Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Your Weekly Fairy

Flower Fairies

When you take a moment to look at the fairies listed as part of Queen Titania's entourage in A Midsummer Night's Dream, one can guess at the ancestry of the Flower Fairies: Peaseblossom, Cobweb, Mote, and Mustardseed are nothing if not Flower Fairy names!

But the Flower Fairies as we know and love them today really got their chance at literary life under the illustrative pen of Cecily Mary Barker.

This lovely young woman suffered from epilepsy which prevented her from going to school. So she schooled at home and spent a great deal of her time studying art, especially the art of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood. Fairies were a popular theme in Victorian society. Queen Mary (who owned the most MAGNIFICENT doll house EVER) was particularly interested in all things fairy. And she was a tremendous fan of Cecily Mary Barker's work!

 Ms. Barker was a devout Anglican . . . which pleases me since my husband was raised Anglican, and we attend and Anglican church. She illustrated Bible stories and hymn books for children, but her most famous work will always be her Flower Fairies.

These childlike little imps, while completely magical, have a very natural air in their garden settings. According to Ms. Barker's stories, every time a seed drops, a Flower Fairy is born.

This baby grows along with the flower and tends it, watering it and chasing away pests. While having other adventures along the way, of course!

Cecily Mary Barker's beautiful fairies have inspired many variations since. My first encounter with Flower Fairies came from the picture book The RunawayFairy by Molly Brett, who was heavily inspired by Ms. Barker's works.

This was, quite possibly, my favorite picture book growing up. I just adored the story of Rose and her quest to save her rose garden! And I always watched for flower fairies in the beds of my mother's sumptuous English garden, especially among the pink climbing roses.

I even tried disguising myself as one of their kind . . .
never with any luck, alas!

These days, my love of Flower Fairies continues strong. I have a lovely collection of Cecily Mary Barker fairy Christmas ornaments that decorate my tree every year:

I also have an extensive collection of fairy figurines and pictures from my childhood, saved up and tucked away in the attic. For someday, if God blesses me with a baby girl, she might just like Flower Fairies too . . .

So what about you? What Flower Fairies have you encountered?


Abigail Hartman said...

Oh, Cecily Mary Barker! I love her illustrations and poems; they're so beautiful. My sister owns a collection of Barker's work, with fairies from each of the four seasons; it's not only lovely, but extremely helpful for studying the English countryside. The Oak Fairy and the Wild Rose Fairy remain some of my favorites.

English countryside reminded me - do you own any of the "Country Diary of an Edwardian Lady" books by Edith Holden? Her notes on wildlife and her illustrations are exquisite.

Molly said...

Wow!! When I saw Queen Mary's dollhouse, I was FASCINATED. It's gorgeous!!

My favorite flower fairy actually slept in flowers, and in the story (which is actually sad) he helps out some people in danger.
Sorry, I can't remember the name, but I'll tell you when I do! :)

Also I have never heard of Cecily Mary Baker, another book I shall have to check out from the library. :)

Rachel6 said...

I remember a story I read when I was small, about a tiny fairy named Poppy who winds up living with humans. I'm not sure that her name is enough to count as a flower fairy, but I did love that story.

Ah, Cecily Mary Barker! How magical can one artist be?