Types of Butterflies
Young children were once told a story of the origin of color in butterfly wings.
Of all the lovely out-of-door things that we admire for their pretty colors, the flowers, the sunset clouds, the blue water of a mountain lake, none has more exquisite coloring than the dainty, filmy wings of the butterfly. Sometimes striped, sometimes spotted, sometimes with delicate pinks and blues and purples and browns and yellows all shading into each other like the hues of an opal, the butterfly floating over the meadow is like a flower come to life. And there is a reason. Let me tell you a story, and you will know what the reason is.
Long, long ago, when the world was young, people had a separate god or goddess to take care of everything in the world. They thought that the goddess of love and beauty was named Venus. Because she was the goddess of love she expected to be loved more than any other creature in the world; and because she was the goddess of beauty she insisted upon being thought the most beautiful of all women or goddesses. You can see at once that she was probably a very vain goddess, and that everyone had to be very careful not to offend her.
Venus had a son, whom she loved very dearly. He was Cupid, the god of love. You have seen pictures of him, a little winged boy, with a bow and arrows. Venus loved him so dearly that she was very much afraid of having any fair maiden come near him, for fear she might steal his affection away from his mother. So, though she had many fair maidens to wait upon her, she never let Cupid play with them.
One day in spring, when all the flowers were in blossom, violets and buttercups and daisies and forget-me-nots and roses, Dame Venus went out into the meadow with her maidens. As they danced along over the soft grass, full of the happiness of spring, the goddess told the maidens to gather as many flowers as their hands could hold, and to see which of them could weave the prettiest garland for their lady's head. Now the most beautiful of all these maidens was named Aster, which means a star. Not only was she the prettiest, but she also had the most charming manners, and was the cleverest at any task these maidens had to do. The others were rather jealous of her, because they thought their queen loved her best; and oh, dear, what a lot of trouble jealousy does make in this world! It made trouble for poor Aster. For as usual, she was the quickest of all in gathering the flowers, and had sat down to begin weaving the garland, with her lap full of beautiful blossoms of all colors, before the other maidens had gathered nearly enough.
Jealous as usual, the maidens saw that again Aster was going to be more praised than the rest of them. So two of them did the thing that they knew in their spiteful hearts would make Dame Venus angrier than anything else. They whispered to the goddess that the reason Aster had so many flowers was because Cupid had helped her gather them, out of sight of the rest; and the reason he helped her was because he thought she was so beautiful that he loved her more than anyone in the world.
Dame Venus was just as jealous of her son as the maidens were of Aster. She thought that she would very quickly put an end to any such thing as this that was whispered to her. Of course a goddess had power to do all kinds of magic things. Before Aster knew what was happening to her, she found her body and head growing smaller and smaller, and her arms spreading out wider and wider, until they were no longer arms, but wings! She felt herself lifted into the air and floating gently along above the meadow. She was a butterfly! the first butterfly that ever was known. But because she had been so beautiful a maiden, Venus could not bear to rob her of all her grace and charm; so she took the flowers, pink and blue and purple and yellow, which had filled the maiden's lap as she sat weaving the garland, and put them into her filmy wings.
So that is why the butterfly's wings are painted.
Source: The Silent Readers, 1920.
© 2011. Patricia A. Michaels. All Rights Reserved.