Flower Fables by Louisa May Alcott

FloweralcottWho doesn’t know Little Women by Louisa May Alcott? You may have watched a televised version instead of reading it, but you have probably heard of it at some point.

Little Women is the first part of a trilogy. Alcott published a second part called Good Wives, but this was later combined with part one to become Little Women. Then comes Little Men and Jo’s Boys. The trilogy is loosely based on Alcott’s life with her three sisters.

Personally I enjoyed the second and third parts a lot more, perhaps because they have a Mallory Towers flavour to them.

Alcott also wrote under the nom de plume A.M.Barnard. Her first book was Flower Fables (published in 1849). She actually wrote it for Ellen Emerson, the daughter of Ralph Waldo Emerson.

To amplify and enhance the beautiful collection I have chosen some gorgeous public domain images provided by our incredibly busy team members, who spend many hours restoring public domain footage, images and written works, and uploading them to the Internet Archive, so you and I can enjoy them.

“As I was painting the bright petals of a blue bell, it told me this tale.”

The dedication reads: To Ellen Emerson, For whome they were Fancied, These Flower Fables, Are inscribed, By her friends, The author. Boston, Dec. 9, 1854.  It is a beautiful selection of tales of fairies, elves, spirits and sprites, and magical beings. The following tales are included in the Flower Fables.

The Frost-King 

Three little Fairies sat in the fields eating their breakfast; each among the leaves of her favorite flower, Daisy, Primrose, and Violet, were happy as Elves need be. On a silvery mushroom was spread the breakfast; little cakes of flower-dust lay on a broad green leaf, beside a crimson strawberry, which, with sugar from the violet, and cream from the yellow milkweed, made a fairy meal, and their drink was the dew from the flowers’ bright leaves…

Eva’s visit to Fairy-land

On came the fairy boat, till it reached a moss-grown rock; and here it stopped, while the Fairies rested beneath the violet-leaves, and sang with the dancing waves. The Queen and her subjects came to meet her, and all seemed glad to say some kindly word of welcome to the little stranger. They placed a flower-crown upon her head, laid their soft faces against her own…

The Flower’s Lesson

There grew a fragrant rose-tree where the brook flows,With two little tender buds, and one full rose; When the sun went down to his bed in the west,The little buds leaned on the rose-mother’s breast, While the bright eyed stars their long watch kept, And the flowers of the valley in their green cradles slept, Then silently in odors they communed with each other, The two little buds on the bosom of their mother.”O sister,” said the little one, as she gazed at the sky,”I wish that the Dew Elves, as they wander lightly by, Would bring me a star; for they never grow dim, And the Father does not need them to burn round him.


Lily-Bell and Thistledown

Once upon a time, two little Fairies went out into the world, to seek their fortune. Thistledown was as gay and gallant a little Elf as ever spread a wing. His purple mantle, and doublet of green, were embroidered with the brightest threads, and the plume in his cap came always from the wing of the gayest butterfly. But he was not loved in Fairy-Land, for, like the flower whose name and colors he wore, though fair to look upon, many were the little thorns of cruelty and selfishness that lay concealed by his gay mantle. Many a gentle flower and harmless bird died by his hand, for he cared for himself alone, and whatever gave him pleasure must be his, though happy hearts were rendered sad, and peaceful homes destroyed.

Little Bud

In a great forest, high up among the green boughs, lived Bird Brown-Breast, and his bright-eyed little mate. They were now very happy; their home was done, the four blue eggs lay in the soft nest, and the little wife sat still and patient on them, while the husband sang, and told her charming tales, and brought her sweet berries and little worms.

Things went smoothly on, till one day she found in the nest a little white egg, with a golden band about it.

“My friend,” cried she, “come and see! Where can this fine egg have come from? My four are here, and this also; what think you of it?”

The husband shook his head gravely, and said, “Be not alarmed, my love; it is doubtless some good Fairy who has given us this, and we shall find some gift within; do not let us touch it, but do you sit carefully upon it, and we shall see in time what has been sent us.”

Clover-Blossom

In a quiet, pleasant meadow,
Beneath a summer sky,
Where green old trees their branches waved,
And winds went singing by;
Where a little brook went rippling
So musically low,
And passing clouds cast shadows
On the waving grass below;
Where low, sweet notes of brooding birds
Stole out on the fragrant air,
And golden sunlight shone undimmed
On all most fresh and fair;—
There bloomed a lovely sisterhood
Of happy little flowers,
Together in this pleasant home,
Through quiet summer hours.

Little Annie’s Dream

“Little Annie, tell me why you weep,” said a low voice in her ear; and, looking up, the child beheld a little figure standing on a vine-leaf at her side; a lovely face smiled on her, from amid bright locks of hair, and shining wings were folded on a white and glittering robe, that fluttered in the wind.

“Who are you, lovely little thing?” cried Annie, smiling through her tears.

“I am a Fairy, little child, and am come to help and comfort you; now tell me why you weep, and let me be your friend,” replied the spirit, as she smiled more kindly still on Annie’s wondering face.

“And are you really, then, a little Elf, such as I read of in my fairy books? Do you ride on butterflies, sleep in flower-cups, and live among the clouds?”

The Water Spirit

Down in the deep blue sea lived Ripple, a happy little Water-Spirit; all day long she danced beneath the coral arches, made garlands of bright ocean flowers, or floated on the great waves that sparkled in the sunlight; but the pastime that she loved best was lying in the many-colored shells upon the shore, listening to the low, murmuring music the waves had taught them long ago; and here for hours the little Spirit lay watching the sea and sky, while singing gayly to herself.

But when tempests rose, she hastened down below the stormy billows, to where all was calm and still, and with her sister Spirits waited till it should be fair again, listening sadly, meanwhile, to the cries of those whom the wild waves wrecked and cast into the angry sea, and who soon came floating down, pale and cold, to the Spirits’ pleasant home; then they wept pitying tears above the lifeless forms, and laid them in quiet graves, where flowers bloomed, and jewels sparkled in the sand.

This was Ripple’s only grief, and she often thought of those who sorrowed for the friends they loved, who now slept far down in the dim and silent coral caves, and gladly would she have saved the lives of those who lay around her; but the great ocean was far mightier than all the tender-hearted Spirits dwelling in its bosom.

The Fairy Song

The moonlight fades from flower and tree,
And the stars dim one by one;
The tale is told, the song is sung,
And the Fairy feast is done.
The night-wind rocks the sleeping flowers,
And sings to them, soft and low.
The early birds erelong will wake:
‘T is time for the Elves to go.

O’er the sleeping earth we silently pass,
Unseen by mortal eye,
And send sweet dreams, as we lightly float
Through the quiet moonlit sky;—
For the stars’ soft eyes alone may see,
And the flowers alone may know,
The feasts we hold, the tales we tell:
So ‘t is time for the Elves to go

It truly is the sweetest of books, all pixie dust, unicorn swirls, fairy giggles and elvish glee. Interesting to note how Alcott moved on from the safety of sugary sweet to the hard-hitting truths of love, loss and despair in Little Women.

For more fairies, elves, sprites and tales take a look at: Japanese Fairy Tales, Andrew Lang’s Fairy Books, The Violet Fairy Book, Gaelic Fairy Tales, Edmund Dulac’s Fairy Book, Olcott’s Grimm’s Fairy Tales, Olcott’s Book of Elves and Fairies or James Stephens and Tales of the Irish Fae.

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