“Flower Fables” – Louisa May Alcott’s Little-known Children’s Book of Fairy Tales

I think it’s safe to assume most American readers have heard of Louisa May Alcott. Her novel, Little Women, wooed audiences of all ages at the time of its publication and has since become immortalized in history as one of America’s most beloved books. It’s no surprise that many a reader recognizes Alcott as author of the esteemed bildungsroman that bears her name – not as author of a book of fairy tales (which happens to be her first published work).

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I discovered Flower Fables on accident several summers ago, scouring my parents’ book shelf in search of something to read for the week. The title, lettered in gold and etched into the book’s navy blue spine, caught my eye. Intrigued, I retrieved the book from the shelf. I opened to the first page and was surprised to see Alcott’s name printed beneath the title, since I – like most people familiar with her name – only knew of her Little Women series.

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Turning the page, I was greeted by the following poem – a fitting introduction to the tales that follow:

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“Pondering shadows, colors, clouds
Grass-buds, and caterpillar shrouds
Boughs on which the wild bees settle,
Tints that spot the violet’s petal.”

On the following page, the Table of Contents lists nine titles that hint at each fairy tale’s quaint, fanciful quality and childlike whimsy, like “The Frost King: or, The Power of Love,” and “Eva’s Visit to Fairy-Land.”

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The tales take place within a fictitious and elaborately imagined magical fairy kingdom. The land is inhabited by a wide variety of mythical creatures, from fairies to elves to wintery spirits.

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The stories often revolve around the fairies who, due to their altruistic nature and charitable spirit, are tasked to restore morality and order to neighboring lands corrupted by leaders whose hearts have been tainted by power. Ultimately, no matter the obstacle, the creatures who stand steadfast to what is good and right and noble unfailingly reign victorious over evil.

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In addition to well-written plot lines with a classic, morally-upright happy ending, Alcott’s vivid, intricate descriptions of the fairy kingdom and its lovable, wholesome creatures make Flower Fables a worthwhile read. I recommend Flower Fables not only to long-time fans of Alcott’s, but to anyone who enjoys a lovingly written fairy tale about valiant mythical creatures, the glory and splendor of nature untouched by man, and the defiant triumph of good over evil, or for those who are tempted to wonder if perhaps an idyllic, magical realm does exist somewhere beyond the reach of human exploration.

“The morning sun looked softly down upon the broad green earth, which like a mighty altar was sending up clouds of perfume from its breast, while flowers danced gayly in the summer wind, and birds sang their morning hymn among the cool green leaves.”

– from “Eva’s Visit to Fairy-Land.”

 

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