Somehow since moving home I've lost all momentum when it comes to blogging. I've moved twice before since starting this blog so the effort involved is not necessarily the cause, but something inside me seems to have changed. Part of the reason for this is my extended work commute - now almost 5 hours each day during the week. I've realised I've reached the point where I can either visit and support other people's blogs or post something on my own, but no longer do both with regularity.
The most rewarding and unexpected pleasure of blogging for me has been the interaction I've enjoyed with the wonderful people I've met through this blog since starting these posts. For this reason alone I'm determined to try to continue. Even though we have never met in person I consider many of you really good friends and I would miss your comments and 'company' terribly. If I'm brutally honest with myself I have to acknowledge that my blog is not as successful as most of those I visit but I'm going to plug on regardless. I can't network as easily or socialise as much as I should - and I probably won't post as frequently as before, but I'll do my best!
Because I'm slightly out of sorts myself I've decided to post a story this week that I've always found a bit unusual and slightly off-kilter. The illustrations, however, have always appealed to me greatly - as a child I found them absolutely fascinating and as an adult they are still able to conjure up a sense of true magic.
The story centres around two children - a brother and sister called Jonathan and Joan. The book sets the location quite specifically next to 'the banks to the St Laurence River, near to the town of Quebec in Canada'. The narrative describes them as belonging to a poor peasant family but I've always found this a bit of an anomaly as the children in the illustrations appear pretty middle class to me and they live in a cosy looking thatched cottage straight out of a fairytale (there are some black and white drawings as well as the colour plates).
The children enjoy playing in the forest behind their cottage, but one evening their father comes home from work and makes them promise not to go there any more as rumours have surfaced of wicked fairies living in the woods. The children forget their promise, wander into the forest the next day and soon realise they are lost. Suddenly a young girl appears before them, wearing a beautiful gown of green leaves and covered with strawberries. I've always loved the illustration of this gown - as a child I thought clothing covered with foliage and fruit very special - but I can also remember thinking that this 'fairy' looked more like someone's neighbour from down the road.
The strawberry fairy (for that's what she turns out to be) offers to show the children the way out of the forest and they follow her trustingly. But instead of doing this she takes them to her own home and locks them into a shed. She feeds them bread and water and makes them work like slaves in a garden 'full of the most wonderful strawberries in the world'.
One evening while Joan is sitting crying bitterly a beautiful parrot flies through the window of the shed. To her surprise the parrot (called Jacky) can talk and Joan tells him the whole story. Jacky flies off and what Joan does not realise is that he is the secret messenger of the Queen of the Fairies. His duty is to report back to the queen if he discovers any fairy doing something wicked or wrong and so he returns straight away to her castle to tell her everything he knows of the unkind deeds of the Strawberry Fairy.
I've also always liked this illustration of the fairy queen and her court. These voluptuous and sultry looking ladies appear more like an exotic gathering of the United Nations than a host of fairies, but this illustration has real storybook appeal.
The Queen and her counsellors meet to decide how the Strawberry Fairy should be punished.
The Rose Fairy says they should take away all her roses.
The Bird Fairy thinks they should take away all her birds.
The Cake Fairy decides they should let her starve.
Then one of the middle-aged fairies suggests they change her into an old witch - taking away her youth and beauty is the worst punishment they could give her. The other fairies agree and congratulate the middle aged fairy on thinking up such a good idea.
The Queen taps her golden wand on the ground three times and the Strawberry Fairy is turned into an ugly old witch.
Jacky then flies off and frees the children to reunite them with their parents.
The Strawberry Fairy remains as an ugly old witch for 100 years. She realises how unkind she has been and tries to become a good fairy. When she is able to prove to the Fairy Queen that she has genuinely changed her ways the Queen forgives her and restores her youth and beauty. Since then she has apparently always been helpful to children - especially those who lose their way in the woods.
The Strawberry Fairy by Aunt Lucille.
Illustrations by J.C. van Hunn (I could find no details on this artist)
Printed in the Netherlands by Mulder Books (no date given)
A couple of week's ago Barbara from March House Books included two posts in her blog about the Little Grey Rabbit series of books. They brought back such a powerful memory of the Bunnykins bowl I ate my porridge out of when I was a child. I still have my bowl (today it is locked away in my special china cabinet). I can remember how I used to look for the bunnies every morning and move the porridge around to find my favourites. My sister had the bunnies with the balloon seller, but I always thought my bowl of bunnies skating on a pond was much more special!
And to finish - I discovered some wild primroses in my new garden recently. Some were a bit overgrown so at first I didn't notice them and it was such a lovely thrill to see them peeking through:
And some pretty bright rhododendron: