In which Pippin makes a discovery and Frodo tells the lads a story…(Written in 2005 for the 20_rings LJ Community.)

Theme: Set #1, Theme #6, "Butterfly"
Genre (s): Fluff
Pairing (s): N/A
Rating: G
Notes: In this story, Frodo is 31, Sam is almost 19, Merry is 17, and Pippin is almost 9 ( Or 20, 12 ½, 11, and 5 ½ in Man years.)

Cousins and Caterpillars

Frodo sat on the bench in the lower garden with an after luncheon pipe and a book, keeping half an eye on his cousins. Sam and Merry were have an earnest conversation about some of the herbs Sam had helped his Gaffer to transplant earlier in the day. Frodo was amused at the interest Merry seemed to have recently developed in herb-lore. Merry was at the age where he would develop sudden enthusiasms for different hobbies. At Yule it had been rock-collecting, but rocks seemed to have given way to herbs now. He cast his eye about for Pippin, and noticed his little rump sticking halfway out of the hedge at the foot of the garden.

"What are you doing, Pippin?" he called softly.

The little head and shoulders emerged, well-decorated with leaves and twigs. "I found something. Come see, Frodo!" He grinned enthusiastically, and Frodo shook his head, smiling ruefully. It could be anything from an unusual looking bug to an abandoned bird's nest. He carefully closed the book, laying it and the pipe on the bench, and walked over to the hedge.

"Oh, my, Pippin!" he said, as he got a good look.

"What is it, Frodo? It's moving?" He reached a chubby little finger forward, but Frodo pushed it back gently.

"Don't touch it, Pip. It's a cocoon, and it looks like it is ready to hatch!

Pippin turned wide green eyes in his oldest cousin's direction. "What's a 'coo-coon'?"

" 'Co-coon' " Frodo pronounced carefully. "Butterflies come from cocoons."

"Oohh! Like an egg!" Pippin nodded. He'd seen chicks and baby ducks hatch from eggs.

"Well, not quite" said Frodo.

Sam and Merry were now crouching by the hedge, wanting to see as well. The cocoon was splitting open, and they could see the beginnings of the insect's emergence.

"I think it's a Red Emperor!" said Merry. Last year his hobby had been butterflies.

Sam nodded. "I think you're right, Mr. Merry."

The four watched in fascination as the butterfly emerged, and gradually moved the wet wings, which soon began to unfold, dark, almost black, with a semi-circle of vivid red marked upon them.

"He's beautiful!" whispered Pippin. He wanted so badly to touch, but Frodo would not let him. To distract himself, he looked at Frodo. "You said 'not quite'. 'Not quite' like an egg?"

"No, Pippin, not quite. You see the butterfly starts out as a caterpillar-you've seen them-"

Pippin nodded. Fuzzy worms with lots of legs.

"The caterpillar spins himself a cocoon to sleep in, and when he wakes up, he has turned into a beautiful butterfly."

Just then, the butterfly stretched forth its now dry wings, and launched itself into the air. They all watched, and Pippin laughed for the sheer joy of it.

They backed out of the hedge, and dusted themselves off. Pippin reached up to Frodo. He wanted to be picked up. Frodo carried him piggyback to the bench, and then sat down with Pippin in his lap; Sam and Merry sprawled on the ground by his feet. Pippin snuggled up, and looking at Frodo imploringly said, "Tell us a story, Frodo."

Frodo gave his little Took cousin a squeeze, and closed his eyes briefly in thought.

"Once upon a time, there was a little green caterpillar. He liked to eat leaves and explore the bushes where he lived. But he was not very happy. He never saw any other caterpillars or insects who looked just like him.

The other bugs and insects teased him. The earthworm teased him because he was all plump and fuzzy, instead of long and sleek. The spider taunted him because he had even more legs than she did. The ladybug and the dragonfly teased him because he had no wings and could not fly. And nowhere did he see anyone who was just like him.

Where, he wondered, were his mother and father caterpillars? He had never seen them anywhere. This puzzled him, and made him very sad.

One day when he was eating some nettle leaves-his very most favorite thing to eat-he looked up and saw a beautiful creature, hovering in the air above. She had lovely dark wings marked with scarlet, and long delicate antennae. The little caterpillar shrank into himself, sure that she would taunt him, like all the other insects had.

'What is the matter?' she asked him, for she could tell he was distressed.

'Oh,' he said, 'you are so beautiful, and you can fly, and I am just an ugly little caterpillar, all fuzzy and green, with too many legs.'

The butterfly did laugh, but it was a kindly laugh. 'Why goodness me!' she said, 'you are indeed a caterpillar, but you are not at all an ugly one. Why you are a fine figure of a caterpillar, just as fuzzy and green as you are supposed to be, and with just the right number of legs!'

Well, he was quite surprised to be spoken to so nicely, unaccustomed to it as he was, but he thought she was just trying to be kind. So he said to her 'Thank you kindly.' But he thought privately that he had never seen anything so lovely as that butterfly before.

They spoke a bit of the weather, and of leaves and nectar, and then the butterfly flew away, and the caterpillar felt happy that he had found a friend, but rather sad that she had needed to leave so soon.

A few days later, the caterpillar had a very strange feeling come over him. He felt as though something in him was trying to get out. He found a small branch in the bush where he lived, and to his own surprise, he began-he knew not how-to spin himself into a cocoon. When it was all finished he was very tired and sleepy in his dark wrapping, and soon was deep in slumber.

Many days passed, though he did not know it. The other insects passed by and saw his cocoon, and wondered at it, that he had shut himself away in the dark, during a nice springtime. But one day he awakened. He was very hungry, and did not at all like this dark he was in, so he struggled and struggled, until the cocoon split open, and out he came. But he felt so different! Where were his many legs? Where was the green fuzziness he was used to? And what were those strange wet things on his back. He tried to move them, and realized he had wings! He flapped them about a bit, until they had dried, and then joyfully launched himself into the air! Why, he had turned into as beautiful a butterfly as the one he had seen before!

He flew about a bit, and then-he saw her! She flew towards him.

'Hello, my son!' she said. 'I see that you have grown up now!'

And so now he understood, and he was glad that he was all grown up, and no longer a little green caterpillar."

Pippin sighed. "That was a nice story, Cousin Frodo."

Frodo hugged him. "Thank you, Pippin!" He looked down at Sam and Merry, who had been listening just as raptly as the little one, and laughed. "Well, stories are all well and good, but who's for elevenses?" And the four of them raced up to the kitchen door of Bag End, to see what Bilbo might have for them.