Folktale Adaptation and Illustrations by Shirley Trievel
Itâ€™s a different wo
orld - the Forest.
Under the tree canopy and fern undergrowth, on the mosses and rocks, in the tangled greenery of the forest floor, there once lived a little centipede named Peda who was an amazing dancer. All of the members of the forest society gathered to watch, every time she danced.
In the crowd of admirers was a caterpillar named Morphy, who never missed a performance. As the fame of the dancing centipede grew, so grew the jealousy of Morphy, the caterpillar. Morphy was starved for some of that attention.
This jealousy consumed Morphy until she thought of little else. She became
greener and greener and
greener with envy!
Morphy kept thinkig about it. Instead of doing something positive to earn attention herself, all she could think about was finding a way to dim the spotlight of Peda.
It is true she dances beautifully, but she gets too much attention, Morphy thought. So she devised a devilish plan. One evening before a performance, Morphy said to Peda, “I love the way you dance. I’ve been studying your technique. Do you kick up your right leg #38 and then your left leg #12? Or do you half-kick with your left leg #42 before stepping with left #8?” Peda thought about her dance. “Which leg,” she wondered, “do I lift first, and which next? I’ve never really given it any thought.”
There was a large audience that evening. It was time for Peda to begin her dance, but she was frozen in thought, thinking about her steps. In previous performances, when her mind was free, her body, her movement, was free. Now, the more she concentrated, the clumsier she became. Her legs tangled. She couldnâ€™t dance. Her loyal audience felt her embarrassment. What a mean thing Morphy had done! Pedaâ€™s legs were a tangled mess from thinking too much.
On a nearby rock, also watching the show, sat wise, old Grasshopper. It was obvious to him what had happened. Grasshopper had spent many seasons in the forest and he had an understanding of why some bugs behaved as they did.
The next evening, Grasshopper saw Peda leaning against a mushroom and hopped over to her. “You’re such a beautiful dancer,” Grasshopper said. “May I offer an opinion?” Peda wanted to be left alone but sensed Grasshopper’s concern. “I fear I’m not in a friendly mood, but I’ll listen.” “You dance so well, not because you know the order of the dance steps, but because you love to dance. You’re using the gift nature gave you. Your creativity comes from your spirit.”
The little centipede felt much better after talking to Grasshopper and danced off into the moonlight.
The next morning, Grasshopper saw Morphy curled-up under a daisy and hopped over to her. Morphy thought she would feel victorious after Peda flopped. After all, she had accomplished her goal and Peda seemed unable to dance. Morphy now felt badly about what she had done.
Grasshopper said, “We all have some special gift. Do you see those bees over there, flitting from flower to flower? If they weren’t able to carry the pollen, we wouldn’t have the many blossoms in
the forest. And I canâ€™t think of anyone in the forest who is a better house designer than the spider. Have you ever seen such a beautiful house?â€? he asked, pointing to a glistening web.
“Peda is our dancer,” Grasshopper continued. “She entertains us with her beautiful gift of dance and we all feel greater, just through watching her.”
Morphy began to cry and said, “But I have no gift. I can’t do anything!” Grasshopper patiently explained. “Oh, but you do! Just follow your heart and do what comes naturally to you.”
Morphy sat and thought for the next few days. One day, Morphy climbed an old oak tree and inched out onto a limb. She began to spin beautiful thread around her body, without thinking about why, or how, she was doing it. The act just came so naturally. Even though it was difficult work, she felt good.
Finally, Morphy was wrapped in a chrysalis, a beautiful bundle of her own silky threads. Days passed, and the sun became warmer. All the insects watched, wondering what Morphy was doing in her strange tube house.
One warm morning, the chrysalis opened and out came a most beautiful creature! All the insects of the forest floor looked up and yelled, â€œWho are you? Morphy, where are you?!â€?
This interesting creature, with beautiful wings of many colors, called out “Peda! It’s me! Morphy!”
She began to flutter and float in the gentle breeze, soaring, enjoying a freedom of movement she had
never before imagined. She landed by Grasshopper and said, â€œThanks. Now I know I too have a gift.â€?
Peda went on to become the greatest dancer the forest floor had ever known. Morphy became
her greatest fan, watching from above, above the spotlights which focused on the talented centipede.