In your opinion, how famous is the lily pad?

Duke Gardens Lily Pad GardenAnd Mrs. Frog sat Thumbelina down on a lily pad right in the middle of the pond.

Sarah P. Duke Lily Pad GardenWhen you arrive at the lily pad pond and see how enormous the lily pads are–well–you feel small. You probably feel like Thumbelina. Your mouth gapes open and no one says a word. The guide is still talking but you’ve stopped listening. All your senses have gone to focusing on what’s in front of you. Unless it’s a normal part of your day to gaze at gigantic lily pads then you are ogling over such a spectacle as these. I mean look at the picture. How many of you have even read this far?

Lily pads at Sarah P. Duke Gardens Raleigh NCSo I was wondering what poor Thumbelina thought when Mrs. Frog sat her upon the lily pad and told her she must stay there until she agreed to marry her ugly son. Apparently, the fish sided with Thumbelina cause they had seen frog boy many times. Mrs. Frog had kidnapped poor Thumbelina and hoped she would marry the poor boy.

Do you know how Thumbelina was born? Was she born in the lily pad?

The fish began to eat the roots that held the lily pad in place. Once the lily pad was free, it drifted on down the stream. Do any of you know the rest of the story? Shame on you if you don’t. And more importantly–do your children know?

ThumbelinaThumbelina is a fairy tale written by Hans Christian Anderson. It was published in 1835 and was not well received at the time. Thumbelina was almost forced in to marriage not once but twice. First to a frog and second to a mole. She rescued a bird and then the bird rescued her. The bird carried her away to her prince. The bird then flew to the windowsill of Hans Christian Anderson and tweeted to him while the fairy tales were being written.

What’s not so obvious above is the illustrator’s name which is Thomas Vilhelm Pedersen. He was the first to illustrate Anderson’s fairy tales. Anderson’s tales had been published prior to Vilhelm’s works but were made much more popular as they were added. Today the two are inseparable. They are part of an original 5 volume book with 125 illustrations.  Vilhelm died at age 39 but his work has made the lily pad more famous than any other artist.

Here you see the giant lily pads at the Sarah P. Duke Gardens in Raleigh, North Carolina? Do you think of Vilhelm’s Thumbelina when you see a lily pad?

7 Comments Add yours

  1. Charlotte says:

    Love this post … and as you’ll see if you check in on me … I’m hooked on water lilies!!


  2. Phillip (UK) says:

    Great story and illustrations. Botanically there is some confusion as to whether Victoria (named after our Queen) is really a water lily, but a fascinating plant with a very interesting history.


  3. deb says:

    Love Thumbelina as a child. Sadly, I did not read the story to my boys. Shame on me is right.


  4. Les says:

    I love these water lilies. I have seen them at Kew in London and at Longwood. It always makes me want to walk on them, but I know that would end up with someone getting wet (and kicked out of the gardens).
    Well yes we all do want to walk on them, ha! I know the guide was giving some good info on them but I’d never seen lily pads so large that I lost track of what she was saying. All I could think about was Thumbelina and the fish eating away at the roots anchoring the plant. I wanted to get up there and lay down.


  5. Janet says:

    What grand gardens!
    Well I really was amazed and could not get the image of Thumbelina out of my head and it haunts me still.


  6. I never heard the story of Thumbelina, and I’m not sure how I missed it since I love fairy tales and read them to my children. We have several lily ponds here in VA, and they stop me in my tracks every time I see them. Apparently I am not alone, as these areas are marked and have turn-outs for those who want to park and linger… they are stunning.
    You are gonna love it! A lily pond is just magical isn’t it? I want to crawl up in one and go to sleep.


  7. Catherine says:

    Thumbelina is one of my all time favorite stories! I bought the book years ago for my oldest daughter. I can’t remember what happens next, now I need to go find that book and reread it 🙂
    The lily pads in you pictures are beautiful.
    Oh yea me too–I love it. My grandma use to read it to me over and over. I like stories with good endings. Go find out what happens.


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