This story is dedicated to the daughter of a friend, the original Salma Butterfly. I wrote it as an inter-active project book for her. It has been a delight to rework it as the first children’s story for Soul Gifts – Telling Tales: Kid’s Corner.
Raili Tanska, Adelaide August 2015
Like most butterfly babies I started out as a tiny round egg perched on the leaf of a tree. If you were to look closely enough, you would have seen me growing inside it. When I hatched, I came out as a very hungry caterpillar. All I did was eat and eat and eat!! I was ravenous ALL the time. Because I ate so much, I grew really fast. When I was done growing, it was time for me to wrap myself up in a cocoon. It’s called a chrysalis. While I was sleeping in there, my body changed. Heaps!! The fancy word for it is metamorphosis. All that really means is that I changed into a butterfly while I was sleeping. As you’ve probably worked out by now, I changed a lot during my growing up time. To look at me now, you wouldn’t even recognise me if you had met me in my chrysalis or as a caterpillar!
By the time I had finished wriggling out of my cocoon I was pretty tired. My wings were wet and wrapped around my body because I’d been squished up in such a tight space. I had to do lots of exercise and flapping around to dry them, warm them up, and get them working. Then I had to learn to fly. I must say that was pretty easy. And fun.
Oh dear, do forgive me. I was so excited to talk to you I quite forgot to introduce myself! My name is Salma Butterfly. I promise you this is a story about me moving into my very own first home. But first I want to tell you a little bit more about me.
Now that I’m all grown up my legs and antennae are long and elegant. Not at all like the baby fat caterpillar I used to be. My wings are a beautiful blue. I’ve got four of them. You might be interested to know that my eyes are really weird. I’ve got something called compound vision. What it means is I can see everything around me – front, back and sides – all at the same time! Now that comes in real handy. I don’t have to turn my head or get a crick in my neck. You might think that would be hard to get used to but it’s not. I was born that way so I don’t know any different.
My antennae are pretty awesome too. I wriggle them and use them a bit like radar or flying instruments on an aeroplane. And I can smell with them. Did you know that my tongue works like a drinking straw? True! I can dip it inside a flower and slurp up those delicious juices.
I’ve got three pairs of legs. Lucky I don’t wear stockings! Behind my knees there’s this little device that acts like a microphone so I can detect any movement easily and make a quick getaway if I have to. My front legs have a moveable spur on them. I use it like a brush to clean my antennae. It makes a really nifty little can opener too so I can punch a hole in plants to take a taste test. I bet you didn’t know that I don’t have any lungs. So how do I breathe? Through my belly!
Now for my wings. They’re the most spectacular thing about me of course. Those little lines you see on my wings are actually veins in between two layers of teeny tiny scales. To give you a bit of an idea about the size of them, some of my cousins can have as many as 600 in a square millimetre! That’s a LOT. We have three different kinds of scales. I won’t bore with you all the details about what they are and what they do. Let’s just say that the scales, and the way they sit on my wings, makes the light bounce off them at different angles. This makes all sorts of brilliant colours and patterns. I have to be careful in what sort of weather I go out though. If it’s too hot, I could shrivel up and die. If it’s too cold I can’t fly at all. You might have sometimes seen some of us flapping our wings before we fly. That’s like a warm up exercise. We do it because we’re cold blooded.
I’ve got a gianormous extended family. Somebody has counted that there are about 15,000 to 20,000 different kinds of butterflies in the world. Some of my cousins are about the size of a small housefly. Others are the size of big dinner plates.
Well, that’s enough about me. In Part 2 I’ll start telling you all about my house project.
© Raili Tanska