Ada! Legolas raced through the trees,
holding out a tiny hand. Look!
Thranduil, seeing the splash of red and black in his sons
cupped palm, sighed. A butterfly... Legolas, you should
have left it wherever you found it.
It was in the sky, Ada. Legolas peered at
the insect, his little fingers hovering over its jewelled wings
but carefully not touching them. I just held out my hand
and it came down to me. Can I take it home?
Thranduil shook his head, but the elfling was far too engrossed
to see him. Come with me. Legolascome.
He grasped the childs shoulder and gently guided him to
a fallen oak, lying beside the path they had been following. Sit
down, ion nín.
Keeping his eyes on the butterfly, and his hand steady, Legolas
slowly lowered his bottom.
Thranduil could not help smiling. It is beautiful,
he said, and I can understand why you want to keep it, but
it would be cruel, Legolas.
The child looked up from the insect at lasta puzzled frown
on his little face. Why would it be cruel, Ada? He
could have all of my garden to fly in.
The Elvenking wrapped his arm around his sons slight shoulders.
But a butterfly is mortal, Lasdithen. Do you know what mortal
Legolas shook his head.
Do you remember what I told you about your nana? Why she
does not live with us?
Because she died.
Thranduil nodded. Your nana grew so tired that she fell
asleep and could not wake up. That is why she cannot be with us.
And it makes us both sad.
Thranduil gave his son a little squeeze. You and I will
never tire like that, Legolas. We are made to live until the end
of days. But mortals are made to die when they have lived
for their allotted time, and a butterfly tires and dies after
having lived for just a few days.
Legolas stared down at the insect. Days?
It does not seem possible, does it? Not now, when it is
young and healthy, fluttering from flower to flower. But a butterfly
has work do, Lasdithen, and only a short time in which to do it.
What work, Ada?
It must find another butterfly so that they can have children
Slowly, Legolas lifted his hand and looked at the butterflys
delicate legs, whilst he gave that idea some consideration. Where
do they find their children, Ada?
Well... Each creaturebutterfly, elf, horse, adancarries
the seeds of new life inside himor her. But those seeds
must be mingled with the seeds of another before they can grow.
One day, he added, quickly, I will explain to you
how the mingling takes place, Legolas, but not today. Today, all
I shall say is that you must set the butterfly free so that it
can find its mate, as Eru intended.
But I am not keeping him here, Ada, he is staying
It is staying because it knows that you want it to stay,
Lasdithen. It can feel your love, ion nín.
Thranduil squeezed his son again. You must tell it that
you want it to go.
You want it to be happy, do you not?
What if I found another one, Ada? Then they could both
live in my garden, and their children, too.
No, Legolas. A butterfly must choose its own mate. And
remember how little time it hasevery moment is precious.
Set it free. He leaned down and kissed the top of his sons
head. Hold up your hand, ion nín, and say,
Fly away, butterfly, and find your mate.
The elfling hesitated.
Go on, Tithen Lassui, said Thranduil.
Legolas raised his hand. Fly away, butterfly, he
said, bravely. Fly away and find your mateand bring
her to live in my garden, if you like.
Good boy, said the Elvenking, proudly.
And father and son watched the butterfly flutter away.
Butterflies, said Thranduil.
I want butterflies, Gwindor. In my garden, and in my sons.
You must make a home for themI have heard that there are
plants to which they are particularly attracted.
Yes, your Majesty, said the head gardener. There
is gwaloth thlhûnI believe the edain
call it the butterfly bush. And the young of the Faen butterfly
live on cabbages, and the Mîr on thistles. But whether
they can be lured underground by planting
You must find eggs, Gwindor, and bring them to hatch here;
you must keep bringing them until the butterflies are established.
As you wish, your Majesty. The gardener bowed low.
Will there be anything else, sire?
Oh, I am sure there will bemuch more, said
Thranduil. My son has a questing spirit, Gwindor. Just give