In 1854, a young Louisa May Alcott dedicated Flower Fables to her good friend, Ellen Emerson (daughter of Ralph Waldo Emerson).
Amos Bronson Alcott (Louisa’s father), Emerson, and Henry David Thoreau were all close friends and naturalists.
Thoreau would often guide the young Alcott sisters around Waldon Pond (which he affectionately named Fairyland), exploring nature, picking berries…living deliberately.
Louisa’s communion with nature is evident in this little book of flowers and fairies and Thoreau certainly was instrumental in developing Louisa’s imagination: “Cobwebs,” he said, “are actually fairy handkerchiefs.”
Below is an excerpt in which Violet (the little fairy heroine) begs the Frost King to show mercy on her flower friends:
“O King of blight and sorrow, send me not away till I have brought back the light and joy that will make your dark home bright and beautiful again. Let me call back to the desolate gardens the fair forms that are gone, and their soft voices blessing you will bring to your breast a never failing joy. Cast by your icy crown and sceptre, and let the sunlight of love fall softly on your heart.
“Then will the earth bloom again in all its beauty, and your dim eyes will rest only on fair forms, while music shall sound through these dreary halls, and the love of grateful hearts be yours. Have pity on the gentle flower-spirits, and do not doom them to an early death, when they might bloom in fadeless beauty, making us wiser by their gentle teachings, and the earth brighter by their lovely forms. These fair flowers, with the prayers of all Fairy Land, I lay before you; O send me not away till they are answered.”
And with tears falling thick and fast upon their tender leaves, Violet laid the wreath at his feet, while the golden light grew ever brighter as it fell upon the little form so humbly kneeling there.
The courage of these little fairies is a foreshadowing trait I recognize in her later work. Whether in the magical realism of little fairies or the reality of Little Women, the combination of sweetness and bravery shine through.