Louisa May Alcott (1832 – 1888) lived a strange life even for the those times. Her father was a strict disciplinarian who believed that perfection could only be achieved through suffering and hard work. He tried to bring his four daughters up on this basis. To complicate matters, he tried to establish a school where he could teach these qualities. It takes little imagination to guess that the family struggled along on the edge of poverty. Louisa grew up surrounded by people who espoused unconventional ideas. People like  Ralph Waldo Emerson, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and Henry David Thoreau.

Ralph Waldo Emerson’s daughter Ellen, quite some years younger than Louisa needed someone to tell her stories. Louisa was happy to oblige. She wrote a series of tales which she called her ‘Flower Fables‘ to entertain the younger girl.

The fable of Lilly-Bell and Thistledown is a tale that carries all the beliefs imbued from the strange education she received from her father. Lilly-Bell is the kindest of elves imaginable but her friend Thistledown is exactly the opposite. As the story unfolds, all Thistledown’s unkindness comes back to haunt him. In today’s world we would be happy enough for him to see the error of his ways and for the two of them to live happily ever after. Not so Louisa, the poor (mean and nasty) elf has to suffer trial and sorrow after trial and sorrow, until you wonder if she is ever going to forgive him and get round to the happy ending.

I don’t want to spoil the story for you, but it does turn out ‘Happy Ever After’ for Thistledown – eventually.

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