Butterflies and Caterpillars
Estel sat on the branch of the large tree, one hand tightly wrapped around the branch, the other resting on his knee and holding his chin. His legs slowly swung back and forth underneath him as they dangled ten feet off the ground. Inquisitive, bright grey eyes under slightly furrowed brows stared intently at the small brown object that was the focus of his attention. He gasped and sat up straight when it began to move.
"What are you doing up so high in this tree, young one?"
Startled by the sudden voice next to him, the five-year old loosened his grip on the branch and began to slip off. Large, gentle hands grabbed Estel around the waist and pulled him securely back against his chest.
"You scared me, Glorfindel," Estel said accusingly, looking back at the golden-haired elf.
Glorfindel nodded gravely, biting back the smile that threatened, "Forgive me, Estel." The boy nodded and turned back to what he was watching and Glorfindel grinned at the back of his head. "However," he leaned forward to try and see what the boy was looking at, "you did not answer my question. Why are you up here?"
"I am watching that." Estel pointed to the object that had begun to move more frequently.
"Is that what it is called… a c-co-cocoon?" He turned and stared up at Glorfindel who nodded.
"Yes, a butterfly is about to be born."
"A butterfly? In one of those brown c-cocoons?" Estel sounded doubtful and Glorfindel laughed lightly.
"Yes, young one. Actually it was a caterpillar several weeks ago and then…"
Estel interrupted him and turned around in Glorfindel's arms to study his face for a moment. "That was not a caterpillar," he stated without a doubt in his mind. How could a caterpillar turn into this ugly looking leaf thing and how did a butterfly get trapped inside with the caterpillar? It made no sense.
Glorfindel picked up Estel and gracefully climbed onto the branch the boy had been sitting on and he sat down himself, placing the boy firmly on his lap. He glanced at the cocoon and saw that he had some time before the butterfly would emerge and so he began speaking quietly. "It truly was a caterpillar, Estel. When it was the right time for it to become a butterfly, it began spinning its cocoon around itself. When the cocoon was finished, it started changing into a butterfly."
"Did the caterpillar die?"
"Not really, Estel. It just changed… it is no longer a caterpillar that is bound to the earth, but it is becoming a beautiful butterfly that will soar above the earth. It will see and experience things in a way it never could before."
Estel looked from the wriggling cocoon to Glorfindel and back to the cocoon, his brow furrowed in thought as he tried to imagine how such a thing were possible. Finally, he looked up at Glorfindel and asked in a quiet voice. "Is it magic?"
Glorfindel smiled and brushed his hand lightly over the boy's head as he replied. "No, it is the way that Ilúvatar made them. Is it not wondrous?"
"It is," Estel agreed, turning back to the cocoon. "Look," he cried, "the butterfly is starting to come out! We should help it."
Large hands pulled Estel's hands back away. "No, the butterfly must do this on its own, we can only watch and encourage it with our words."
"It will truly die otherwise, Estel. For some reason the butterfly needs to do the work of breaking out of the cocoon by itself. I know not why, but I know it is true."
"How do you know?" Estel asked curiously and then a small smile crossed his lips. "Did you try and help one?"
Glorfindel laughed, "Yes, a very, very long time ago when I was about your age, I did try and help a butterfly out of its cocoon. It died and I was sad for many days and… "
"I am sorry, Glorfindel," Estel squeezed the elf's large hand in an attempt to comfort him, knowing how he would feel if he had done such a thing.
"Thank you, young one," he smiled down at the boy and then motioned towards the cocoon where the butterfly's head was starting to emerge. Estel's eyes lit up and he leaned back further into the comforting presence of Glorfindel as he watched the butterfly slowly pull itself out of the shell. It took longer than he expected but soon a wet, orange and black butterfly was resting on the outside of the cocoon, though the wings were still all folded up.
"When will it fly away?"
"It has to wait for the wings to dry and unfold. It might take an hour."
"An hour?" Estel asked, sighing with disappointment. "And I suppose we cannot help it to dry either."
"No, we cannot. Do you want to leave? Lunch will be served soon."
Estel looked up at him in alarm. "No, I want to stay and watch. Please, Glorfindel. I can wait until supper to eat." He frowned as his stomach let out a low growl but the elf only laughed.
"There are some things that are worth missing lunch for, young one, and this is one of those things." He leaned back against the tree with Estel held snugly in his arms and the two of them talked quietly as they waited and watched until the butterfly took flight. Free to start the next part of its life's journey.
Author's Note: This story is dedicated to Jennifer, a very dear friend of mine who is starting the next part of her life's journey.