Native American Legends
How the Butterflies came to be
A Papago Legend
Now, one day after Earth-Maker shaped the world, Iioi, our Elder
Brother was sitting and watching the children play. He saw the joy
and the youthfulness they displayed. He saw the beauty of their
surroundings, and the fresh fragrance of the trees and the flowers.
He heard the happy songs of the birds, and saw the blue of the sky.
He saw the women as they ground cornmeal. He saw their beauty, and
the sunlight as it shone from their hair. These were wonderful things.
But then Elder Brother realized that all of these things would
change. He knew that these children would all grow old and weaken
and die. The beautiful women would someday grow fat and ugly, and
their beautiful black hair would turn gray. The leaves would turn
brown and fall from the trees, and the beautiful flowers that smelled
so fresh would fade. The days would grow short and the nights would
be cold. Elder Brother's heart grew sad and troubled.
As Elder Brother watched the women grind cornmeal, the wind made
some fallen yellow leaves dance in the sunlight. He decided to do
something which would capture some of these wonderful things which
He saw. He decided that He must make something that everyone could
enjoy, that would lift their hearts and spirits. So, He took out
His bag of Creation and began to gather some things together.
He took some blue from the sky, and some whiteness from the cornmeal.
He gathered some spots of sunlight, and the blackness of a beautiful
woman's hair. He took the yellow of the falling leaves, and the
green of the pine needles. He gathered the red, the purple, and
the orange from the flowers. As He gathered these things, He put
them into His bag. And, last, He put the songs of the song birds
in the bag.
When He had finished gathering these things together, He called
the children together. He told them to open the bag and there would
be a surprise for them. So they opened the bag, and out flew hundreds
of beautiful Butterflies! They were red and gold and black and yellow,
blue and green and white. They looked liked flowers, dancing in
the wind. They flew all around the gleeful children, and lit on
their heads. The hearts of the children and the adults soared. Never
before had they seen such wonderful, happy things. They began to
sing their songs as they flew.
But then song bird lit on Iitoi's shoulder and asked Him. He said,
"It is not right to give our songs to these pretty things!
You told us when you made us that each bird would have his own song.
These pretty things have all of the colors of the rainbow already.
Must they take our songs, too?"
Elder Brother said, "You are right. I made one song for each
bird, and I must not give them away to any other." So butterflies
were made silent, and they are still silent to this day. But their
beauty brightens the day of all People, and brings out songs from
And that is how Elder Brother meant it to be.
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