaining through the winter will mean certain death. This sacrifice ultimately lands him a place in Paradise for eternity, reinforcing the story’s moral that anyone can change and choose to do good instead of acting selfishly.

The Swallow Quotes in The Happy Prince

The The Happy Prince quotes below are all either spoken by The Swallow or refer to The Swallow. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Beauty and Morality Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Dover edition of The Happy Prince published in 2012.
The Happy Prince Quotes

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; "you have quite drenched me."

Related Characters: The Happy Prince (speaker), The Swallow (speaker)
Page Number: 33
Explanation and Analysis:

He passed over the river, and saw the lanterns hanging to the masts of the ships. He passed over the Ghetto, and saw the old Jews bargaining with each other, and weighing out money in copper scales. At last he came to the poor house and looked in. The boy was tossing feverishly on his bed, and the mother had fallen asleep, she was so tired. In he hopped, and laid the great ruby on the table beside the woman's thimble. Then he flew gently round the bed, fanning the boy's forehead with his wings. 'How cool I feel," said the boy, "l must be getting better"; and he sank into a delicious slumber.

Related Characters: The Swallow
Related Symbols: Children
Page Number: 35
Explanation and Analysis:

"l am waited for in Egypt," answered the Swallow. "Tomorrow my friends will fly up to the Second Cataract. The river-horse couches there among the bulrushes, and on a great granite throne sits the God Memnon. All night long he watches the stars, and when the morning star shines he utters one cry of joy, and then he is silent. At noon the yellow lions come down to the water's edge to drink. They have eyes like green beryls, and their roar is louder than the roar of the cataract."

Related Characters: The Swallow (speaker)
Related Symbols: Egypt
Page Number: 35-36
Explanation and Analysis:

"ln the square below," said the Happy Prince, "there stands a little matchgirl. She has let her matches fall in the gutter, and they are all spoiled. Her father will beat her if she does not bring home some money, and she is crying. She has no shoes or stockings, and her little head is bare. Pluck out my other eye, and give it to her, and her father will not beat her." "l will stay with you one night longer," said the Swallow, "but I cannot pluck out your eye. You would be quite blind then." "Swallow, Swallow, little Swallow," said the Prince, "do as I command you," So he plucked out the Prince's other eye, and darted down with it. He swooped past the match-girl, and slipped the jewel into the palm of her hand. "What a lovely bit of glass," cried the little girl; and she ran home, laughing. Then the Swallow came back to the Prince. "You are blind now," he said 'so I will stay with you always."

Related Characters: The Happy Prince (speaker), The Swallow (speaker), The Little Match-Girl
Related Symbols: Children
Page Number: 37
Explanation and Analysis:

"Dear little Swallow," said the Prince, “you tell me of marvellous things, but more marvellous than anything is the suffering of men and of women. There is no Mystery so great as Misery. Fly over my city, little Swallow, and tell me what you see there." So the Swallow flew over the great city, and saw the rich making merry in their beautiful houses, while the beggars were sitting at the gates. He flew into dark lanes, and saw the white faces of starving children looking out listlessly at the black streets. Under the archway of a bridge two little boys were lying in one another's arms to try and keep themselves warm. "How hungry we are!" they said. “You must not lie here," shouted the Watchman, and they wandered out into the rain.

Related Characters: The Happy Prince (speaker), The Swallow
Related Symbols: Children
Page Number: 38
Explanation and Analysis:

But at last he knew that he was going to die. He had just strength to fly up to the Prince's shoulder once more. “Good-bye, dear Prince!" he murmured, "will you let me kiss your hand?" "l am glad that you are going to Egypt at last, little Swallow," said the Prince, “You have stayed too long here; but

you must kiss me on the lips, for I love you."

Related Characters: The Happy Prince (speaker), The Swallow (speaker)
Related Symbols: Egypt
Page Number: 39
Explanation and Analysis:

"What a strange thing!" said the overseer of the workmen at the foundry. "This broken lead heart will not melt in the furnace. We must throw it away." So they threw it on a dust-heap where the dead Swallow was also lying. "Bring me the two most precious things in the city," said God to one of His Angels; and the Angel brought Him the leaden heart and the dead bird. "You have rightly chosen," said God, "for in my garden of Paradise this little bird shall sing for evermore, and in my city of gold the Happy Prince shall praise me."

Related Characters: God (speaker), The Happy Prince, The Swallow
Related Symbols: The Lead Heart
Page Number: 40
Explanation and Analysis:
Get the entire The Happy Prince LitChart as a printable PDF.
The Happy Prince PDF

The Swallow Character Timeline in The Happy Prince

The timeline below shows where the character The Swallow appears in The Happy Prince. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
The Happy Prince
Beauty and Morality Theme Icon
Love and Compassion Theme Icon
A Swallow flies over the city on his way to Egypt. He had been delayed after falling... (full context)
Beauty and Morality Theme Icon
Love and Compassion Theme Icon
Poverty, Inequality, and Greed Theme Icon
Religion Theme Icon
Surprised at what he takes to be rainfall on a clear night, the Swallow realizes that the Happy Prince has been crying. They introduce themselves, and the Happy Prince... (full context)
Beauty and Morality Theme Icon
Love and Compassion Theme Icon
Poverty, Inequality, and Greed Theme Icon
Religion Theme Icon
On the way to deliver the ruby, the Swallow sees “old Jews bargaining with each other.” He delivers the ruby and stays in order... (full context)
Beauty and Morality Theme Icon
Love and Compassion Theme Icon
Poverty, Inequality, and Greed Theme Icon
Religion Theme Icon
The Swallow returns once more to bid farewell to the Happy Prince, who pleads with him to... (full context)
Beauty and Morality Theme Icon
Love and Compassion Theme Icon
Poverty, Inequality, and Greed Theme Icon
Religion Theme Icon
The Swallow sits on the Prince’s shoulder and recounts tales of Egypt and faraway lands. He tells... (full context)
Beauty and Morality Theme Icon
Love and Compassion Theme Icon
Poverty, Inequality, and Greed Theme Icon
Religion Theme Icon
The Swallow flies over the city and reports of the rich making merry while beggars starve at... (full context)
Beauty and Morality Theme Icon
Love and Compassion Theme Icon
Winter finally arrives, and the Swallow grows far too cold. Knowing that only limited time remains to him, he asks to... (full context)
Beauty and Morality Theme Icon
Love and Compassion Theme Icon
Poverty, Inequality, and Greed Theme Icon
Religion Theme Icon
The next morning, the Mayor spots the grey statue with the dead Swallow at its feet and complains of its shabbiness. The Town Councillors agree, calling the statue... (full context)
Beauty and Morality Theme Icon
Love and Compassion Theme Icon
Poverty, Inequality, and Greed Theme Icon
Religion Theme Icon
...up, he tosses the heart aside on a dust-heap along with the body of the Swallow. Soon after, God asks one of his Angels to bring the “two most precious things... (full context)