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The Gift of the Magi Book Review

Updated on November 29, 2015

The Gift of the Magi Book Review

"The Gift of the Magi" by the great American author, O. Henry, is a treasured Christmas short story that is timeless and beloved all over the world. Written in 1906, this bittersweet story is about a poor young married couple sacrificing the only valuable things they own in order to buy each other a perfect Christmas present. Selfless love and generosity is the theme of this classic story with the O. Henry signature surprise ending or twist.

Even if it is over a hundred years old, "The Gift of the Magi" has been revisited, retold, adapted into short films, repackaged into operas, musicals and parodies. "The Gift of the Magi" embodies selfless love, generosity and sacrifice, which makes this short story an ever popular Christmas tale in this season of gift-giving.

Who were the Magi?

The Magi -- usually known as the "Three Wise Men" or "Three Kings" were led by a star to the infant Jesus in Bethlehem, each bearing gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Melchior, a middle-aged Persian offers myrrh, a fragrant gum, which the ancient Israelites believed to strengthen children. Balthasar of Saba, an elderly, Ethiopian offered frankincense. Frankincense is a resin used in incense for worship and also symbolizes prayer and sacrifice. Caspar of Tarsus offered gold, which would be used by the Holy Family's eventual flight to Egypt.

A synopsis of The Gift of the Magi - As sentimental as Christmas

The story takes place in the early 1900s in a cramped New York flat. It begins with Della Dillingham Young, counting her coins, all $1.87 that she had scrimped and saved to buy something special for her beloved Jim. Times were hard as Jim just got a pay cut and the couple could barely make the $8 a week rent. Tomorrow will be Christmas Day and Della is at her wit's end trying to figure out how to come up with more money. After staring at herself in the mirror, Della looked at her long cascading brown hair that came down to her knees that Jim simply adored. She rushed out of the door and headed to Madame Sofronie's hair goods shop and offered to sell her hair. She received twenty dollars for her beautiful tresses from Madame Sofronie. WIth the money she was able to buy Jim the perfect Christmas gift - a beautiful platinum chain worthy of Jim's gold pocketwatch, an heirloom handed down from Jim's father and his father's father.

Jim comes home from work and was taken aback with Della's cropped hair. She had curled her short hair with a hot iron so she would look more feminine. Jim stares fixedly at Della's head of short curly locks for a while. He then hands Della her present-- a set of bejeweled tortoiseshell combs Della had always dreamed about. Della breaks into tears of joy and then disappointment. Her long brown hair is gone. Della then excitedly hands Jim his present, a platinum chain for his gold pocketwatch. Jim smiles and tells Della that he had sold the watch so he could buy her the lovely combs.. Now both of them had presents that they could not use. The story ends with Jim putting his arms around Della and suggesting they both put their presents away and sit down for a nice chops dinner.

The narrator brings the story to a close by comparing JIm and Della to the Magi. They were the wisest of everyone who gives gifts. They had given up the most valuable things they both owned to make each other happy.

"The Gift of the Magi" Study Guide

Read the Complete Short Story by O. Henry

O. Henry's "The Gift of the Magi" turned into a short film - Ten minutes of your time you will not regret

This short film plays out O.Henry's famous Christmas tale. Sit back, watch and listen to the narration of the actual short story and become involved with the emotions of Della and Jim, who could easily be characters living in any day and age.

Take this quick poll

Have you ever read O. Henry's The Gift of the Magi?

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Celebrate Christmas with Kermit and Miss Piggy - A fun Christmas activity

Kermit and Miss Piggy will delight kids with O. Henry's beloved Christmas story about the joy of giving. This creative and innovative Story Book Set (The Nutcracker, The Story of Christmas, A Christmas Carol, The Gift of the Magi) and Advent Calendar format will keep your kids looking forward to each day beginning December 1st until Christmas eve.

The Muppets The Gift of the Magi Story Book Set & Advent Calendar (Story Book Set & Advent Calendar Series)
The Muppets The Gift of the Magi Story Book Set & Advent Calendar (Story Book Set & Advent Calendar Series)

Just like a traditional Advent calendar, the miniature colorful board books are numbered 1 through 24 and are meant to be opened and read, one per day, from December 1st through Christmas eve. What a fascinating way to entertain the kids everyday until Christmas Day arrives.

The books have four different trim sizes and come with gold thread loops which are meant to be Christmas ornaments. What an innovative way to motivate children to learn and celebrate the joy of Christmas.


"The Gift of the Magi" in a modern day setting

Good and Perfect Gifts: An Illustrated Retelling of O. Henry's the Gift of the Magi
Good and Perfect Gifts: An Illustrated Retelling of O. Henry's the Gift of the Magi

This is a modern day version of O. Henry's The Gift of the Magi with the setting in the rural South. Rebecca is a Sunday school teacher and hairdresser and her husband, Fenton an auto mechanic and part-time carpenter. Times are hard and both are faced with selling their prized possessions to buy each other the perfect Christmas gift. Rebecca sells her mother's prized quilt to buy her husband a tool chest and he sells his tools to buy her a quilt chest. Imagine the surprise each of them experiences upon receiving their gifts which both of them cannot use. But love, understanding and the joy of giving made both of them richer in spirit.


"The Gift of the Magi" as told in Sesame Street - O. Henry's Christmas tale repackaged and retold for big and little kids.

Find out what Bert and Ernie gave up in order to give each other a special Christmas present. "The Gift of the Magi" has been made more appealing to children with the quirky humor of these Sesame Street characters. But the common theme of the joy of giving and O.Henry's surprising ending still rings true.

The Gift of the Magi interpreted worldwide

Here are various interpretations of the beloved Christmas story of selfless love and generosity around the world.

Can't get enough of O.Henry

John Steinbeck introduces a quintet of five of O. Henry's most celebrated stories from his New York Period (1902-1910) in this anthology film.The film was produced by André Hakim and directed by five separate directors from five separate screenplays. The music score was composed by Alfred Newman. The film is narrated by author John Steinbeck, who made a rare on-camera appearance to introduce each story.

The Gift Bearers collectibles from eBay - Get yours now

There is no better time than now to find the gift that speaks for itself - the gift of selfless love and generosity for Christmas captured in these collectibles.

Perfect Christmas DVDs from Amazon

The book is captivating and unforgettable. Add a visual experience to O. Henry's classic Christmas story with these DVDs.

Leave me a gift of a comment - Thanks for visiting

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    • aesta1 profile image

      Mary Norton 

      5 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      Love the story that when I saw this title I was in.

    • MisterJeremy profile image


      6 years ago from Tokyo, Japan

      Nice page about a wonderful story. I didn't know it had been adapted so many times and so many ways.

      (Pssst. You might want to give an option in your poll for those of us who've read the book.)


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