Translated by R.Ovadya
had a highly developed sense of sight but they never knew
where the eggs came from nor how they were created. They
assumed that they had originated from an egg since they had
seen their younger brothers hatch from eggs. However, since
the butterflies laid the eggs at night, they had no clue as
to what their origin was.
The truth is that even if they could see at night, they
wouldn't identify a butterfly, since a caterpillar only
looks downwards, in the direction of the leaf it is eating.
The butterflies, on the other hand, tend to hover above the
leaves and seldom touch them and even then, do so only with
the tip of their feet.
Most of the caterpillars never even cared where the eggs
came from, or if there was life beyond the cocoon phase.
They were busy eating the greenest leaves around. Their
talks were mostly about finding the best way to get to the
top of the tree, where the freshest and tastiest leaves
were. The most successful caterpillar was the one who
managed to get to the farthest and greenest leaf. Every
once in awhile they had to leave the old mulberry tree and
go on a long and weary journey to nearby tree, because the
neighbour's leaf seemed greener. However, after a short
rest, they were more than happy to go back to their good
old tree and to the old familiar taste, the taste of the
leaves that their ancestors had loved so much.
The caterpillars were afraid of two things only, a strong
wind and birds of prey. A strong wind, especially one that
comes unexpectedly could strongly shake the leaves of the
tree and even its thin and fragile branches.
A young and inexperienced caterpillar who had not yet
learned how to hold on tightly, could easily find himself
floating in the air without any previous warning, on his
short way to the ground. The few who were still alive after
the trauma climbed back up with the remains of their
strength and joined the group, but they never returned to
the way they used to be. In fact, they turned into very
Some of them spoke about different
types of hovering forms they had seen while falling. They
called them butterflies. They described the shape and the
color of these butterflies in such a way that none of the
caterpillars not even the elderly, could understand.
Instead of occupying themselves with the main goal, of
climbing to the top, they began to lift their eyes upwards
and ask strange questions such as: What material is the
egg made of? or What happens to an old and satisfied
caterpillar who turns into a cocoon? etc. The gang used to
call them behind their backs: "the flying caterpillars."
Birds of prey would appear from nowhere, you could be
peacefully eating the end of an especially juicy leaf,
together with your best friend, when suddenly without any
previous warning you saw a giant beak catch him by the neck
and pull him up to the sky. Then you knew for sure that you
would never see him again. Unlike the storm survivors, no
caterpillar ever came back from the birds' land, not even
the most cunning one.
The only measures the caterpillars knew against the birds were preventive measures.
The elderly taught the young
how not to be too conspicuous.
"You can hang on to a leaf
on the bottom part," and elder would say to his younger
pupil, "there the birds donít see you. However, there you
are liable to fall with the first gust of wind. The second
rule you should remember is that at the ends of the tree
you are more exposed, so stay inside the denser part, near
the center of the tree."
"And if I want to get to the top
and taste a fresh green leaf?" the youngster would ask
"Then you should know you are taking a great
risk," answered the elder, "of falling, or of being eaten-
The third rule the elder kept repeating was to move slowly.
"No leaf ever runs away. So remember: whoever moves too
fast, sometimes does not come back."
Avri hatched from a grey egg which was a sure way to get
into trouble. Most of the caterpillars that hatched from
grey eggs never had a chance to cocoon. In fact, the first
question he asked when he hatched was:
"What is the shortest way to get to the top?"
The elder caterpillars
tried to stop him in vain. He wanted to grow quickly and
consequently made every mistake a caterpillar could
He moved fast, ate leaves that he came across, close to the
stem, and climbed them mostly upwards. He simply didn't
have enough time to get to the back side of the leaf. He
only had one goal -- to get to the top. Practically every
caterpillar he had met on his way, advised him to slow
down, to relax and to watch out, but he wouldn't listen.
For two and a half weeks he climbed branch after branch.
His legs grew stronger, his jaw grew thicker and his nails
grew sharper. He was rather thin, since he didn't manage to
eat much, and because he put so much energy into the weary
walk, but with every step he took upwards he saw more of
the sunlight, which encouraged him.
The leaves became greener and through them he could see
blue patches of the sky. He saw many caterpillars who had
climbed halfway up the tree and stayed there. There were
even fewer who were satisfied with getting to the top
quarter of the tree. Very few had almost made it to the
top, but stopped on the way. He found it very hard to
"You have put so much energy," he told
them as he was walking, "why don't you try a bit harder and
feel the taste of the summit."
He heard all sorts of excuses: I'm too tired, I'm hungry,
the leaves here are the greenest anyway, there isn't really
any tree top, the tree is growing much faster than our
climbing pace, and more of this nonsense.
When he reached the highest leaf he saw a fat grey caterpillar chewing its
"May I join you?" he asked politely.
"Sure," answered the caterpillar and kept on chewing.
That was his last word, since suddenly without any warning, he saw him
getting away, twisting between the two black beak parts
that held him.
Avri was so scared that his strong legs
could not hold on to the leaf. The legend says that the
beak tore the part of the leaf he had been sitting on,
which helped to break the fall.
When he reached the ground he tried to understand what had
happened. Although the fall lasted only a few seconds, so
many beautiful things happened on the way, that his fear
left him completely and instead turned into a great
First he saw the other caterpillars who were busy
eating while their heads were turned downwards. He called
them to look at him but no one heard, the sound of their
busy jaws was too loud.
Next he saw beautiful colorful
creatures flying near him among the leaves, clinging to
each other or laying eggs. These must be the butterflies,
he thought to himself. He could almost swear that he heard
them talking to each other, or rather something that
sounded more like singing, and it was such a pleasure to
listen to this music.
I must have died and reached the next
world, he began to think, as a strong blow on a leaf bed on
the ground brought him back to the reality of a simple grey
caterpillar he had left a few seconds earlier.
After a long exhausting journey, which is a story by
itself, Avri returned to the caterpillars' community. Soon
enough he understood there was no one to talk to. He didn't
care about the green leaves anymore and even the tree top
was beyond him. He decided he wanted to become a butterfly.
"Something moved inside your head during the fall," they told
him, "leave us alone and go turn into a cocoon."
Although this was a curse in the caterpillars' world, a guy like
Avri wouldn't take lightly words that are said in a moment
of rage. He began to study the phenomenon of cocooning.
He remembered that the butterflies looked very much like the
caterpillars, but had wings. Could it be that they were
simply caterpillars with wings? The most definite fact he
came up with at the beginning of his study was that no one
had ever studied the issue before. The reason was that it
didn't interest anyone. If they had really checked, they
would have found out that inside the cocoon there was no
trace of a caterpillar. So where did all the caterpillars
disappear to? Did they simply evaporate?
Avri decided to cling to an old caterpillar and study the
process closely, he saw how the caterpillar got fatter and
more satisfied each day and heard about how he was tired of
eating leaves, he couldnít even get excited if the freshest
leaf from the tree top was brought to him.
Then quite unexpectedly he heard that the caterpillar wanted to cocoon.
"This is a natural process." said the caterpillar,
and began to weave his cocoon.
"Do me a favor," Avri begged
him, "if after the cocoon you become a butterfly, come and
call me, ok?
"Stop this nonsense," said the old
caterpillar, "we both know that the cocoon is the end."
Avri continued to beg him, until he finally agreed, at least so
he wouldn't be disturbed in weaving his cocoon.
Two days later the old caterpillar was discovered in a
shell that grew harder, until he finally disappeared inside
Avri didn't give up, his grey genes gave him the quality of
stubbornness and he used it to the end. He waited days and
nights by the silent cocoon, and wouldn't listen to his
friends' pleas to get back to normal life.
"I can't find any taste in monotonous chewing," he answered them, "and if I am
destined to end up as a cocoon, I want to know, at least,
where I will end up."
He hardly slept, fearing something might happen when he
fell asleep, and in the dark nights when he couldn't see
from a distance, he leaned against the cold cocoon so that
every move would wake him up.
And then it happened, just
when the first seeds of doubt began to grow, and hunger
almost defeated his empty stomach, the cocoon shell began
The sight mesmerized him . A crack gradually began to form
in the cocoon shell. The crack grew wider and a short black
head appeared from inside. A few seconds later the shell
shook so hard that Avri retreated fearfully.
The shell was cut in two and a pair of colorful wings,
just like the ones he had seen during the fall, were fully
and gloriously spread to the sides, fluttered slightly in
the air and carried a shiny butterfly up up and away beyond
the blue sky.
Avri was overwhelmed and his heart beat
strongly, he looked around wanting to share the experience
with his fellow caterpillars, but no one had noticed the
event. They were all busy chewing, hiding from birds and
looking for green leaves.
He wanted to shout, "Look, I was
right." But he knew no one would listen. Avri felt a great
weakness spread throughout his limbs. The long days of
waiting, the powerful experience, the disappointment and
loneliness had left their mark, he lost his grip of the
leaf, held his hands upwards as if expecting help and began
to drop downwards in total indifference.
When he woke up, he couldn't understand where he was. The
sound of soft singing reminded him of his first fall, but
this time it was clearer and closer. The tree leaves passed
him quickly, but surprisingly enough they passed from left
to right and not from top to bottom. Perhaps I've been
caught by a bird? He thought, but then again, no, since it
would have hurt, he dismissed the thought immediately.
He looked backwards and saw the eyes, they seemed familiar.
Yes, they were the eyes of the old caterpillar who had
"I promised you, and I have kept my promise," sang
the old guy and smiled.
"Why are you singing?" he asked him,
"and whatís more important, where am I?"
"I'm singing because this is my nature now, and I'm holding
you in my arms, we're flying."
Avri couldn't grasp the
amazing sights. The butterfly climbed up and showed him for
the first time what the mulberry tree looked like from the
top. He saw the green parts and the eaten parts, the crowds
of caterpillars and the lonely caterpillars at the top, and
he even saw the neighbouring trees.
"Where would you like me
to let you down?" asked the old caterpillar singing.
"Who wants to get down?" answered Avri, humming the same tune.
Even when they landed on the most crowded branches, no one
noticed them. Very close to them was a senior female
butterfly laying eggs.
"So is this how it is done?" asked Avri.
The female butterfly smiled at him and beamed.
"What a privilege do I have to be talking to a caterpillar?"
" What do you mean?" asked Avri.
"I have never spoken to a caterpillar."
she answered, "that is, since I stopped being one."
don't you take all the caterpillars for a tour above the
tree?" Avri went on asking.
"There is nothing we would want
more," she answered, "but we simply can't."
"So how come you took me?" insisted the grey caterpillar.
"Because you wanted to;" she answered, "you raised your
hands because it was the only thing you wanted, and nothing
else. You believed you would succeed, and so I could catch
your raised hands, remember that." added the old caterpillar
and flew on his way.
Avri had many flying hours since that fateful day. As time
went by, he learned different tunes and met with more and
more butterflies. From each one he learned something about
the butterflies' world and enjoyed it tremendously. Even
when he went back to chewing leaves he discovered a totally
new taste he hadnít known before, he called it "target
Now he found for the first time in his life a good
reason for the monotonous chewing. He knew that if he ate
much he would be strong enough to fly a longer time and
that would greatly please the butterflies who would fly him
into the wide open spaces.
He enjoyed the pleasure he
brought them and there was no end to his happiness,
however, as time went by, he also felt a growing sense of
sorrow for his fellow caterpillars. If only they knew what
they were missing, he thought to himself, they would lift
their heads immediately and look only for butterfly wings,
they would stop chewing in order to hear the singing of the
flying creatures, and would raise their hands in full
confidence that they would not fall, since some butterfly
would surely catch them before they hit the ground.
And so, he felt his growing loneliness among his fellow
caterpillars, together with his growing happiness in the
"I am sure I can explain it to them." he
thought, and decided to take upon himself a new challenge
--to teach caterpillars about the butterflies' world.
be a special caterpillar but there must be others like me
who want, but don't know what they want, and are feeling
their way around like blind in the darkness. I'll show them
the way. I can't force anyone, but at least I'll know that
I have tried to help whoever wanted help."
Even Avri's time had come and he accepted it in total peace
and turned into a cocoon, knowing that he had fulfilled his
goal as a caterpillar in the best possible way, to the very
He left behind him detailed maps of the tree
structure, the forest structure and drawings of the
shortest and easiest ways of climbing to the top, and a
detailed anatomy of a butterfly structure, the way the eggs
are laid, how they hatch and even a map of recommended and
protected feeding zones. He knew that if another strong
willed caterpillar were born, he would be able to use the
maps he had left behind him.
In fact most of the caterpillars used the maps to easily
find the zones of green leaves. Fewer, used them to find
their way to the top. Even less caterpillars used the
writings to study the structure of the egg and of the
cocoon and only single individuals began to ask themselves:
How had he arrived to such knowledge? Where did he find
such simple solutions to such complex problems? Where are
all his beautiful songs from? Can we also get in touch
with the same source of knowledge as he did?"
Avri was the first in a dynasty of flying caterpillars.
Those who hatched after him went through the same processes
and each one updated and renovated his predecessors'
They described the butterflies' world to those
who came after them, especially in order to arouse their
will, to increase their need to raise their hands up in
They knew that the butterflies love the
caterpillars more than the caterpillars can even imagine.
They knew that a day would come when all the caterpillars
would fly with the help of the butterflies and then there
would be full contentment both in the caterpillars' world
and in the butterflies' world. They waited for that day and
did everything in their power to bring it near.
"Any caterpillar can eat, but he who wants to, can eat it all."
Avri -- the flying caterpillar