How the Butterfly Got Its Color
It was a quiet morning in the tribe of the
Anishnabe. The dew that had fallen from the trees was like diamonds glittering
on a crystalline morning. Warriors with their long bows and arrows were
getting ready for a long hunt, and the women were doing daily chores. Earth
Woman, a woman who could cure any sickness, was busy showing children how
to make coil pots. Every now and then she would look up at one of the young
women, and with the clear invigorating blueness of her eyes, you could catch
News was going around the tribe. News had it that The Wise One, who lived in the sky and was the keeper of the stars, would speak to them today. He rarely did this and five winters had passed since he spoke last. It must be of great importance they thought.
All of a sudden, there was a gust of wind and a shape formed on a snow white cloud. When the shape spoke, it slowly became visible. It was an old man. He had wiry hair that barely covered his scalp, and there were wrinkles all over his face. His blue eyes made him look friendly and wise.
"My children," the man cried, " I am suddenly unsatisfied with the animals up here in the sky. They are grand indeed, but I need a new animal up in the sky."
"What shall we do, oh Wise One?" Chief White Hawk questioned.
" I want you to pick your most colorful and intelligent animal and bring the animal up to the sky." Then he disappeared into the cool winter air.
Some people wanted to offer the wolf, although the wolf might kill the Wise One's deer and he would punish the people of Anishabe. Many other people wanted to take the ferret and so they decided on that animal. It would give the Wise One great pleasure to have a ferret because they are so beautiful and full of all colorful shades of browns. So they captured one and kept it safe.
They called up to Wise One. " Wise One ,Wise One , we have come with your gift." Wise One did not hear their words and they kept calling and calling. Then the soft whisper of a child's voice said, "Why don't we use the butterfly. It can fly up to Wise One." And it was decided that the child's idea should be used.
The next day, they went off hunting to find the most beautiful butterfly imaginable. Many people brought back beautiful butterflies, but everyone wanted the butterflies to be perfect, so there was always an excuse that it wasn't the best they could find.
Although many people thought that it would be an adult who would bring back a butterfly, it actually was a young boy named Child of Forest. It was he who spent summers collecting nature's most valuable treasures. Child of Forest knew where to hunt, what season was best for game, and he even knew where the most beautiful butterflies roamed. It was Child of Forest who brought back the butterfly they thought would suit the occasion.
After the butterfly was found, they held a big celebration. There was deer meat, corn, and many other sacred foods. At the end of the celebration, the oldest people of the village told stories of how Wise One told them to do his bidding and what many animals they had brought to the sky. Slowly, the fire died down and the coals were nothing but glowing ashes. The people went back to their long houses and dreamed of how Wise One would be proud of his children.
The next morning, it was raining. People were disappointed but they still went to see Wise One. They sent the butterfly up into the sky, but it just came back down. Wise One appeared and spoke,
" I have asked for an animal. That is true, but I want a colorful animal. You have failed me. I will ask the Cherokee now. Maybe I can rely on them."
" Wait, Wise One. You are so grand and wise. You know everything. My people and I are saddened that we have failed. You may go to the Cherokees, but please give us another chance!"Chief White Hawk cried.
"Very well then, but remember that this butterfly must be colorful," Wise One replied and then he disappeared into the sky.
Everyone in the village knew that there were no butterflies with color and they did not know what to do. They first tried to put dye from the blackberries on the poor butterfly, but it washed off right away in the rain. Then, on their second try, they tried to put the juice of raspberries on it. Nothing that they tried worked, and they thought it was hopeless.
Daughter of the Rainbows, who lived in the sky, was watching them and saw their hard efforts. She felt sorry for them and called her mother.
"Mother, the people of the tribe Anishnabe are greatly saddened. Wise One has asked them to bring a colorful butterfly to him, but as you know there are none that are colorful."
"Well my child, I understand what you are saying and I am saddened too. I suggest that you use some color from my beautiful rainbows and sprinkle it on the butterfly!"
"Good idea, mother. I will go down to do this task right away."
So off she went. Down from the sky and down to where the Anishnabe lived. "People, I have come to make the butterfly colorful. I have seen your efforts and you are very wise. Perhaps only rainbow magic can do the work. Let me introduce myself. My name is Daughter of the Rainbows. My mother is ruler of rainbows, I have come to make your butterfly full of colors." She pulled out a sack and sprinkled the dust onto the butterfly. It became beautiful and filled with colors.
"Thank you, Daughter of Rainbows," chief White Hawk announced. "We owe all this to you." And then she disappeared into the sky.
They walked to where Wise One lived. "Wise
One, we have come with your present," the people shouted.
Wise One appeared and said, "People, thank you for your effort. You are truly remarkable. Bring my gift to me," he cried.
They let the butterfly loose and it did not return
to the earth. Wise One had accepted their gift. And to this day butterflies
are still colorful, but there are some who have not yet received the magic
from Daughter of Rainbows and they remain white. Return to Table of Contents
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