Lily of the Valley Flowers – Tale of the 5 Sisters

Almost every flower of Ireland has a story that has to do with the “little people” or “wee folk,” for the Irish are great believers in fairies. The tale of the Convallaria or Lily-of-the-valley is one of the sweetest.

Once upon a time when the world was young, five little fairy sisters were sent on an errand one night. They were each given a tiny white cup and told to fill it with dew for the Queen’s breakfast.

They had lots of time so they hung their cups on a blade of grass to get them out of the way and danced and danced. They frolicked, as all little girls will, until the last minute. Before they knew it, the eastern sky was flushed with rose. The sun was about to rise!

lily of the valley close up

No fairy must be caught away from home when the sun comes up. They were very young and very frightened and ran in great alarm to get their cups. All five tugged and tugged but couldn’t loosen their cups. The handles had grown fast to the blade of grass and though they pulled with all their might, they couldn’t free the cups.

Just as their fright became great, their godmother appeared. She was a kind lady and to protect the little girls from the Queen’s wrath, she tied a big green leaf on either side of the cups to hide them.

The step-like precision of the cups marched up the blade of grass and formed a ladder. Every night for two weeks, the five little girl fairies came and played up and down the steps until they wore them out.

But when spring came round again, up came the ladder and the little girls screamed with joy to see it as shiny as ever with fresh paint and white steps.

When St. Patrick brought Christianity to Ireland, many old folk ways and legends were changed. The Fairy Ladder became the Ladder to Heaven or Ascension Ladder. The Convallaria was dedicated to Whitsunday because of its pure white blossoms. It became a holy flower and children gathered it by the handfuls and placed their bouquets on the shrine of the Virgin. But to this day in Ireland, many people call the Lily-of-the-valley the Fairy Ladder.

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