The First Butterflies
Ojibway Myths & Legends
Long ago, when human twins were born to spirit Women, she relied on the animals to take care of them. All the animals loved the first human babies and did everything they could to help them. Dog watched over them, Bear gave fur to keep them warm, Wolf hunted for them , Doe provided milk for them , the Birds sang lullabies and Muskrat bathed them. Dog was an excellent guardian. The twins had only to cry and Dog jumped to his feet, his tail wagging. When he found out what was troubling the children, he set it right, or called somebody else who could help. When the babies wanted to be amused, Dog did the best tricks he could for them. He tickled the babies into delighted laughter by licking their noses.
After a long time it became clear that something was wrong with the children. This worried the animals, who had been summoned by Bear, gathering around the twins. “Brothers.” Bear said. “The children cannot walk. They do not run and play like our children do. What can we do to help them?”
When Nanabush came to play with the children, the animals told him of their concern. Nanabush thought awhile and then he said. “You have cared for the children very well, in fact they never need to do anything for themselves. All little ones need to reach out for what they want, instead of always having everything handed to them. I shall find out what we can do to help the babies learn to walk.” Nanabush journeyed far to the west, he called to the great spirit who was the creator of the children and had been watching over them. The great spirit would know what should be done to teach the children to walk. In reply the Nanabush’s call, the great spirit told him to search along the slopes of the mountains. There he would find thousands of tiny sparkling stones. Nanabush did as the great spirit had said, he collected hundreds of stones, blue, green, red, and yellow ones.
Soon he had a huge pile theat gleamed through the clouds. Then he tossed a handful of stones into the air, catching them as they fell back. He threw a second handful but nothing fell down into his stretched out hands. Nanabush looked up, to his astonishment, he saw the pebbles changing into shapes.
The Butterflies followed Nanabush back to the twins, who crowed with pleasure and waved their legs and stretched out their arms to the beautiful creatures. But the Butterflies always fluttered just beyond the grasp of the small out stretched hands. Soon the twins began to crawl and then slowly started to walk, and even running in efforts to catch the Butterflies. And these were the first Butterflies.