I assume that the vast majority of individuals who have endured high school English literature will know a bit about the author-poet “Louisa May Alcott” – if I asked someone to name a novel of hers, most people would at least be able to recall either Little Women or Jo’s Boys, or maybe both. But I doubt anyone would name Flower Fables.
I stumbled upon Flower Fables – which happens to be Alcott’s first published work – this past summer as I was scouring my parents’ book shelf in search of a new book to read for the week. The title, printed in golden lettering, is etched into the book’s navy blue spine, and it was the flicker of the gold that first caught my eye. I retrieved the book from the shelf – it looked nearly new. Its binding was untouched, its pages smelled of freshly printed ink. I opened to the first page and was shocked to find Louisa May Alcott’s name printed beneath the title. Encouraged by a familiar name, I turned to the next page, and was greeted with the following poem:
“Pondering shadows, colors, clouds
Grass-buds, and caterpillar shrouds
Boughs on which the wild bees settle,
Tints that spot the violet’s petal.”
- Emerson’s Wood-Notes
The rhythmic, melodic charm of that opening poem was enough to reel me in. I flipped to the Table of Contents, which included a list of nine intriguing titles, like “The Frost King: or, The Power of Love,” and “Eva’s Visit to Fairy-Land.” After reading the titles, I felt like I’d discovered something special, like a dandelion in a field, its seeds untouched, waiting to be graced with the breath of a wish.
Flower Fables is organized into short stories, which all take place within a fictitious, yet elaborately imagined, magic kingdom. The land is inhabited by a wide variety of mythical creatures, from fairies to elves to wintery spirits. The stories often revolve around the fairies in particular – due to their soft-spoken, endearing, and selfless hearts, the fairies are given the task of restoring morality and order to neighboring lands corrupted by leaders whose hearts have been tainted by power. Although each story tends to focus on the same theme and shares similar plot lines, it’s the invitation to indulge in an otherworldly realm that makes Flower Fables a worthy read.
“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.”
The book’s melodic, detailed descriptions of breathtaking, polished landscapes evoke a sense of something truly enchanting, as if the pages have been caressed by the tiny hands of winged things with golden dust in their hair. The descriptions paint vibrant, lucid images of the kingdom that weave the fictitious land into reality. The intricacy of the pictures Alcott creates coaxes the reader to wonder if perhaps a magical realm does actually exist somewhere beyond the reach of human exploration.
Anyone who enjoys fairytales, or simply a refreshing taste of 19th century prosaic writing, should give Flower Fables a try.