Once upon a time, a butterfly decided he wanted to marry, so, naturally, he searched among the flowers for a bride. After all, the flowers were abundant and beautiful, and as he flew around, he noticed they seemed to be beckoning him. He thought how lovely it would be to spend his life among them, married to one of their kind.
So he began his search, and as he did, he thought he might love all of them. Some of them were so tall and straight and purposeful, while others were sweet and fluttery. Some looked funny and kind, and others delicate and decisive. Some were fickle and flirtatious, others trusting and resolute.
"Which one?" he asked as he fluttered about.
One day, he found himself in a sea of daisies, or "Marguerites," as they were called in France, which he loved. He had heard tales about Marguerites that prophesized the future and were sought out by the lovestruck. He had even seen boys pluck off their petals and say: "She loves me. ... She loves me not."
The butterfly thought he might learn something by doing this, so he plucked a leaf and asked, "Does she love me?" He plucked another: "Or love me not?"
But he could not stop asking questions: "Does she love me terribly, or only a little bit? Does she love me passionately, or is she distracted?"
He leaned in close to listen. "Marguerite," he whispered, "you are a wise woman, perhaps wisest of all the flowers. Please, tell me who I should choose as my wife."
Marguerite did not like being called a woman. But there was something else -- something in the butterfly's tone that offended her. So she said nothing. The butterfly asked again, but once again she stayed silent. On the third try, she twirled away.
Disappointed by her attitude, the butterfly flew away to woo other flowers. Since this was early spring, the snowdrops, crocuses and tulip buds beckoned. He liked them all, but compared to Marguerite, they seemed rather stiff and formal. He flew on.
There were the anemones, but they did not entice him. The violets were beauties, but he thought they were too sentimental. The peonies were a little too showy. The lime and lilac blossoms were sweet, but too small. As for the apple blossoms? Well, he thought, they're beautiful, but fragile. As they trembled in the wind, the butterfly realized if he married one of them, she'd quickly drift away.
But those graceful pea blossoms were lovely, he thought. Red and white and so pretty. He hovered over them, and for a long moment he thought he would propose. He flew close to the one he had chosen.
Up close, the butterfly noticed a pod and a withering flower hanging from its end.
"Hello," he said. Gesturing toward the hanging flower, he asked her, "Who's that?"
"My sister," the pea blossom said.
"Oh, I see," the butterfly said warily.
And the pea blossom perked up and said, "I'll be just like her someday."
When the butterfly heard that, he knew he could not marry a flower who would look so very sad one day. No, he yearned for joy.
He flew into a sea of honeysuckle with their long, sallow faces. He tried to make them smile, turning somersaults, dancing and floating. Nothing worked. "Never mind," he said, giving up. He decided to wait until summer to find the bride of his dreams.
Summer came, and it was as if in one day all the flowers everywhere became exquisite. They were dressed in their finest, fragrant and fresh, tall and strong -- the darling dahlias, the charismatic chrysanthemums, the marvelous mint, a scent in every leaf.
"Marvelous mint, marry me," the butterfly said, almost without thinking, drunk on her scent.
Mint was silent for several moments, and the butterfly's heart began to flutter, he was so worried. He waited, hovering, until she finally answered.
"Butterfly, thank you, but I'm afraid I cannot be your bride," she explained. "I'm much older than you, and I'd like to be your friend. I can advise you and help you find a proper bride, but I will not marry you."
The butterfly flew on. After a while, all the flowers began to call him a bachelor. The bachelor buttons giggled at the name, the roses blushed, and, as the summer faded, so did the flowers.
The butterfly flew and flew, but as the weeks passed, he still had no idea who to marry. He knew autumn was on its way. A cool wind blew over the backs of the flowers and willows, the sky turned cloudy, and the days shortened. He knew the rains would soon begin.
One day, when he found a little hut with its window open, he flew inside. The room was warmed by a stove. "Ah yes," he sighed, "it feels almost as warm as summer."
The people closed the window, and the butterfly was still inside, and a few days passed. He began to miss his freedom. He missed the sunshine. He missed his friends, the flowers, and he even missed those stately oak trees and waving willows. He thought he must let the people know it was time for him to leave, so he flew against a window pane, trying to get free.
The people saw him struggling, but instead of freeing him, they caught him and stuck him on a pin and placed him in a box, and there he was, perched on a stalk like the flowers. Suddenly he understood how hard it was to be a flower. He felt the empathy inside him expand, and he wished he had been a kinder soul.
Still, he was lonely. He looked around at all the plants in the room, and his heart broke for them, stuck inside their pots. Perhaps he should marry one of the plants, he thought. They could be companions for life.
He thought for a long time about this. He watched them, and he listened, but at last he decided such a marriage could never work. Those plants were married to their human beings, and they would never understand the freedom of the wildflowers, the freedom he would always desire.
"Tell Me a Story 3: Women of Wonder," the third CD in the audiobook series, is now available. For more information, please visit www.mythsandtales.com.