Front cover of a book which includes "The Remarkable Rocket" and other stories, published by Miles Kelly Publishing Ltd. in 2013.

"The Remarkable Rocket" is a short comic fantasy story for children by the Irish author Oscar Wilde. It was first published in 1888 as part of the anthology The Happy Prince and Other Tales, which, in addition to its title story, also contains "The Nightingale and the Rose", "The Selfish Giant" and "The Devoted Friend".

The title character and protagonist of "The Remarkable Rocket" is a firework who has a highly inflated opinion of himself. He considers all of the other characters with whom he interacts, the other fireworks, a frog, a dragonfly and a duck, to be his inferiors and criticizes them for not paying sufficient attention to him. The Rocket considers himself to be an unappreciated genius and firmly believes that he is destined for greatness. However, he fails to fulfill his only function, that of entertaining people by rising up into the air and exploding in front of an audience.

"The Remarkable Rocket" contains a good deal of the kind of witty social commentary for which Oscar Wilde is famous but which is more usually associated with his works for adults, such as "Lord Arthur Savile's Crime", The Picture of Dorian Gray and The Importance of Being Earnest. For example, when the Rocket complainss to the frog that they have not had a conversation because the frog did all the talking, the frog replies, "I like to do all the talking myself. It saves time and prevents arguments." When the Rocket protests that he likes arguments, the frog comes back with, "Arguments are extremely vulgar, for everybody in good society holds exactly the same opinions."

A very faithful 24-minute animated adaptation of "The Remarkable Rocket", narrated by David Niven, was made by Potterton Productions of Canada and released in 1975.


Page 89 illustration of The Happy Prince and Other Tales (1888)

The prince courts the princess. 1888 illustration by the British artist George Percy Jacomb-Hood.

Bray Fireworks (6848286024)

A fireworks display in Bray, County Wicklow, Ireland on March 18, 2012.

As part of the celebrations for the wedding of a prince and a princess, a fireworks display is to be held. Some hours before the display is due to start, all of the fireworks are arranged in place. When they are left alone, the fireworks begin to talk to each other. It soon emerges that one of the fireworks, a tall rocket who is attached to a long stick, has a ridiculously highly inflated opinion of himself. Rather than seeing his launch as part of the festivities for the prince's wedding, the Rocket considers it a lucky coincidence for the prince that his wedding happens to be on the same day. The Rocket is certain that if something were to happen which would prevent him from launching, it would be a disaster from which the prince, the princess and the king would never recover. The Rocket accuses the other fireworks, whom he considers to be his inferiors, of being rude, of not paying sufficient attention to him and of being insensitive. The Rocket considers his sensitivity to be one of his finest qualities. To demonstrate how sensitive he is, he imagines a sad scenario in which the only son of the prince and princess drowns in a river. Ignoring the other fireworks' advice that he should keep himself dry, the Rocket cries openly over the situation he has imagined.

The fireworks display is a great success. However, the Rocket fails to take off. As a result of the many tears that he shed while imagining the death of the prince's only son, he has become so damp that his fuse will not light. The Rocket is not greatly concerned by this because he imagines that he is being kept for another grander occasion. The following day, the Rocket is noticed by a workman who is cleaning up after the festivities. Considering the Rocket which did not light to be a piece of garbage, the workman throws the firework over the palace wall where he lands in a muddy ditch. The Rocket continues to believe that he will return to the palace one day, considering the ditch to be a resort where he has been sent to recuperate.

Plate 3 of The Happy Prince and Other Tales (1888)

The boys fall asleep before the rocket launches. 1888 illustration by the British artist Walter Crane.

In the ditch, the Rocket meets a frog, a dragonfly and a duck. He does not get on very well with any of those animals. The frog holds a one-sided conversation with the Rocket, making the firework extremely irritated at not having a chance to speak. The dragonfly angers the Rocket by flying away before he has finished speaking. The duck and the Rocket have very different opinions. The duck cannot see the point of fireworks, since they do not fulfill useful functions like farm animals do. The Rocket looks down on all kinds of physical labor and those who engage in it. He believes that the fact that he does not carry out a useful task places him in a higher social order.

Two boys find the Rocket. Mistaking him for an unusual stick, they use him as part of a fire they are making to boil some water. Although he is very damp, the Rocket's fuse eventually lights. He is excited by the idea of being launched in daylight so that everybody can see him. He proudly declares that everybody will hear his loud explosion and talk of nothing else for a long time. However, although the Rocket's stick startles a goose as it falls to the ground, nobody sees him rise up into the air or hears him explode. The two boys are quite unaware of what happened to the Rocket, both of them having fallen asleep while waiting for their water to boil.

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