The butterfly and the nightingale

[This is a tale I wrote this morning, originally in my very bad Italian. I thought I’d put it into English for your enjoyment.]


A Monarch butterfly from Biological

One day when the sun shone brilliantly in the clear blue sky, like it does during childhood summers that seem to stretch out into eternity, a mouse went for a walk in the lush green forest. When the sun reached its peak at midday, he stopped beside a stream to take a refreshing sip of water; the long walk had made him very thirsty. Having taken a drink, he then decided to nap. Without any difficulty whatsoever, the young mouse climbed a tree nearby and sat himself down on a leafy branch to rest. He had barely closed his eyes when he heard a strange sound. Wait a minute… he strained his ears. It was unlike anything he’d heard before. It sounded like someone was crying.

He jumped to his feet immediately and ran towards the source of this awful sound, so mournful that it seemed it could tear his heart into a million pieces.

And there, under a bright green leaf, the little mouse was greeted by a sight more beautiful and more heart-breaking than any he’d seen before. There, before his very eyes, stood a butterfly with striking black and orange wings and she was wailing sorrowfully. He didn’t need to ask why; one of her delicate wings was snapped in two like a dry twig.

The mouse made a quick decision: he sent a pigeon to inform all the animals in the wood of his discovery, calling them to an urgent conference.

He didn’t have to wait long – such dire news had them all rushing to get there. Within a few minutes, they began to arrive: every species of bird, deer, foxes, squirrels, rabbits, snakes, wolves, ants… and of course, the conference couldn’t possibly begin in the absence of the king of the animals: the lion and his majestic queen.

Upon their arrival, the birds began to chatter incessantly. It’s a well-known fact that birds – especially sparrows – are chatterboxes and extremely noisy, and they’ll gossip about everything and anything. Growing impatient, the lion kindly asked them to desist and called them to order because their chatter was giving him a headache. With the birds silenced, he launched straight into the business of the day.

“Who here can speak the language of butterflies?” asked the lion. “It’s the only way we’ll find out what really happened and who must be punished for this heinous crime.”

For it is a crime to injure such a harmless creature. In fact, in this particular forest, butterflies were sacred animals. Harming a butterfly in any way constituted a criminal act, punishable by death.

“I,” a deep voice resounded across the woods. “I can speak with her.” All the animals turned to look. The voice belonged to an owl perched on a low branch above their heads. Quite an ugly animal, but extremely wise. Everyone knows owls are the wisest animals in the world. Of course, this means they speak several languages.

A quick flutter of wings saw the huge owl land next to the butterfly. What followed was a silent interrogation. The bird and the injured butterfly spoke quickly and silently, using only a few gestures and their eyes. Butterflies don’t have an extensive vocabulary; they don’t need it.

“Unfortunately, it was a human who broke her wing,” announced the owl a few minutes later. “But she says she doesn’t wish him to be punished.” The old owl shot the upset butterfly a glance, as if to make sure he was interpreting her words correctly.

“She says she is in love with him.”

A weighty, shocked silence spread between them, like an invisible mist seeping into the clearing. A butterfly. In love. With a human? Inconceivable!

“So… what do we do, sir?” the mouse finally dared to ask the question on everyone’s mind, in his high-pitched voice. The troubled lion looked at the butterfly, his large eyes gleaming golden as the Sun itself. He had to think this through.

A long silence. Nothing moved. Not so much as a leaf, as if the entire forest held its breath.

“Find him, and bring him here,” commanded the lion. The search would give him time to contemplate punishment. The butterfly began to weep again.

In just a few hours, the animals found the culprit and brought him before their king. He was young, not yet a man and no longer a child. Just a simple shepherd. He had no traces of a beard to speak of, but his suntanned complexion and his confident demeanor gave the impression he was much older than his sixteen years.

The lion stood and approached the stranger, but failed to strike fear into the shepherd’s soul. His brown eyes gazed calmly back into those of the carnivorous feline. In fact, he seemed ready to face his destiny.

“You have harmed this butterfly. A crime punishable by death. Do you desire to say anything before we execute this punishment?” the lion asked.

The owl translated everything; as we’ve already said, owls are multilingual creatures.

“It was an accident,” the youth replied truthfully. “I was just trying to stroke her and ended up being too forceful. But I didn’t mean to hurt her in any way. I love her with all my heart.”

The butterfly cried out a tearful reply, echoing his words. The lioness then spoke up:

“You did not mean to hurt her, but you did.”

Nothing could be done; the shepherd had to be punished for his actions. It was the law.

The butterfly spoke up timidly.

“Before…before he is p-put to death, I would very much like to hear him sing for me again. Just one last time. Please, sir,” she implored the lion, clearly distraught. The lion, an animal neither cruel nor insensitive to her plight, agreed to grant her this wish, because he respected her greatly.

And so, the animals listened to the shepherd’s song.

The youth opened his mouth and out poured a sweet melody. He sang of lost loves, poisoned dreams, promises that were never kept, happiness and sadness, and the simple joys of being alive.

The song was so melodious and so moving that all of them had tears in their eyes by the time he was finished. Even the lion himself was greatly moved – it had touched his very soul – and he hated the idea that he’d have to execute such a passionate and talented singer.

So, the wise king made a decision.

He lifted his giant paw, and, before any of them could blink, the shepherd was gone. In his place stood a nightingale.

From then onwards, he was condemned to live as a tiny and rather plain-looking, unimpressive, bird whose voice was powerful as the wind and completely enchanting. And every evening, the nightingale searches for his beloved butterfly among the thick branches of trees, but will never find her.

This is why nightingales are the birds with the sweetest and the most melancholy voices of all.

And that is the tale of the butterfly and her love, the nightingale.



#wordoftheday : abnegation

Another new word stumbled across my path today and, of course, I snapped it up immediately. It’s a synonym of self-denial that sounds like a very complex mathematical concept (at least, to me it does!), while it reminds me of the word ‘abdication’.

Here’s Google’s definition:



#wordoftheday :obviate

This didn’t come as an email, but I discovered it while looking up the meaning of a Greek word and thought it was a useful word to note down:

The ‘did you know’ section on the same webpage reads:

Obviate derives from Late Latin obviare (meaning “to meet or withstand”) and Latin obviam,which means “in the way” and is also an ancestor of our adjective “obvious.” “Obviate” has a number of synonyms in English, including “prevent,” “preclude,” and “avert”; all of these words can mean to hinder or stop something. When you prevent or preclude something, you put up an insurmountable obstacle. In addition, “preclude” often implies that a degree of chance was involved in stopping an event. “Obviate” generally suggests the use of intelligence or forethought to ward off trouble. “Avert” always implies that a bad situation has been anticipated and prevented or deflected by the application of immediate and effective means.


You told me the story in no particular order, handing me a jagged make-shift puzzle of possibilities in pieces. Your words gurgled into my ear, streamed quietly into my soul, perfumed my dreams. A touch of sunlight there, a taste of a smile here.

And so I listen.

And so I write.

#writing tools: family tree

Caught up in this new idea (about Medea, mythical murderess of her children), I’ve been doing some reading about her. It’s strange, I’ve never had a female main character before. Should be interesting…

Anyway, after yesterday’s burst of writing inspiration, I thought I’d try to be sensible and work on building some character background – you know, the big events that had an impact on her. Among other things, this meant I ended up trying to sort out her genealogy (so that I could figure out exactly what happened after Jason, and how she came to be of divine descent). I’m using this website to keep track and thought I’d share it with you:


I wrote up a thing for CampNaNoWriMo and it just went completely in the opposite direction. It started with a penguin march (which is what I was meant to be writing about) but about halfway through I got stuck and just tapped up whatever came to mind. Still, I forced myself to keep writing and actually hit my (very low) goal. I feel so bad for reaching my word count while not actually sticking to the project title. I got a flair and certificate but this ‘conquest’ feels so… empty. Bad wolf!

On the upside, I think I found myself a new writing project (or did it find me?) as it emerged from the second half of the text… Maybe I can use NaNoWriMo to work on it; I get the feeling it will evolve into something longer than my usual 1000 – 3000 words, which might be good! The idea I’ve had requires some research and probably a lot of restructuring, but it’s a start, right? I guess I can do some of that till NaNoWriMo and then use November to rewrite… Yay?


Fear and loathing in Athens

Dateline: Atlantis


Shocking evidence purporting to relate to a failed coup attempt has been uncovered in Athens in recent weeks. Less than 7km from the Acropolis, near the ancient port of Phaleron and in the shadow of the modern Olympic Tae Kwon Do arena, redevelopment work on the site of an old race track unearthed over 1,500 sets of human remains. The finds include two mass graves containing “deviant” burials with evidence of violence. The remains are almost three thousand years old, dating to the period immediately preceding the “Golden Age” of Classical Athens, but their significance resonates strongly in the present day.

We excavate the evidence to uncover the hidden political agendas – past and present, large and small – behind the reporting of this discovery, and restore its true significance. For extra points, we will attempt to do this without resorting to the familiar mythological clichés of Greek crisis reporting (“Acropolis now!”

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The Watch Lantern

The Escritorium

Hello Escritori,

Today I thought I’d write a Ponderland post.


At the end of my birthday, TBG said, “Pola, I think you’re really eccentric.”

“Is that… a good thing?” I ventured. Previously she’s only ever called me ‘a contradiction’.

The geometric definition of eccentric means unequally aligned through the centre of a circle, or something ‘off centre.’ For some reason this intrigued me far more than the literary one, someone unusual who deviates from the norm.

I said intriguing, not positive; and a certain prerequisite of friendship is that you like each other and I thought that this might be at threat in this instance. I’m insecure like that.

“It just is.”

If I had a penny every time people told me “It just is.” or “You just are…!” I’d be rich.

“You’re eccentric, and I’ve met a lot of people – real big shots, from broadsheet columnists to whoever and…

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