| Just So Stories|
|by Rudyard Kipling|
|Fanciful explanations, that delight both young and old, of how some curious things came to be, including stories of how the elephant got his trunk, how the camel got his hump, and how the alphabet was invented. Ages 6-9 |
THE BUTTERFLY THAT STAMPED
 THIS, O my Best Beloved, is a story—a new and a wonderful story—a
story quite different from the other stories—a story about
The Most Wise Sovereign Suleiman-bin-Daoud—Solomon the Son of David.
There are three hundred and fifty-five stories about Suleiman-
bin-Daoud; but this is not one of them. It is not the story of
the Lapwing who found the Water; or the Hoopoe who shaded
Suleimanbin-Daoud from the heat. It is not the story of the Glass
Pavement, or the Ruby with the Crooked Hole, or the Gold Bars of
Balkis. It is the story of the Butterfly that Stamped.
 Now attend all over again and listen!
Suleiman-bin-Daoud was wise. He understood what the beasts said,
what the birds said, what the fishes said, and what the insects
said. He understood what the rocks said deep under the earth when
they bowed in towards each other and groaned; and he understood
what the trees said when they rustled in the middle of the
morning. He understood everything, from the bishop on the bench
to the hyssop on the wall, and Balkis, his Head Queen, the Most
Beautiful Queen Balkis, was nearly as wise as he was.
Suleiman-bin-Daoud was strong. Upon the third finger of the right
hand he wore a ring. When he turned it once, Afrits and Djinns
came Out of the earth to do whatever he told them. When he turned
it twice, Fairies came down from the sky to do whatever he told
them; and when he turned it three times, the very great angel
Azrael of the Sword came dressed as a water-carrier, and told him
the news of the three worlds,—Above—Below—and Here.
And yet Suleiman-bin-Daoud was not proud. He very seldom showed
off, and when he did he was sorry for it. Once he tried to feed
all the animals in all the world in one day, but
 when the food
was ready an Animal came out of the deep sea and ate it up in
three mouthfuls. Suleiman-bin-Daoud was very surprised and said,
"O Animal, who are you?" And the Animal said, "O King, live for
ever! I am the smallest of thirty thousand brothers, and our home
is at the bottom of the sea. We heard that you were going to feed
all the animals in all the world, and my brothers sent me to ask
when dinner would be ready." Suleiman-bin-Daoud was more
surprised than ever and said, "O Animal, you have eaten all the
dinner that I made ready for all the animals in the world." And
the Animal said, "O King, live for ever, but do you really call
that a dinner? Where I come from we each eat twice as much as
that between meals." Then Suleiman-bin-Daoud fell flat on his
face and said, "O Animal! I gave that dinner to show what a great
and rich king I was, and not because I really wanted to be kind
to the animals. Now I am ashamed, and it serves me right.
Suleiman-bin-Daoud was a really truly wise man, Best Beloved.
After that he never forgot that it was silly to show off; and
now the real story part of my story begins.
THIS Is the picture of the Animal that came out of the sea
and ate up all the food that Suleiman-bin-Daoud had
made ready for all the animals in all the world. He was
really quite a nice Animal, and his Mummy was very fond of
him and of his twenty-nine thousand nine hundred and
ninety-nine other brothers that lived at the bottom of the
sea. You know that he was the smallest of them all, and so
his name was Small Porgies. He ate up all those boxes and
packets and bales and things that had been got ready for
all the animals, without ever once taking off the lids or
untying the strings, and it did not hurt him at all. The
sticky-up masts behind the boxes of food belong to
Suleiman-bin-Daoudís ships. They were busy bringing more food
when Small Porgies came ashore. He did not eat the ships.
They stopped unloading the foods and instantly sailed away
to sea till Small Porgies had quite finished eating. You
can see some of the ships beginning to sail away by Small
Porgieís shoulder. I have not drawn Suleiman-bin-Daoud,
but he is just outside the picture, very much astonished.
The bundle hanging from the mast of the ship in the corner
is really a package of wet dates for parrots to eat. I donít
know the names of the ships. That is all
there is in that picture.
He married ever so many wifes. He married
 nine hundred and
ninety-nine wives, besides the Most Beautiful Balkis; and they
all lived in a great golden palace in the middle of a lovely
garden with fountains. He didn't really want nine-hundred and
ninety-nine wives, but in those days everybody married ever so
many wives, and of course the King had to marry ever so many
more just to show that he was the King.
Some of the wives were nice, but some were simply horrid, and the
horrid ones quarrelled with the nice ones and made them horrid
too, and then they would all quarrel with Suleiman-bin-Daoud, and
that was horrid for him. But Balkis the Most Beautiful never
quarrelled with Suleiman-bin-Daoud. She loved him too much. She
sat in her rooms in the Golden Palace, or walked in the Palace
garden, and was truly sorry for him.
Of course if he had chosen to turn his ring on his finger and
call up the Djinns and the Afrits they would have magicked all
those nine hundred and ninety-nine quarrelsome wives into white
mules of the desert or greyhounds or pomegranate seeds; but
Suleiman-bin-Daoud thought that that would be showing off. So,
when they quarrelled too much, he only walked
 by himself in one
part of the beautiful Palace gardens and wished he had never been
One day, when they had quarrelled for three weeks—all nine
hundred and ninety-nine wives together—Suleiman-bin-Daoud went
out for peace and quiet as usual; and among the orange trees he
met Balkis the Most Beautiful, very sorrowful because Suleiman-
bin-Daoud was so worried. And she said to him, "O my Lord and
Light of my Eyes, turn the ring upon your finger and show these
Queens of Egypt and Mesopotamia and Persia and China that you are
the great and terrible King." But Suleiman-bin-Daoud shook his
head and said, "O my Lady and Delight of my Life, remember the
Animal that came out of the sea and made me ashamed before all
the animals in all the world because I showed off. Now, if I
showed off before these Queens of Persia and Egypt and Abyssinia
and China, merely because they worry me, I might be made even
more ashamed than I have been."
And Balkis the Most Beautiful said, "O my Lord and Treasure of my
Soul, what will you do?"
said, "O my Lady and Content of my Heart,
I shall continue to
 endure my fate at the hands of these nine
hundred and ninety-nine Queens who vex me with their continual
So he went on between the lilies and the loquats and the roses
and the cannas and the heavy-scented ginger-plants that grew in
the garden, till he came to the great camphor-tree that was
called the Camphor Tree of Suleiman-bin-Daoud. But Balkis hid
among the tall irises and the spotted bamboos and the red lillies
behind the camphor-tree, so as to be near her own true love,
Presently two Butterflies flew under the tree, quarrelling.
Suleiman-bin-Daoud heard one say to the other, "I wonder at your
presumption in talking like this to me. Don't you know that if I
stamped with my foot all Suleiman-bin-Daoud's Palace and this
garden here would immediately vanish in a clap of thunder."
Then Suleiman-bin-Daoud forgot his nine hundred and ninety-nine
bothersome wives, and laughed, till the camphor-tree shook, at
the Butterfly's boast. And he held out his finger and said,
"Little man, come here."
The Butterfly was dreadfully frightened, but
 he managed to fly up
to the hand of Suleiman-bin-Daoud, and clung there, fanning
himself. Suleiman-bin-Daoud bent his head and whispered very
softly, "Little man, you know that all your stamping wouldn't
bend one blade of grass. What made you tell that awful fib to
your wife?—for doubtless she is your wife."
The Butterfly looked at Suleiman-bin-Daoud and saw the most wise
King's eye twinkle like stars on a frosty night, and he picked up
his courage with both wings, and he put his head on one side and
said, "O King, live for ever. She is my wife; and you know what
wives are like.
Suleiman-bin-Daoud smiled in his beard and
said, "Yes, I know,
"One must keep them in order somehow, said the Butterfly, and she
has been quarrelling with me all the morning. I said that to
And Suleiman-bin-Daoud said, "May it quiet her. Go back to your
wife, little brother, and let me hear what you say."
Back flew the Butterfly to his wife, who was all of a twitter
behind a leaf, and she said, "He heard you! Suleiman-bin-Daoud
himself heard you!"
 "Heard me!" said the Butterfly. "Of course he did. I meant him to
"And what did he say? Oh, what did he say?"
"Well," said the Butterfly, fanning himself most importantly,
"between you and me, my dear—of course I don't blame him,
because his Palace must have cost a great deal and the oranges
are just ripening,—he asked me not to stamp, and I promised I
"Gracious!" said his wife, and sat quite quiet; but
Suleiman-bin-Daoud laughed till the tears ran down his face at
the impudence of the bad little Butterfly.
Balkis the Most Beautiful stood up behind the tree among the red
lilies and smiled to herself, for she had heard all this talk.
She thought, "If I am wise I can yet save my Lord from the
persecutions of these quarrelsome Queens," and she held out her
finger and whispered softly to the Butterfly's Wife, "Little
woman, come here." Up flew the Butterfly's Wife, very frightened,
and clung to Balkis's white hand.
Balkis bent her beautiful head down and whispered, "Little woman,
do you believe what your husband has just said?"
 The Butterfly's Wife looked at Balkis, and saw the most beautiful
Queen's eyes shining like deep pools with starlight on them, and
she picked up her courage with both wings and said, "O Queen, be
lovely for ever. You know what men-folk are like."
And the Queen Balkis, the Wise Balkis of Sheba, put her hand to
her lips to hide a smile and
said, "Little sister, I know."
"They get angry," said the Butterfly's Wife, fanning herself
quickly, "over nothing at all, but we must humour them, O Queen.
They never mean half they say. If it pleases my husband to
believe that I believe he can make Suleiman-bin-Daoud's Palace
disappear by stamping his foot, I'm sure I don't care. He'll
forget all about it to-morrow."
"Little sister," said Balkis, "you are quite right; but next time
he begins to boast, take him at his word. Ask him to stamp, and
see what will happen. We know what men-folk are like, don't we?
He'll be very much ashamed."
Away flew the Butterfly's Wife to her husband, and in five
minutes they were quarrelling worse than ever.
 "Remember!" said the Butterfly. "Remember what I can do if I
stamp my foot."
"I don't believe you one little bit," said the Butterfly's Wife.
"I should very much like to see it done. Suppose you stamp now."
"I promised Suleiman-bin-Daoud that I wouldn't," said the
Butterfly, "and I don't want to break my promise."
"It wouldn't matter if you did," said his wife. "You couldn't
bend a blade of grass with your stamping. I dare you to do it,"she said. Stamp! Stamp! Stamp!"
Suleiman-bin-Daoud, sitting under the camphor-tree, heard every
word of this, and he laughed as he had never laughed in his life
before. He forgot all about his Queens; he forgot all about the
Animal that came out of the sea; he forgot about showing off. He
just laughed with joy, and Balkis, on the other side of the tree,
smiled because her own true love was so joyful.
Presently the Butterfly, very hot and puffy, came whirling back
under the shadow of the camphor-tree and said to Suleiman, "She
wants me to stamp! She wants to see what will happen,
O Suleiman-bin-Daoud! You know I
 can't do it, and now she'll
never believe a word I say. She'll laugh at me to the end of
"No, little brother," said Suleiman-bin-Daoud, "she will never
laugh at you again," and he turned the ring on his finger—just
for the little Butterfly's sake, not for the sake of showing
off,—and, lo and behold, four huge Djinns came out of the earth!
"Slaves," said Suleiman-bin-Daoud, "when this gentleman on my
finger" (that was where the impudent Butterfly was sitting)
"stamps his left front forefoot you will make my Palace and these
gardens disappear in a clap of thunder. When he stamps again you
will bring them back carefully."
"Now, little brother," he said, "go back to your wife and stamp
all you've a mind to."
Away flew the Butterfly to his wife, who was crying, "I dare you
to do it! I dare you to do it! Stamp! Stamp now! Stamp!" Balkis
saw the four vast Djinns stoop down to the four corners of the
gardens with the Palace in the middle, and she clapped her hands
softly and said, "At last Suleiman-bin-Daoud will do for the sake
of a Butterfly what he ought to have
 done long ago for his own
sake, and the quarrelsome Queens will be frightened!"
The the butterfly stamped. The Djinns jerked the Palace and the
gardens a thousand miles into the air: there was a most awful
thunder-clap, and everything grew inky-black. The Butterfly's
Wife fluttered about in the dark, crying, "Oh, I'll be good! I'm
so sorry I spoke. Only bring the gardens back, my dear darling
husband, and I'll never contradict again."
THIS is the picture of the four gull-winged Djinns lifting
up Suleiman-bin≠Daoudís Palace the very minute after the
Butterfly had stamped. The Palace and the gardens and
everything came up in one piece like a board, and they
left a big hole in the ground all full of dust and smoke.
If you look in the corner, close to the thing that looks
like a lion, you will see Suleiman-bin-Daoud with his magic
stick and the two Butterflies behind him. The thing that
looks like a lion is really a lion carved in stone, and
the thing that looks like a milk-can is really a piece
of a temple or a house or something. Suleiman-bin-Daoud
stood there so as to be out of the way of the dust and
the smoke when the Djinns lifted up the Palace. I donít
know the Djinnís names. They were servants of
Suleiman-bin-Daoudís magic ring, and they changed about
every day. They were just common gull-winged Djinns.
The thing at the bottom is a picture of a very friendly
Djinn called Akraig. He used to feed the little fishes in
the sea three times a day, and his wings were made of pure
copper. I put him in to show you what a nice Djinn is like.
He did not help to lift the Palace. He was busy feeding
little fishes in the Arabian Sea when it happened.
The Butterfly was nearly as frightened as his wife, and
Suleiman-bin-Daoud laughed so much that it was several minutes
before he found breath enough to whisper to the Butterfly,
"Stamp again, little brother. Give me back my Palace, most
"Yes, give him back his Palace," said the Butterfly's Wife, still
flying about in the dark like a moth. "Give him back his Palace,
and don't let's have any more horrid.magic."
"Well, my dear," said the Butterfly as bravely as he could, "you
see what your nagging has led to. Of course it doesn't make any
difference to me—I'm used to this kind of thing—but as a favour
to you and to Suleiman-bin-Daoud I don't mind putting things right."
 So he stamped once more, and that instant the Djinns let down the
Palace and the gardens, without even a bump. The sun shone on the
dark-green orange leaves; the fountains played among the pink
Egyptian lilies; the birds went on singing, and the Butterfly's
Wife lay on her side under the camphor-tree waggling her wings and
panting, "Oh, I'll be good! I'll be good!"
Suleiman-bin-Daolld could hardly speak for laughing. He leaned
back all weak and hiccoughy, and shook his finger at the
Butterfly and said, "O great wizard, what is the sense of
returning to me my Palace if at the same time you slay me with
Then came a terrible noise, for all the nine hundred and
ninety-nine Queens ran out of the Palace shrieking and shouting
and calling for their babies. They hurried down the great marble
steps below the fountain, one hundred abreast, and the Most Wise
Balkis went statelily forward to meet them and said, "What is
your trouble, O Queens?"
They stood on the marble steps one hundred abreast and shouted,
"What is our trouble? We were living peacefully in our golden
 as is our custom, when upon a sudden the Palace
disappeared, and we were left sitting in a thick and noisome
darkness; and it thundered, and Djinns and Afrits moved about in
the darkness! That is our trouble, O Head Queen, and we are most
extremely troubled on account of that trouble, for it was a
troublesome trouble, unlike any trouble we have known."
Then Balkis the Most Beautiful Queen—Suleiman-bin-Daoud's Very
Best Beloved—Queen that was of Sheba and Sable and the Rivers of
the Gold of the South—from the Desert of Zinn to the Towers of
Zimbabwe—Balkis, almost as wise as the Most Wise Suleiman-bin-Daoud
himself, said, "It is nothing, O Queens! A Butterfly has made
complaint against his wife because she quarrelled with him, and it
has pleased our Lord Suleiman-bin-Daoud to teach her a lesson in
low-speaking and humbleness, for that is counted a virtue among
the wives of the butterflies."
Then up and spoke an Egyptian Queen—the daughter of a Pharoah—and
she said, "Our Palace cannot be plucked up by the roots like a
leek for the sake of a little insect. No! Suleiman-bin-Daoud
must be dead, and what
 we heard and saw was the earth thundering
and darkening at the news."
Then Balkis beckoned that bold Queen without looking at her, and
said to her and to the others, "Come and see."
They came down the marble steps, one hundred abreast, and beneath
his camphor-tree, still weak with laughing, they saw the Most
Wise King Suleiman-bin-Daoud rocking back and forth with a
Butterfly on either hand, and they heard him say, "O wife of my
brother in the air, remember after this, to please your husband
in all things, lest he be provoked to stamp his foot yet again;
for he has said that he is used to this magic, and he is most
eminently a great magician—one who steals away the very Palace
of Suleirnan-bin-Daoud himself. Go in peace, little folk!" And he
kissed them on the wings, and they flew away.
Then all the Queens except Balkis—the Most Beautiful and
Splendid Balkis, who stood apart smiling—fell flat on their
faces, for they said, "If these things are done when a Butterfly
is displeased with his wife, what shall be done to us who have
vexed our King with our loud-speaking and open quarrelling
through many days?"
 Then they put their veils over their heads, and they put their
hands over their mouths, and they tiptoed back to the Palace most
Then Balkis—The Most Beautiful and Excellent Balkis—went
forward through the red lilies into the shade of the camphor-tree
and laid her hand upon Suleiman-bin-Daoud's shoulder and said, "O
my Lord and Treasure of my Soul, rejoice, for we have taught the
Queens of Egypt and Ethiopia and Abyssinia and Persia and India
and China with a great and a memorable teaching."
And Suleiman-bin-Daoud, still looking after the Butterflies where
they played in the sunlight, said, "O my Lady and Jewel of my
Felicity, when did this happen? For I have been jesting with a
Butterfly ever since I came into the garden." And he told Balkis
what he had done.
Balkis—The tender and Most Lovely Balkis—said, "O my Lord and
Regent of my Existence, I hid behind the camphor-tree and saw it
all. It was I who told the Butterfly's Wife to ask the Butterfly
to stamp, because I hoped that for the sake of the jest my Lord
would make some great magic and that the Queens would see it
be frightened." And she told him what the Queens had said and
seen and thought.
Then Suleiman-bin-Daoud rose up from his seat under the
camphor-tree, and stretched his arms and rejoiced and said,
"O my Lady and Sweetener of my Days, know that if I had made
a magic against my Queens for the sake of pride or anger, as I
made that feast for all the animals, I should certainly have
been put to shame. But by means of your wisdom I made the magic
for the sake of a jest and for the sake of a little Butterfly,
and—behold—it has also delivered me from the vexations of my
vexatious wives! Tell me, therefore, O my Lady and Heart of my
Heart, how did you come to be so wise?" And Balkis the Queen,
beautiful and tall, looked up into Suleiman-bin-Daoud's eyes and
put her head a little on one side, just like the Butterfly, and
said, "First, O my Lord, because I loved you; and secondly, O my
Lord, because I know what women-folk are."
Then they went up to the Palace and lived happily ever
But wasn't it clever of Balkis?
THERE was never a Queen like Balkis,
From here to the wide world's end;
But Balkis tailed to a butterfly
As you would talk to a friend.
There was never a King like Solomon,
Not since the world began;
But Solomon talked to a butterfly
As a man would talk to a man.
She was Queen of Sabaea—
And he was Asia's Lord—
But they both of 'em talked to butterflies
When they took their walks abroad!
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