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Animal Stories: Brian The Caterpillar

Graham Whitcroft tells the story of vain Brian, who thought himself to be the most wonderful caterpillar in the world. But Brian is in for a big change....

Brian was a caterpillar – a very fine specimen of caterpillar, bright green with red spots and a beautifully sleek body.

But Brian was very proud of himself. As a result, others suffered. “He thinks he’s the most wonderful caterpillar in the world” the other caterpillars complained to one another, though no one was ever brave enough to tell him because Brian had the most ferocious temper. “How dare you!” or “What a cheek!” would have been his calmest reply.

But there was more than pride. Brian was selfish. “Who left this stone in my way?” he might ask, or “Who has been eating the leaf on my tree?” or “No! You can’t share my branch!” As a result, the few friends Brian had began to get fewer and fewer until he became quite lonely.

At the end of the summer, he crept away, all alone, and made his way to a branch on his favourite tree.

Over the last two or three days Brian seemed to be sleeping more than he usually did. As he basked in the early autumn sun, he fell asleep and only woke as the sun was beginning to set. He shivered. “I think the time is coming to prepare for winter’ he thought to himself, ‘I must make my preparations”. So, the next day, he found a sheltered spot in the crevice of an oak tree.

It was while he was searching for this idyllic spot, hidden away from the wind, the rain, and potential enemies like greedy birds, that he discovered a talent he didn’t realise he had. He was able to make silk – or a thread very much like silk. He also discovered that if he wrapped the thread around him, the thicker was his covering and the warmer he became. So, having shaped and woven the silk into a coat, and settled himself within it, he fell into a deep sleep. This sleep was to last a very long time.

If, in that autumn and winter you had seen Brian in his coat – or chrysalis as it is called - hanging in the tree, you wouldn’t have recognised him. You might have thought it was some kind of pod, a sweet pea pod perhaps, that the wind had blown into the rough surface of the oak tree, but you probably wouldn’t have guessed that it was Brian. If you had looked for long enough, you might have noticed that his chrysalis, without the assistance of the wind, moved occasionally but you would never have imagined that this was Brian turning in his sleep, snoring occasionally and twitching as he dreamed caterpillar dreams.

Brian was anchored to his tree all through the rough storms and the deep snow of winter. But as Spring began to unfold, the heat from the sun got stronger and stronger and the world began to change. The bulbs beneath hedgerows and in gardens started to push their way through the damp soil and in time displayed their beautiful colours, birds began to sing their melodious songs and Brian began to stir.

It was a small movement to begin with, but in time the chrysalis shook. Something was happening inside.

Then, there was the sound of tearing. In a sudden movement, the chrysalis split from top to bottom. If you had been a bird on a branch, you might have flown away in fright but if you had stayed, you would have seen a sight so incredible that you would certainly have fallen off your branch.

Out of the tear in the side of the chrysalis emerged, not a caterpillar, but a strange, white creature. For at least an hour, it sat next to its discarded chrysalis and allowed the sun to shine on its pale, damp, body but gradually its colour began to change from black and dark brown to white. When it opened its wings – yes, this creature actually had wings – it became clear that these were no ordinary wings, but coloured – red, yellow, blue, and so beautiful! Then it flew, swiftly, gently and very quietly.

Could this be Brian? It was very difficult to believe, but yes, it was, though it was a different Brian. His new body was even more elegant than it had been before, much more versatile and incredibly beautiful.

However, this wasn’t the only difference.

“Hello’ he said to all his old friends cheerfully, ‘isn’t it a beautiful day?” He settled on a flower and with his new, long tongue, sucked up the nectar and at once felt strong.

On arriving at the next flower, he found himself competing for more of that lovely food with a bee. “After you” said Brian politely.

“Oh, thank you’ said the bee, entering the flower, ‘I haven’t seen you around these parts before”.

“Well, I’m not surprised you don’t know me” said Brian, “I’m Brian the caterpillar, except that I’m no longer a caterpillar, I’m now a butterfly”.

“Goodness me!’ said the bee, ‘ you have changed!”

“Yes, I know’, said Brian, ‘quite remarkable isn’t it, I can hardly believe it myself”.

“It is a wonderful change’ said the bee, ‘but it’s not just your body that has changed, it’s your character, you’re kind, you’re polite, you’re, well, pleasantly different”.

“Thank you” said Brian, feeling very proud of himself – but not that nasty pride, just a pride in the fact that somehow, he had become a completely changed character. “Yes, thank you” said Brian again as he flew away.


2 Corinthians 5: 17


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