The Birth of the Butterflies

Long ago in the Dreamtime when the world was very young, all the birds and animals spoke the same language. All lived forever - no one ever died so none of the creatures knew about death.

One morning a young cockatoo was playing high up in a tree swinging on a branch when he slipped and fell to the ground landing on his head very hard. The other animals clapped but the cockatoo did not move. They tried to wake him but he just lay there. A wise old wombat looked at the young bird and told the others that he had broken his neck. The animals believed that the spirits had done this so they called a meeting of all the animals under a big old gum tree to discuss this problem.

While they were talking, the Spirits came and took the little cockatoo up into the sky. The animals looked up and saw their friend wafting away into the sky. This puzzled the animals very much. Why had the Spirits taken their friend. Wombat told the animals that the Spirits have taken the Cockatoo up into the sky so they can change him into something else. The animals agreed that someone should go up into the sky and wait and see what the Spirits do with their little Cockatoo friend - but who would do this as it was nearly winter. Wombat asked all the animals but none of them wanted to go except for one. The Caterpillars agreed to go together up into the sky and make camp there for the winter and return in the warmth of spring to tell them what happened to little Cockatoo. In one huge wriggling cloud the Caterpillars went up into the sky and all the other animals went away and waited for spring.

When the winter was nearly over, Wombat called all the animals to search for the caterpillars but they could not find anything. They searched daily but would return with nothing. Then on the first warm day of spring, they saw them. A beautiful parade of brightly coloured wings. The first Butterflies!

The animals realised then that these beautifully coloured creatures were proof that the Spirits had given the Caterpillars a new and beautiful shape and become a new creature and this had happened to their little Cockatoo friend. As the Butterflies settled in the trees, they made such a pretty sight that the old ones decided that this must always be.

So, ever since then, the caterpillars spend winter hidden in cocoons preparing to change into their beautiful spring bodies, just as they did long ago in the Dreamtime.

Michael J Connolly
Munda-gutta Kulliwari
© Dreamtime Kullilla-Art