The Slug and the Caterpillar

The caterpillar munched happily on his leaf dreaming of the glorious day that he would fly across the garden as a butterfly displaying his brand new wings to the world. It was a pleasing thought which encouraged him to eat more and more of his leaf so that he would be as fat as possible when it came time to enter metamorphosis, for he knew that the fattest of caterpillars became the most beautiful of butterflies.

As he sat eating away, dreaming his dreams he became aware of something slithering underneath his leaf.

‘Well hello there friend,’ the caterpillar called out, greeting this new visitor. ‘You must be the biggest caterpillar I’ve ever seen,’ he remarked.

A slimy brown head turned around and two antennae peered up at the caterpillar.

‘Are you talking to me?’ asked the slug.

‘Yes of course,’ the caterpillar replied, ‘I was just commenting on how large you are. You must have eaten plenty of leaves to get that big. You’re going to be the most delightful butterfly when you transform.’

The slug did not reply for he was rather confused as to what this little caterpillar was talking about it but when he realised the caterpillar’s mistake the slug’s devious mind began to stir.

‘Ah well yes,’ he said slyly, ‘there’s been a change of plan you see. Has nobody told you?’

The caterpillar shook his furry head.

‘Told me what? You’re the first caterpillar I’ve seen in days. I’ve been very busy eating this leaf.’

‘Oh I’m sorry,’ the slug said stifling a snigger, ‘we’ve not to eat leaves anymore.’

The caterpillar was rightly shocked.

‘But how are we meant to become butterflies?’ he asked anxiously.

The slug pointed across the garden with an oily antenna. A snail had crawled onto a flagstone and was heading for the lush grass on the other side.

‘That caterpillar there has a shell. You’ll need one too if you want to transform. If you eat too many leaves you’ll never find a shell big enough. Look at me, I’ll have to use that broken flower pot over there.’

‘This is terrible,’ wailed the caterpillar who was utterly dismayed at the news. ‘Thank you so much for letting me know. I must be off now to try and find a shell.’

The slug could barely contain his laughter and off he slithered to his broken flower pot to watch the gullible caterpillar.

High and low the caterpillar searched and it took him several long and tiring days to scour the garden in search of anything he could use as a shell. There was nothing in the garden appropriate. Every day the slug would watch, giggling and laughing at the success if his cunning trick.

Eventually, tired and exhausted, the caterpillar met the snail and asked him where he could find such a shell.

‘Are you having a laugh?’ the snail said, ‘what do you need a shell for?’

The caterpillar explained his predicament and as he did he couldn’t help but allow the tears to fall. He had no idea that becoming a butterfly was going to be such hard work.

‘I’m afraid you’ve been tricked,’ the snail told him, ‘I’m no caterpillar and neither is your friend in the flower pot. That there is a slimy, sneaky slug.’

The caterpillar was stunned. All this time ha had wasted looking for a shell when he could have been eating and growing bigger. He stormed back to the flower pot and confronted the slug.

‘You tricked me,’ he protested, ‘why would you do such a thing?’

The slug sneered at him.

‘Why shouldn’t I?’ he cried. ‘I’m just an ugly slug, a mollusca gastropoda, a slimy, spineless mucus maker. Nobody likes a slug.’ He turned away from the caterpillar and hid his face in the shadows of the flower pot. ‘Leave me alone caterpillar. Go eat your leaves and become a beautiful butterfly and leave us ugly slugs be.’

The caterpillar was taken aback and returned to his leaf troubled and anxious. He resumed his eating with renewed vigour but all the while he thought of the wretched, jealous slug.

When he had finished the leaf, he moved on to another and grew larger and larger. By the time he had eaten his fourth leaf the caterpillar was huge and was fat enough to build his cocoon. He eagerly climbed inside and began his metamorphosis.

A day passed…

Then another…

Then another…

On the fourth day the cocoon began to move. It twitched and flickered to life and in the morning sunlight a faint shape could be seen awakening inside. It kicked at the cocoon walls and a leg broke through.

Then another…

Then another…

With a flourish of his wings and a final kick the butterfly broke free of his cocoon and clambered into the summer sun spreading his beautiful new wings. They were a rainbow of bright colours and patterns and he stood for several long minutes admiring them proudly.

The day had finally come when he could fly into the garden and show them off to the world but something didn’t feel right. His thought had returned to the poor slug.

The butterfly formed a plan.

He flew across to the flower bed a plucked a petal from the reddest of roses and carried it back to his leaf. Then he chose a different flower and plucked a petal from that one. He did this many times over, flying back and forth to the flower bed, until he had a whole heap of different coloured petals.

With an eye for pretty colours he arranged the petals in a pleasing order then went in search of a friendly spider. The spider was only too willing to provide the butterfly with some webbing which he brought back to the leaf and began threading in and out of the petals.

When the butterfly had finished he carried his creation down to the flower pot.

‘Hello slug, are you there?’ he called out.

The slug was still sulking.

‘Come to gloat have you butterfly?’ it replied from inside the flower pot. ‘Come to get your own back and show off your pretty new wings? Well don’t bother, I’m a slug and you can’t make me anymore miserable than I am.’

The butterfly waited patiently for the slug to come out of the pot but the slug remained inside.

‘I brought you a present, slug. I know why you played that trick on me and I forgive you. I don’t want to see you sad so I made this for you.’ The butterfly held out a set of delicate wings made from flower petals and sewn together with cobwebs and placed them carefully in front of the flower pot.

They were as beautiful as the butterflies.

‘I hope you like them slug,’ the butterfly said and flew off into the garden to finally show off his own new wings.

The slug crept out of the flower pot and examined the gift. With tears in his eyes he watched the butterfly flutter and dance around the garden.

‘You’re more beautiful than you know,’ the slug said and tried on his new wings.

Though he could not fly he didn’t care for he was easily the most beautiful slug in the garden