legolas and the butterfly

“Ada!” Legolas raced through the trees, holding out a tiny hand. “Look!

Thranduil, seeing the splash of red and black in his son’s 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. Legolas—come.” He grasped the child’s 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 last—a 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 son’s slight shoulders. “But a butterfly is mortal, Lasdithen. Do you know what ‘mortal’ means?”

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 together.”

Slowly, Legolas lifted his hand and looked at the butterfly’s delicate legs, whilst he gave that idea some consideration. “Where do they find their children, Ada?”

“Well... Each creature—butterfly, elf, horse, adan—carries the seeds of new life inside him—or 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 has—every moment is precious. Set it free.” He leaned down and kissed the top of his son’s 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 mate—and 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.

“Your Majesty?”

“I want butterflies, Gwindor. In my garden, and in my son’s. You must make a home for them—I have heard that there are plants to which they are particularly attracted.”

“Yes, your Majesty,” said the head gardener. “There is gwaloth thlhûn—I 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 be—much more,” said Thranduil. “My son has a questing spirit, Gwindor. Just give him time.”



Contents page

Contents page

Back to chapter 1

Chapter 1

The Little Prince
Little Legolas teaches Thranduil an important lesson.

Extra scene

The King
Thranduil learns an important lesson.

Extra scene

The artist
Little Legolas’ drawing gives Thranduil an unpleasant surprise.

Extra scene

The gyngerbrede
Little Legolas does some cooking, King Thranduil does some listening, and they both have some Yuletide fun.

Extra scene

The goblin
Little Legolas opens his presents.

Extra scene

Ada … 'daddy'
Nana … 'mummy'
Lasdithen … 'Little Leaf'
Tithen Lassui … 'Little Leafy'
Gwaloth thlhûn … 'blue blossom'
(buddleia or butterfly bush)
Faen … 'radiant'
(I had in mind a Cabbage White butterfly)
Mîr … 'jewel'
(Painted Lady).