The Sad Nettle and The Beautiful Butterfly
A children’s fable by Jan Luthman
It was one of those summery days when the air is heavy and warm and nobody wants to do very much.
Jonathan and Robbit were resting on top of one of Moley’s hummocks, relaxing and watching the rest of the world go by. Jonathan could feel the sun’s warmth through his shell and it was making him feel comfortable and drowsy. He wriggled contentedly.
Last night, before he’d gone to bed, Jonathan had taken off his shell and given it a special polish, and this morning it gleamed in the sunlight.
Beside him on the soft warm molehill, Robbit lay on his back, his paws behind his head, gazing up at the clear blue sky, thinking about things in his own rabbity way.
“Why do nettles have stings?” He asked suddenly
Jonathan had just begun to doze off, and woke with a start
“Why do nettles have what?” He asked, not quite awake.
“Stings,” Robbit scratched one of his ears in a comfortable, absent-minded sort of way.
Jonathan pondered, his head tilted to one side as he thought.
“I suppose,” He said eventually, “They have stings so nobody will eat them.”
“That’s silly,” Said Robbit, “Nobody’d want to eat a rotten old nettle, anyway: they’re all tough and stringy.”
Jonathan had never tried eating a nettle, so he couldn’t think of a good answer. Besides, he was still feeling sleepy and just wanted to curl up quietly inside his shell.
Robbit bounced up, his nose twitching.
“I’ve an idea,” He said.
Jonathan sighed; sometimes he wished Robbit would just relax and enjoy the sunshine.
Robbit was hopping around Moley’s hummock
“Let’s ask Farmer Jack.”
“But,” Jonathan protested, “The Old Farmhouse is miles away.”
“No it’s not, it’s just at the top of the hill.”
“Feels like miles when you’re a snail,” Grumbled Jonathan, “Why don’t you go and ask him yourself?” He suggested, “Then you can come back and tell me.”
Robbit sat down, flipping his fingers impatiently
“It’s no fun on my own,” He said, “Besides, that’s what a friend is for; to come with you when you’re going somewhere.”
Jonathan felt suddenly rather happy, as if a little glow had lit up inside him: it was nice when someone said you were their friend, he thought, even if they did bounce rather a lot.
He slithered down off Moley’s hill
“All right,” He agreed, “I’ll come with you.”
“Goody, ” Said Robbit, jumping backwards and forwards over Jonathan’s head.
“But remember,” Jonathan reminded him, “I’m not as quick as you.”
“Doesn’t matter, I can stop for a nibble or a scratch while you slide and glide.”
They set off, Robbit leaping happily from one clump of grass to another, while, beside him, Jonathan’s little round shell glinted in the sunlight as they wound their way slowly up the hill towards the Old Farmhouse, two of the best friends in the meadow.
Farmer Jack was digging his potato patch when he noticed the pair arrive.
“Hallo Robbit,” Farmer Jack stopped digging and rested on the handle of his spade, “And Jonathan.”
“Hallo Farmer Jack,” Robbit sniffed hopefully at the basket of potatoes at Farmer Jack’s feet: he didn’t much like potatoes, but he did like the green leaves that came with them, “Can I eat the leaves?” He asked.
Farmer Jack smiled
“Go ahead,” He said, “Help yourself.”
Jonathan sidled up
“Can I have some, too, please?” Jonathan’s spectacles glinted in the sunlight as he squinted up at Farmer Jack
“Course you can.”
Jonathan slid off in the direction of a particularly appetising leaf.
“My Goodness, Jonathan,” Farmer Jack called after him, “Your shell’s looking very shiny this morning.”
“I polished it,” Said Jonathan proudly, pleased that Farmer Jack had noticed, “Last night, before I went to bed.”
“Must have taken you a long time to clean all the little whorly bits.”
“M’mm,” Agreed Jonathan, “Ages.”
Robbit was busy nibbling, taking care not to tread on any of the potatoes. Farmer Jack’s wife didn’t like muddy paw prints on her new potatoes.
“Farmer Jack,” He asked, just about to munch on a particularly bright green leaf, “If potato leaves taste nice and don’t sting, why do nettles?”
“Why do nettles what?”
“Fting,” Said Robbit, his mouth full of leaf.
Farmer Jack scratched his head.
“Not quite sure that I really know why, ” He replied, “But I did hear an old story once that seemed to make sense.”
Robbit stopped chewing.
The Sad Nettle”Can you tell us?” He asked.
“If I can remember it,” Farmer Jack, and settled down on a nearby tree stump.
Go to Chapter 2 of this story of
The Sad Nettle and the Beautiful Butterfly
Farmer Jack Tells The Story