Child translating within a natural context

April 6, 2018

red bird

Lydia Maria Child sought to reform with inherited literary genres. Rose Marian and the Flower Fairies is a translation of a German legend about a fifteen-year-old girl named Marian who lives in a verdant mountain community, and Marian who relates more to nature than to other humans. Bird drawing mounted on Japanese paper, by Meredith Eliassen, 2018.

Purchase red songbird notecard here.

yellow flower

Having no playmates, Marian talks to the flowers, “as if they were intelligent beings, that can understand her words (11).” When Marian’s mother dies, she perceives that she has become an angel, “gone to dwell with celestial beings (18).” Marian refuses to leave the side of her mother’s grave and the doctors soon observe, “If she keeps ever wakeful, and this profound melancholy continues, she will certainly become insane (23).” Flower drawing mounted on Japanese paper, by Meredith Eliassen, 2018.

purple flower

The flowers seek to console Marian until a beautiful benevolent spirit came upon them smiling and said, “Beautiful and fragrant ones, be not afraid of me, I come to ask your assistance in conveying the good young princess to a happy home, where she will never more know trouble (24).” The flowers assist by giving up their fragrances to create a concoction that helped Marion to sleep eternally. Flower drawing mounted on Japanese paper, by Meredith Eliassen, 2018.

With the Civil War, Child’s hard-hitting career was eclipsed, but her writing became more relevant as it holistically prescribe character development within divergent audiences. After Abraham Lincoln announced the drafting of an Emancipation Proclamation in late September 1862, Harriet Beecher Stowe (1811-1896) called on Mary Lincoln in New York City to request an invitation to the White House. Lincoln met Stowe and supposedly greeted her with the comment, “So you’re the little woman who made this Great War.” When news of the Emancipation Proclamation arrived on January 1, 1863, Stowe was attending a New Year’s Jubilee celebration at the Boston Music Hall. The crowd gave Stowe a standing ovation.

The Civil War changed the tone of all children’s literature to depict changing patriarchal gender roles as soldiers left wives and widows to head households. Post-bellum juvenile literature reflected new sensibilities as characteristics of “childhood” and attitudes towards what constituted “worthy poor” changed. Sentimental stories with absent father figures always featured a male figure, who appeared to rescue a disabled girl. Child’s stories, like Rose Marian and the Flower Fairies (1865) translated from a German legend presented a feminine, nature-centered view. In children’s literature, more sentimental concepts of girlhood and female adolescence emerged out of the Civil War. Northern publishers developed lucrative family markets; so American literature achieved an economic boost after the war. The phenomenon of girl and family stories (or domestic novels) written by female authors reflected the development of a middle-class domestic audience that became pivotal to American literary history. These authors projected their own desire for societal change into their juvenile female characters and subsequently on young readers.

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