The Primrose Ring

My usual method of browsing in a library or bookstore is to wander down the aisles until a title or binding catches my fancy. That’s a little bit harder to do online. On a whim, I tried searching for vintage authors I knew from children’s works, and found success.

Ruth Sawyer won the Newbery Medal in 1937 for Roller Skates, a delightful story about a ten-year-old girl in the 1890’s. I can vividly recall reading it at my grandparents’ old row home as a child. On Google Books I found The Primrose Ring, a sweet little fairy tale. I think it’s meant for adults, but I can’t quite tell from the foreword or ads. It did, however, turn out to be a timely read.

Margaret MacLean is the cheerful nurse of Ward C at Saint Margaret’s Free Hospital for Children, and as a product of the hospital herself she has a great store of love and care for the her patients, referred to as “the incurables.” On the way to work the morning of May Eve (April 30), she buys a great bunch of primroses from a flower seller, hoping they can offset the gloom that Trustee Day brings. Once a month, the wealthy but aloof trustees of the hospital pay a visit to remind themselves of the good they are doing. On this visit, however, they decide that Ward C is a hopeless cause and the incurables should be dispersed–and their nurse relieved of her duties for speaking tartly in their defense.

Margaret MacLean survived her childhood through fairy stories, and has all her young charges believing in them, too. One in particular tells about making a primrose ring on May Eve and being transported to the land of the fairies. Whether or not it actually happens, the night just might contain magic enough to keep the ward together.

The story itself is sweet, and decidedly Irish. Margaret and a few other characters speak in a bit of a brogue. The primrose legend also seems to be an Irish one, though most sources I can find online reference the flower as a protection from fairy pranks on May Eve, when the veil between worlds is supposedly thinner.

This is a story that I can’t quite see being written today, but it does work it’s own magic and would be a good choice if you need a short read at the beginning of May. It was also apparently made into a silent film in 1917.

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Published in: on May 6, 2010 at 9:34 pm  Leave a Comment  
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