THE summer moon shone brightly down upon the sleeping earth, while far away from mortal eyes danced the Fairy folk. Fire-flies hung in bright clusters on the dewy leaves, that waved in the cool night-wind; and the flowers stood gazing, in very wonder, at the little Elves, who lay among the fern-leaves, swung in the vine-boughs, sailed on the lake in lily cups, or danced on the mossy ground, to the music of the hare-bells, who rung out their merriest peal in honor of the night.
Under the shade of a wild rose sat the Queen and her little Maids of Honor, beside the silvery mushroom where the feast was spread.
“Now, my friends,” said she, “to wile away the time till the bright moon goes down, let us each tell a tale, or relate what we have done or learned this day.
Flower Fables was Louisa May Alcott’s first book, published in 1854. She invented these stories as a young teenager and told them to the children of friends and neighbors — the book was dedicated to Ellen Emerson, the daughter of Ralph Waldo Emerson, a family friend. Each story was a fable with the intent of teaching good moral choices to young children. They were fanciful and full of imagination and beautiful description of flowers and fairy folk (LMA had the heart of a gardener!), which is what I enjoyed about this book. She was a wonderful writer, even at that early age.
The stories, however, were too long and they really labored at the moral. It was definitely a genre from another time period and I found myself ‘skim reading.’ Realizing that the slowness of this genre, and the length of descriptions, required a slower approach (as readers, and as the culture of our own time period, it seems we are always in a terrible rush). I slowed myself down and appreciated more the beauty of her language. Perhaps that would have been easier had I been reading it aloud?
Suddenly the music grew louder and sweeter, and the Fairies knelt, and bowed their heads, as on through the crowd of loving subjects came the Queen, while the air was filled with gay voices singing to welcome her.
She placed the child beside her, saying, “Little Eva, you shall see now how the flowers on your great earth bloom so brightly. A band of loving little gardeners go daily forth from Fairy-Land, to tend and watch them, that no harm may befall the gentle spirits that dwell beneath their leaves. This is never known, for like all good it is unseen by mortal eyes, and unto only pure hearts like yours do we make known our secret.
Despite the old-fashioned-ness of the stories, I enjoyed Alcott’s fanciful imagination and her world of the fairy folk. It was a very appropriate (although not easy) reading choice for Carl V’s Once Upon a Time VII challenge.