Sunbonnet Sue Sings Edelweiss in Switzerland!

So this time around we’re visiting Switzerland.  Sunny Sue is looking quite pretty in her striped gown and plaid apron and the Edelweiss flower is stunning.    We tried out a new stitch for Sunny Sue’s hair, using an “interlaced running stitch” from Sarah’s Hand Embroidery Tutorials (see Blogroll) — I think this stitch adds a fun and lively look to Sue’s hair.  I also tried out the “split stitch” around the hair ribbon, but I didn’t really love this stitch, probably because I used three strands and there’s no way to split it evenly….

Edelweiss, also called Lion’s foot, originated on the Asian steppes.  It’s a hardy plant that is well adapted to climatic extremes; it roots deeply and its felt-like covering on its leaves provides the plant protection from drought, strong winds, and strong sunshine/heat.   In German, Edelweiss means noble and white, which makes it the perfect name for a flower that works so hard to survive.  And for those of you who love flowers, but live in places with arid or windy conditions, Edelweiss is a great choice for your garden.

Of course, if you are a bit of a royal sort (you know, gotta a whole lotta princess in you!), then you’ll already have guessed that these “Silver Stars” were the favorite alpine flower of the Austrian Emperor Franz Josef, and his beloved, but much older, Empress, Elizabeth, who was killed by an assassin.   If you remember King Ludwig II of Bavaria (aka Mad King Ludwig — see German Sue), he as well as German Kaiser Wilhelm I were great fans, as well, of this lovely flower.  Mad King Ludwig liked the Edelweiss so much that he often had it painted into his portraits…so you know, you’re in good company if you like the Edelweiss.

Perhaps the Mad King liked the Edelweiss because of its value as a medicine, or perhaps because it was a powerful talisman to ward off evil, or perhaps because it was an alpine love charm.  It’s quite hard to say which is likeliest to have attracted his attention the most–he was mad, after all.  Well-known as a love charm, love-struck swains would gather Edelweiss from high crags and ledges in the Swiss Alps.   Many of them died from falls or from exposure as they tried to prove their love to their soon-to-be-grieving lovers.  However, the upside to this exercise was that the successful beaus were demonstrably brave, able-bodied and serious in their intentions–a kind of Alpine survival of the fittest.  But they don’t pick the Edelweiss in the wild any longer; it is now a protected species in Austria and Switzerland.

If you’re like me though, you knew “Edelweiss” only as a show tune from the 1959 Rodgers and Hammerstein musical The Sound of Music.  In the theatrical version, Edelweiss is sung by Captain Georg Ludwig von Trapp and his family during the concert near the end of Act II as a defiant statement of Austrian patriotism in the face of the pressure put upon him to join the navy of Nazi Germany. In the 1965 film version, the song is also sung by the Captain earlier in the film as he rediscovers music and a love for his children.   That makes me want to watch the Sound of Music again–such a great movie.  Maybe I’ll go do that now….

I hope that I’ve inspired you to embroider, to quilt, to applique, to think about the symbols in your life, to plant some hardy Edelweiss in your parched garden, or to watch The Sound of Music one more time, just because it’s good!   I’m leaving you with a star-shaped flower from my own garden, and, I hope, I also leave you humming “Edelweiss” to yourself…