Auburn News

Thistle Downe: Fairies and elves and trolls, oh my!

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Every Auburn graduate wants to turn his or her dreams into reality, but it’s a safe bet to say few of those dreams involve trolls, fairies, and wee, tiny houses. Welcome to the world of Molly Sarver Whitney ’61. Along with her husband, Gary, she imagined and realized a world of trolls and fairies in their book Thistle Downe: A Tale of Trolls and Elves, which became available this year.

Set in a fantasy world and aimed at children from 8 to 12, the story follows Tyson, a young troll, and emphasizes determination and kindness as methods of overcoming prejudice and other real-world challenges.

“What Tyson does, he just continues to follow his dreams. I think that the challenges he faces are similar to what most young people today face,” Whitney says.

Whitney became fascinated with fairies when she found watercolor illustrations of fairies on a visit to England, but it wasn’t until years later when she discovered a miniature troll house built by her husband that her fairy hobby took flight. Gary Whitney is an architect with a portfolio full of major international projects.

The house became a project for the retired couple; they added facades, furniture and electricity to bring it to life. When Whitney wanted to fill the house with fairies, she even found figurines of the fairy illustrations she had fallen for in England.

Friends and family marveled at their work but wondered where their newfound whimsy came from.

“This is just something that happens when two right brains are put together with no supervision,” Whitney laughed. She continued, saying although the story was born from the house, the two creations are part of each other.

“The book and the house got completely intertwined,” Whitney says. “The more the house developed, the more the book developed, and the more the house developed, the book developed.”

“It’s been a joy, to do the house and the book together.”