He was born in Weimar, the illegitimate child of Johanna Carolina Dorothea Bechstein and Hubert Dupontreau, a French emigrant who disappeared even before the birth of the child, and Ludwig thus grew up his first nine years in very poor economic conditions. His situation improved only when his uncle Johann Matthäus Bechstein, a renowned naturalist and forester living in Meiningen in the district of Schmalkalden-Meiningen in Thuringia, adopted him in 1810. He was sent to school, and in 1818, started an apprenticeship as an pharmacist.
From 1829 to 1831 he studied philosophy and literature in Leipzig and Munich thanks to a stipendiate granted by Duke Bernhard II of Sachsen-Meiningen, who hired him subsequently as a librarian. This life-time post provided Bechstein with a continuous income, while leaving him a lot of freedom to pursue his own interests and writing.
Bechstein published many works and was a successful author of his time. He published several collections of folk tales, but also romances, poems, and novels.