Thursday, July 3, 2008

How Dragonflies Came to Be: from Batsy Bybell

Batsy Bybell and me in Idaho in 2004.

Several readers asked about a story I mentioned in a previous post, How Dragonflies Came to Be. I contacted my friend and fellow storyteller Batsy Bybell of Idaho to see if she would be willing to post the story on my blog. Batsy not only agreed, she added the story of how she came by this tale--and it's a fascinating story in itself. I've included her message, and her version of the story, below. Many thanks, Batsy!

Hi Granny Sue,

Back in 1997, my daughter Tanya and I were telling stories around a campfire for a group of students from WSU. Most of them were from other countries and had never camped before. The whole experience of pitching a tent, cooking hot dogs over a fire, and roasting marshmallows was a novel delight for many of the international families.

As we were packing up to leave, one family from Rumania started talking about traditional stories. The father wanted to tell me a story that he was sure I had never heard before. Everyone, including the mother and both children, chimed in with another detail on how the separate parts of the dragonfly were taken from other animals and combined into an entirely new creation.

He was right because I have been searching since that time for another version of this charming folk tale and never found anything quite like it. This is my version. The father also told me to take the story and tell it, which I have been doing.


Not Quite Right
A Folktale from Rumania

as told by Batsy Bybell

Back in the beginning, when the world was still new and smelled fresh, the Creator was taking a well-deserved rest. He leaned back under a tall tree and noticed that everything he saw was beautiful. He was pleased with his work.

But back then, even as now, there were some individuals who were never happy with how they looked. The Creator had closed his eyes to catch a quick nap, but he could feel someone staring at him. You know what it's like when that happens. You feel the tickle of a gaze that will not go away. He opened his eyes to see a green frog that had hopped out of the water to
land by his foot.

"Creator, we have a problem. Something's not quite right. I mean, look at me, I look like a bug with these huge, faceted pop-eyes. If I had smaller ones, then everything would be perfect."

The Creator leaned over to pick up the frog. "I gave you large eyes so you could easily catch your dinner. That's what you said you wanted. But I'll change them if you want." He gave the frog new eyes but kept the old ones in his palm. Spying a fly, the frog quickly hopped back into the water with a loud splash.

A butterfly had been resting on a leaf, listening to the exchange. She opened her delicate wings and glided down onto the Creator's arm.

"I adore my colorful wings, I can dance with the slightest breeze. But my body's not quite right. It's too long and skinny, I look like a stick! Everyone calls me bean pole. If it wouldn't be asking too much, could you break off half my body?"

The Creator chuckled at her vanity but gently squeezed off the lower end of her straight abdomen. He placed that in his palm, too, as the butterfly skimmed away. He closed his eyes in peace but suddenly felt a gentle tickling on the nose. A spider was sliding down a filament of silk, swaying back and forth, back and forth, back and forth. The Creator was getting dizzy, so he reached up a hand.

The spider stamped his legs and glared. "I know I said I wanted to be unique from all the other insects, but this is not quite right. What am I supposed to do with fourteen legs? I can't keep it straight which ones go in front and which in back. I keep tripping over the tangle. Tell you what, let's make a bargain. I'll keep eight of them and you take the rest back. Do we have a deal?"

"Yes, it's a deal," the Creator grinned. "I'll pinch off six of your slender legs. See how you manage with only eight." He placed the extra legs in his palm as the spider climbed more rapidly back up the silk into the leaves.

"I wonder if that's the end of the complaints," He sighed, but just then a bee zoomed around his nose. ZZZZZZZ. "Yes, do you want something, gatherer of honey?"

"Bzzz, yessss. Thesssse wingsss are not quite right. I get sssstuck."

"I gave you ones that were long and gauzy so you could be the fastest flier around. That's what you said you wanted. It's not my fault you're so greedy that you dive headfirst into flowers and can't back out." ZZZZZ, the bee buzzed more angrily.

"Stop. I'll give you short stubby wings. Will that work?"

The Creator gently pinched off the torn ones and replaced them. The satisfied bee zoomed back into the air and dove for the nearest snapdragon. The Creator placed the rejects in his palm.

"Surely that's enough changes for today," He yawned, ready to resume his nap. But no, there was a shy lizard lurking under a leaf. She inched out to stare but didn't say anything.

"Yes, little one. What do you want?"

The lizard stammered, "I know I asked to be brilliant and to shine in the sunlight. But it's not quite right. Everyone who sees me thinks I'm dinner. They try to EAT me. I don't want to be bright red or blue anymore. Please, could you change me to a color that blends with the leaves?"

"Having you get eaten wasn't part of my plans for you. I'll switch your colors. Would you prefer green or brown?"

"I don't know, you decide."

Laughing out loud, the Creator plucked the iridescent colors from her back and held them in his palm. When he glanced down, the lizard was safely hiding. He looked at his palm and pondered, "What should I do with these?" Now he could toss them over his shoulder, but that would be wasteful. Not even the Creator wanted to do that. He stared at the faceted eyes, the stick body, the slender legs, the gauze wings, and the bright colors.

Yes. Gently blowing into his cupped hands, he smiled as he fashioned one last creature.

When his palms opened, there stood a dragonfly. And she was beautiful, as all of his creations are.

And so it was and so it is.

You can visit Batsy's profile online at


Tim said...

Thanks for posting this-- and Batsy, thanks for sharing!

I especially like learning about where and from whom Batsy heard the story.

There are lots of terrific stories in books, but to me, when you come across one that has been learned and passed on orally, that's always exciting.

MK Stover said...

I love this story!
Dragonflies are my 'good luck,' so it was especially interesting.
Thanks for sharing.

City Mouse said...

Thanks GS and Batsy for the story - It was wonderful. And not at all what I expected! I'm going to have to try to remember the little bug parts so I can remember the story!

deborah wilson said...

This was good - I'll have to read it to my gran-girls tomorrow!

earth heart said...

Granny Sue & Batsy, thank you so much for sharing the story. I will share it with my grandchildren I am sure.

Tipper said...

What a neat story! Thank you to both of you!

Tina Coruth said...

This is delightful! I really enjoyed it. Deborah Wilson, who posted above gave me the link to this story. I'm very glad she did!

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