“The Butterfly” by Hans Christian Andersen
I had never heard of “The Butterfly” and even after reading, it isn’t familiar at all. It’s actually a sad little story.
There’s a butterfly who is searching for a bride, for a pretty flower to marry. It’s early spring and there are many flowers “seated quietly and demurely on their stalks, just as maidens should sit before they are engaged.” Too many, actually, so he asks the daisy, a wise flower, which of the many would be the perfect mate for him. She doesn’t answer, because he offended her with the way he phrased the question.
In spring, he passes by the crocus and the snowdrop. Then he flies by the anemones (too sour), the violets (too sentimental), the lime-blossoms (too small). He passes by the apple-blossoms, the pea-blossom and the honeysuckle, finding some fault with each.
Autumn came and still he had no wife. Now, none of the flowers had the fresh, youthful scent that he desired. He finally proposes to the mint, who although not a flower, smells sweet. She refuses, agreeing to be his friend only, not his bride. She claims they are too old for marrying, that it would appear ridiculous.
And so it happened that the butterfly got no wife at all. He had been too long choosing, which is always a bad plan. And the butterfly became what is called an old bachelor.
When the weather gets cool, he finds himself inside a nice warm room, heated by a stove, but he longs for fresh air and freedom. Unfortunately, he attracts the notice of the people in the room. who catch him and stick him with a pin and place him in a box. He imagines aloud that being stuck on the pin is very like being stuck in a marriage. A houseplant hears him and comments that that’s not much of a comforting thought.
“Ah,” thought the butterfly, “one can’t very well trust these plants in pots; they have too much to do with mankind.”
So, what’s the point? Don’t be too picky when looking for a wife to spend the rest of your life with, because you’ll end up all alone. Enjoy beauty while it lasts, because it will eventually fade away, like the flowers in the field. Instead of looking for people’s negative points, see what makes each special and beautiful in his or her own way.
Maybe I shouldn’t feel bad for the butterfly. After all, it’s his own fault, but still to be pinned in a box, when you’re used to being free would be miserable. Of course, if I viewed marriage similar to being pinned to death, I wouldn’t be in too much of a hurry either.
Is this a fairy tale you’re familiar with? What message, if any, do you see in the story?
Tif, from Tif Talks Books, is the hostess of this great feature, Fairy Tale Fridays. Head over there later to see her take on “The Butterfly” and to share your own thoughts. Next week, we’ll be looking at “One-Eye, Two-Eyes, and Three Eyes” by the Brothers Grimm, another new one for me.