There are parallels between the story told by Momiji in Fruits Basket, The Most Foolish Traveler in The World, and Oscar Wilde’s short story, The Happy Prince.
The Most Foolish Traveler in The World: About a traveler who is tricked by a goblin and gives up his legs, his arm, more and more, and finally his eyes. The only thing left is the traveler’s head. The goblin gives the traveler a “present,” a piece of paper with the word “FOOL” on it. Because the traveler cannot see, he is so happy to receive a present for the first time.
The Happy Prince: About a statue of the late Happy Prince who learns that there are many poor people suffering. He asks a swallow to give the townspeople the ruby from his tilt, the sapphire from his eyes, and the gold leaf from his body. The swallow, who delayed his flight in order to deliver these gems, dies from the cold weather. The townspeople then think that the statue is shabby and melt it. The swallow is dead and the Happy Prince is heartbroken, but they are taken to heaven for their good deeds in the end.
It’s interesting how one story has the word “foolish” in the title while the other has the word “happy.” You could argue that both stories have a happy ending. The traveler is happy to receive a present for the first time, and the swallow and Happy Prince go to paradise.
So, was the traveler foolish? Was the Happy Prince foolish? Was the swallow foolish?
My thoughts: I think that the traveler was foolish. How long will his happiness last? What will happen after the story ends? He cannot walk, cannot see, and does not have other people to help him. The goblin won’t help him, that’s for sure. It’s good to receive presents from people, but at what cost? If one action of “kindness” from the goblin costed you everything, that kindness was conditional. It’s fake.
I think the Happy Prince statue was foolish. Even though the story has a happy ending, he begged the swallow to deliver the gems even though winter was approaching. He is responsible for the swallow’s death. The Happy Prince “died” with a broken heart. The same townspeople that he helped are the ones who melted him in the furnace. They were going to replace him with a statue of the mayor. Sure, the townspeople were unaware of the Happy Prince’s good deeds but does that really matter? If you’re only going to keep the “shabby” statue because he helped you first, I question what’s going on.
Although… I like these stories. While I think that the traveler and the Happy Prince were foolish, they are rare to come by. I would like to meet someone like the traveler some day.
What do you think?