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The Crow and the Butterfly
In a forest, maybe even the one close to your house, there lived a family of butterflies. Long before, in the winter, the mother had passed away; she was the most beautiful Painted Lady ever to grace the forest. Before she left this world, she left behind a beautiful baby Monarch named Grace. Her father, a Buckeye butterfly, treasured her each and every day as she grew to be an adult as beautiful as her mother was.
Daddy Buckeye was going on a trip for a few days and asked Grace if she would want anything for him to bring back for her. Though she rarely asked for anything, her father urged her to ask for something because her birthday fell on the day he would return. Grace finally gave in and asked her father if he could bring her a single rose, for the nectar from a rose was the sweetest of any flower.
Grace’s father left that evening after feasting on milkweed with his daughter; he flew past the towering trees with his strong wings until night came and cloaked the forest in a deep darkness. With no light except the beams from the pale moon, he seeked shelter for the night. The howling wind grew stronger, making it difficult for Daddy Buckeye to fly; when a sudden gush of wind threatened to carry him high up into the trees, he was too tired to resist. He was so tired, in fact, that he fell asleep before he realized where he had landed.
When Daddy Buckeye awoke, he found himself where no butterfly should ever be… a crow’s nest. But when he looked around, he found the nest was empty, except for a single rose. Thinking that this was pure luck, Daddy Buckeye went to pick up the rose and was preparing to leave, when a dark figure descended from the sky. The crow had returned from his flight and was now face to face with his new captive. Daddy Buckeye trembled with fear and started to beg for his life, dropping the rose in the process, as the crow started to stalk towards him.
“Wait!” Daddy Buckeye pleaded, “Please! I have a daughter waiting for me at home, I’ll give you anything you want, but please! Spare me!” The Crow halted in his approach and replied, “Do you promise?” Shaking, Daddy Buckeye whimpered, “yes, yes, anything at all”. These words were ones Daddy Buckeye would come to regret, for the Crow told him, “I want your daughter to come take your place”. Daddy Buckeye started to sob, as he was a butterfly of his word, and could not turn back on his promise; he promised the Crow that he would return in three days with his daughter, but the Crow shook his head, and told him that he would arrive that night to retrieve her. The Crow then picked up the rose and handed it to the Daddy Buckeye to give to Grace as a homecoming gift.
Daddy Buckeye returned that evening carrying the rose in his arms; Grace flew to him and gave him a big hug to welcome him back, but when she saw his face, she frowned. He confessed what he had done, bursting into tears; though Grace was heartbroken that her father made such a promise, she was happy to take his place, for she didn’t want any harm to come to him. They hugged each other tightly until the moon started to rise and the Crow came for her.
It was midnight when the Crow finally came; he towered over Grace and her father, and extended his wing to Grace. She accepted it reluctantly after giving her father one final kiss on the cheek, and in one swift movement, the Crow swept her away from the only home she had ever known.
Once they reached the Crow’s nest, he showed Grace where she could sleep, and went to a hole in the tree, where he began to sleep. Grace was surprised, she was expecting to be eaten, not put in a nest, but she did not relax, for she knew he may just be waiting for tomorrow. When morning came, though, she shocked to see freshly picked flowers waiting for her when she woke up. The Crow was nowhere to be seen, which gave Grace some relief as she started to drink the nectar from a lily.
But her security was short lived when the Crow appeared from above; he was three times her size and one beat of his giant wings would make her bang against the wall of the nest, if not out. His black feathers reminded her of the midnight sky, but his eyes were bright blue, like stars she has seen on winter nights. Ice shot through Grace’s heart, fear showering over her as if she were stuck in the ocean during a storm; she sat very still, afraid to make any sudden movements. She started to say a little prayer in her head and hoped that God would watch over her father when she was gone, but when the Crow suddenly sat down and sighed, she was taken aback. He looked at her, not with the piercing glare or look of hunger she was expecting, but with sad, tortured eyes that could only have been gained by years of torment. Grace couldn’t help but feel sympathy for him; she reached over to touch his face. His feathers felt soft beneath her fingers; the Crow let out another sigh, but this one was with relief rather than sorrow. “Why am I here?” she asked cautiously, “aren’t you going to eat me?” He stared at her as though he was trying to process her words, “no, I have no intention of eating you; I merely wanted someone to keep me company” he finally said.
Though the Crow claimed he wanted company, this was his normal routine for several weeks; he would appear out of nowhere in the morning, sit with Grace while she ate, and then disappeared for the remainder of the day. Their conversations were awkward at first, but Grace had grown fond of his visits; he would ask her questions about her interests and memories from when she was young, but when she tried to ask questions about himself, his answers would be short and never revealing anything about his past. When the Crow wasn’t present, Grace would wander around the nest, mostly looking above at the canopy of trees or below where animals would scurry every now and then, dreaming of other places and of home. She wondered often how her father was doing, and if he was getting along well without her; when she did think of home, she would sing a song her father had said her mother sang all the time. It was about the beginning of new life and saving what was lost; her father said that it was a healing spell, which is why she sang it every time her heart ached with sickness for her father and home.
One evening, the Crow heard her singing and grew very sad and lonely; he had grown in love with the monarch and wanted her to stay with him forever. He knew that his grotesque form sometimes frightened Grace, no matter how hard she tried to hide it, and he wished that he was able to tell her, to convince her of his true feelings and that if she were to feel the same way, he would turn back into his original form. You see, the Crow wasn’t actually a Crow at all, but a Red Admiral Butterfly. A magical owl had cast the spell on him for being selfish and vain, and the spell could only be broken by loving and having the love of another butterfly in his new form. But, seeing her in such sorrow had filled him with grief, so he made a decision to let her visit her father for three days.
Grace was in disbelief that the Crow was setting her free for three days. He told her that he was allowing her to visit her father for this amount of time, but she must promise to return before the fourth day. Grace happily agreed and started on her way home; it had been so long since she last flew, it felt like she had been reborn. She passed the willows, oaks and the creek; she passed foxes, beavers and squirrels. She didn’t stop until she saw the familiar valley of flowers where she had spent all her life except for the past few weeks. She immediately spotted her father arranging flowers in front of their home and rushed to embrace him. Daddy Buckeye was shocked to see her, but he had missed her so much, he didn’t ask how she had escaped from the Crow’s clutches.
Life with her father again was like taking a breath of air after being under water for too long. They fell back into their routine as though nothing had changed; collecting nectar, attending to the garden, enjoying each other’s company, not caring about anything else except being together. But when the third day was about to arrive, Grace was becoming sad; she didn’t want to leave her father alone, but she also wanted to see the Crow again. She didn’t understand why, but she had developed feeling for him; he was kind and intelligent, and she could tell he cared for her very much. He brought her flowers every day, and he made her laugh when his eyes lighted up when he learned something new about her. That look was much better than his tormented gaze, which she tried to keep off his face as often as she could.
That night, Grace had a dream that the Crow had been shot by a hunter and was calling out her name for help, but no matter how fast she flew, she could never reach him. She woke up, shaking, just before dawn; she was so frightened by the dream that she left immediately to go see him, giving her father a kiss on the cheek before leaving. Grace flew as fast as the wind, maneuvering between trees, hoping her dream was nothing but a dream.
When she saw the Crow’s nest, she rushed to the edge and peered in. To her dismay, the Crow was lying in a pool of blood, with a bullet hole in his side, and his wing feathers torn. A cry caught in her throat as she collapsed at his side; the Crow seemed to still be breathing, but his breaths were shallow and short. All at once, Grace realized that she loved the Crow, and started to weep on his feathers, holding onto a fistful of feathers. Once she found her voice, she started to choke out the song she had sung in the nest so many times before, stroking the Crow’s head again and again. When she was finished, she whispered in his ear that she loved him.
A great blinding light shot from the Crow’s chest like a beam of sunshine; Grace fell back, frightened but in awe, for what appeared from the Crow’s chest was the most handsome butterfly she had ever seen. He spread his glorious wings and glided towards her with majesty; Grace was speechless. She wandered how this Red Admiral had come from the heart of the Crow; it was unbelievable. He extended his hand towards her, but she was afraid to touch it; he understood her hesitance. He bent down to her level so that she could see his eyes; she looked at them and immediately realized that this was her beloved Crow for no one could have the same eyes as he. She bounded towards him, giving him a kiss as she wrapped her arms around him. He happily accepted her kiss, and embraced her, never to let her go again.
That spring, they married; they moved from the nest to a palace of roses. Grace was reunited with her father, and she and the Prince had several children, and their children had children, and so on. So when you look in your backyard and spot a butterfly, remember, that might be one of the children of the Crow and the Butterfly.