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Why has the butterfly rings on its wings?

The Story of St. Anne and the Magician.

ONCE upon a time the rumour spread through Palestine that there was a man who could perform greater miracles than God. St. Anne, hearing of it, determined to go and see him, and so she did.

               When she approached the house where he lived, she washed her feet, as it is customary in those parts of the world, and with meekness and devotion she went in and asked the man to change a withered trunk into a green tree. The man got very angry, and said he did not perform miracles, and after insulting her before the assembled multitudes, seized her hands and thrust her out of his house.

               When St. Anne saw what he had done she fell upon her knees and prayed to God to punish him. As she was lifting up her hands in prayer she suddenly noticed that the ring which she had from her dear mother had gone. She remembered that the man had got hold of her by the hand, and she understood that he then must have slipped the ring off her finger. So she prayed that God would punish this impostor, thief, and robber.

               And God heard her prayer. Of a sudden the man disappeared from amongst the people, and a small ring appeared round one of the boughs of the tree outside the house. Whilst the people were gazing upon this ring into which the thief had been changed, it opened, and out of it came a hundred of small butterflies with the mark of the ring on their wings. This was the sign of the ring, which had been stolen from St. Anne.


The miracle which St. Anne asks the man to perform, namely, to change a withered trunk into a green tree, belongs to the large cycle of similar miracles starting from the rod of Aaron, the story of Lot and Abraham, the Tannhäuser legend, etc. (v. Gaster, Literatura Populara Româna, Bucharest 1883, p. 286 ff.).

               This ring of small insect eggs round the twigs of trees is also known as the cuckoo's ring, and taken off from the tree is used for charms by girls, who say "as men are pleased to hear me." This ring is also called "Sleep," and it is therefore often put into the cradle of restless children in order to cause them to sleep.

Bibliographic Information

Tale Title: Why has the butterfly rings on its wings?
Tale Author/Editor: Gaster, Moses
Book Title: Rumanian Bird and Beast Stories
Book Author/Editor: Gaster, Moses
Publisher: Sidgwick & Jackson
Publication City: London
Year of Publication: 1915
Country of Origin: Romania
Classification: unclassified

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