The Golden Butterfly

The Golden Butterfly

        The Golden Butterfly. Once upon a time there was a beautiful young princess. Her name was Kembang Melati. She lived with her old physician and many serving-women in a palace on the bank of a great river.  Meanwhile, on the other bank of the river, there lived a monarch of the rains, whose name was Raja Banjir. He  lived in his rainbow-colored palace on the other bank of the river. He could cause floods to appear at his will, and his tears made brooks and rivers swell. From his windows he could see the little princess weaving her bridal dress, and he could hear her singing a song for luck. But the princess never looked toward his side of the river. The monarch of the rains kept gazing at her with great sad eyes. Because he was so sad, he wept many tears, and the river swelled and the wind sighed softly through the high trees around the palace. The princess heard the sighing of the wind, and saw the river rising higher and higher. But she did not know that it was her future husband who was weeping and calling to her. 

        For many days the monarch of the rains yearned for the princess. Finally, to be near her, he changed himself into a golden butterfly and flew back and forth before her window until at last the princess saw him and opened the window so that she could admire his dazzling wings. Then the golden butterfly lighted on Kembang Melati’s little hand, kissed her finger tips, and flew out of the window.

        A few days later the golden butterfly returned and perched on Kembang Melati’s right ear and whispered to her, “Weave your bridal dress quickly, princess, for soon your bridegroom will come.”

        The princess heard only the word “bridegroom.” She asked, ‘Where is my bridegroom?” The golden butterfly did not answer her, for he had flown out of the window.  But someone else had heard her question. He was Darsman, the wicked son of the princess’s old physician. He went to his mother at once. “Mother,” he said, “I was standing outside the princess’s window and I heard her ask, ‘Where is my bridegroom?’ I want you to go to her and tell her that I am her bridegroom.”

        “That you can never be, son” the old physician said, “because you are not of noble birth.”

       “Nevertheless, I wish to marry the princess,” he answered.

         “Go to her, Mother, and tell her that her bridegroom has come”

        Darsman was wicked and cruel, and his mother was afraid of him. So she went to the princess and told her of the bridegroom who had come to claim her hand. Just then the golden butterfly flew back and whispered in the princess’s ear, “The real bridegroom has not yet come, princess. The one who is now under your roof is a wicked man. His name is Darsman, and he is the son of your old physician, Marinah. Do not accept him. Wait till the true bridegroom comes!”  When the golden butterfly had flown away, the princess said to her old physician, “I will wait my bridegroom, it has not come yet. I’ll wait till the true bridegroom comes”

        “This is the true bridegroom”, the physician insisted. She clasped her hands and begged, “Oh, princess, dear princess, marry him at once, for if you do not, we shall both die!”

        The princess did not want to die. So finally she said to her physician, “Tell the bridegroom who has come that I must have seven days to think it over. Tell him to wait on the bank of the river and I will send him my answer”.

        The old physician went home and told her son about the princess words. Darsman found this idea was good, and he agreed. He took a big basket, filled it with food to last him seven days, and had it carried to a spot on the bank of the river. On that same day the monarch of the rains called to him a white crow, one of his best and biggest messenger-birds, and gave her a little chest full of costly ornaments and a letter.

        “Take these immediately to the Princess Kembang Melati,” he ordered, “and make sure that you don’t lose anything.”

        “Don’t worry, master,” the crow replied. “I myself will take everything to the princess.”

        The white crow flew off with the little chest bound fast to her back and the letter between ‘her claws, and winged her way to the opposite bank of the river. There she saw Darsman eating the last of a delicious-looking fish. The white crow, who loved fish, flew over swiftly, and cried, “Oh, how good that looks! May I have a little bite?”

        “How do you dare ask me that?” Darsman demanded crossly. “Who are you, and where do you come from, with a letter in your claws and a chest on your back?”

        “Well,” the crow answered smugly, “I happen to be the messenger of the great magician, the monarch of the rains! And I am to take this letter and this little chest to the Princess Kembang Melati, as my master ordered. What’s more, I am to give them to her myself.”

        “Hmm” Darsman said with a false little laugh. “In that case, I let you eat some of my fish. But you should put down your letter and take the chest from your back!”

        The white crow didn’t have to be invited twice. She laid the letter and the little chest in the grass, and began to eat greedily of the delicious bit of fish.  Darsman lost no time. He opened the chest, took out the beautiful golden ornaments and in their place put some “big spiders and some gruesome-looking scorpions. Then he hurried to his mother with the letter. “Mother” he said, “I can’t read, but I imagine that this letter must be full of lovely words. Now I want you to change them, at once, into ugly words. Meanwhile I’ll hide these ornaments.”  The white crow was so busy eating that she did not notice what was going on. She ate the fish, down to the last scrap. Then she went to get a drink at the spring. The spring murmured to her, “Ah, white crow, why didn’t you take the letter and the little chest to the princess as Raja Banjir said?”

       But the white crow didn’t hear. She didn’t hear the wind, either, sighing to her, “Ah, white crow, something dreadful will happen because of your greediness!”  And something dreadful did happen. When the princess saw the white crow come, bearing the letter and the little chest, she believed that the bird came from her true bridegroom, and in great excitement she decided to read the letter first. As her eyes flew over the words, she could hardly believe what she read: “You are very ugly,” the letter said, “and what is in the little chest is foul and old. That goes, too, for your green hair and your blue skin.”

        She was so angry that she tore the letter into shreds and tossed the little chest, without opening it, through the window. The spiders and the scorpions swarmed over the garden to the great astonishment of the white crow who could not understand how her master could have sent such horrible things to the lovely princess.  But Drasman laughed to himself. Now the princess would marry him, he thought. But the princess had no thought of marrying anyone now. She was bitterly grieved by the ugly letter. Weeping, she paced back and forth in her chamber. No one could comfort her, and she cried, “Take away my weaving stool! I will never weave again on my bridal gown!”  Toward evening of that sad day the golden butterfly came back and flew through the open window. He lit on the princess’s ear. “Darling princess,” he whispered, “why don’t you wear the beautiful ornaments that your bridegroom sent you?”

        At that the princess hit at him with an angry hand. The great monarch of the rains thought surely she was only teasing him. He whispered in her ear again: “Beloved little princess, would you like to see your bridegroom tomorrow morning? He will take you to his rainbow-colored palace where the golden rays of the sun are magnified a thousand times into the most wonderful colors, and where you shall see woven cloth so fine, so dazzling, that it is like moonbeams! Come, darling princess, finish weaving your bridal gown, for tomorrow your bridegroom comes!”

        The princess grew even angrier. She called her serving women to her and bade them chase the golden butterfly away and never again to let it come inside. When the great magician heard the princess say these words he became so angry that he caused a mighty flood to come over the land that very night. Everything that was not submerged drifted away, torn loose from the land. The palace with Princess Kembang Melati and her physician and the wicked Darsman and all the others who lived in it, drifted on the floodwaters.  The palace drifted farther and farther, until it came near the other bank where the palace of the great monarch of the rains stood.

        The king was in his doorway, watching, but when he saw the princess’s palace floating toward him he pretended not to see it. The princess cried piteously for help, but he pretended not to hear.  They were drifting out of sight when the physician cried out in despair, “It’s my fault! I bear the blame! It was I who changed the beautiful words of the letter into ugly ones! And my son, Darsman, filled the little chest with spiders and scorpions while the white crow was eating the fish.”  When he heard the physician’s confession, the monarch of the rains understood everything. He leaped down and dragged the princess and all the others out of the drifting palace and brought them into his own. Only her old physician and the physician’s wicked son were not permitted to enter.

        “May great waves engulf you!” he thundered. And at his words mighty waves, as high as the heavens, rose in the water and swallowed up the physician and her son.

         The white crow was punished, too, for her greediness. She was changed into a black bird which could never speak again.  All she could say was, “Kaak . . . kaak . . . kaak . . . kr – kr. . . .” It meant “gold . . . gold” But though the crow searched, she never could find the gold and jewels with which the little chest had been filled.

        When the evildoers were punished, the monarch of the rains caused the flood to subside. In a short time, the whole world was dry once more, and when he had accomplished that he turned to the princess and told her that he was the son of a nobleman and that for days and nights he had yearned for her.  Kembang Melati took pity on him. She knew that he was truly her bridegroom from the way he spoke to her. So she married him and lived the rest of her happy life with him in the rainbow-colored palace on the bank of the river.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *