AR, very far away, and long, very long ago, when all the
world was inhabited
by the fairies, there lived a great and mighty king called
Fire-fly. Now do not run away with the idea that this
Fire-fly was in any way like the little glowing insects
that are read about in Natural History books. True, he had
wings like those flies nowadays, and also a body
something like theirs, but he was a fairy fly, and wore a
most beautiful crown on his head, which at night
shone as brilliantly as the stars. Then this Fire-fly had a
palace, which lay right in the middle of a
wide river. This palace consisted of one magnificent lotus
flower, and a
more exquisite dwelling-place it would be
impossible to see. His dearest and most precious
treasure was his daughter, a most
lovely princess. The king was so proud and fond of
her that he would not allow any one even to look at her, but
kept her hidden inside the pink petals of his beautiful
lotus palace, and there the princess grew
up more and more lovely every day, till her fame
and wide, and all the flies and
 moths and beetles of the neighbouring kingdoms got out their
finest wings in order to go to woo and win this
incomparable Fire-fly miss.
But the princess was very proud and very vain of her own
beauty, and she said to her mother one day:
"It is quite useless for either Dragon-fly or Stag-beetle, or, in
fact, any of them to try and woo me, for I will not marry any
one unless he perform some
perilous task which I will impose upon him. Then if he fails,
and dies in the attempt, I shall be thankful to have
escaped being married to so foolish and
careless a being;
or if he should not dare to attempt the task, it will be a
proof that he values his life higher than his love, and is
therefore not worth having."
As this beautiful princess was very much spoilt at home,
her mother and father, King and Queen Fire-fly, both acceded
to her whim, and the king issued a proclamation,
by which he declared that no suitor should have the hand of
his lovely daughter unless he performed the task she imposed
Forthwith did Prince Gold-beetle start from his kingdom of
Gladiola over the grass, and placed his heart and hand at
Princess Fire-fly's feet. She listened to all he
had to say, and smiled very sweetly. "Yes," she said,
"all that you say is very pretty indeed, and I am sure your
proposal is exceedingly flattering; but you know the
condition, without which I cannot possibly marry you."
"Name the condition, lovely princess," said the
Gold-beetle; "no task, be it ever so hard, would be too much
to undertake for such a prize."
"You most bring me, from anywhere you like," said the
beautiful Fire-fly, "one spark of fire!"
"Is that all you wish for?" said the Gold-beetle. "I
fly, and before another night has
descended and passed by I will lay this spark at
your feet." And away he flew, quite confident
that he would be able to obtain so simple a thing as
a mere little spark of fire, which the
 moment night came could be found in every house in the
neighbourhood. You will hear presently how he fared in his
In the meantime the beautiful Fire-fly had another suitor.
Lord Cockchafer appeared upon the scene, and, obtaining
entrance into the Lotus Palace, he boldly asked
for the honour of becoming the Princess's husband, but she
turned away quite disdainfully from him:
"I don't think I should ever care to marry you at all," she
said; "but I am so very, very anxious to possess a spark
of fire, and I really would like to know if you would
be brave enough to undertake a perilous task in order to
"I will travel night and day," said Lord Cockchafer, "till
I bring you what you wish."
Away he went, tripping merrily, and blissfully unconscious
of the fact that he was not
the only one who was bent on this curious errand.
Presently Fire-fly had another suitor—a beautiful suitor
he was too, with his shimmering suit of green and gold, my
Lord Dragon-fly. He thought to dazzle her by his beauty
her forget her foolish fancy
about this spark of fire. But the
princess would not listen
even to him; she only smiled, and
"I will only marry him who brings me this spark of fire."
 And away he had to go. And thus, day after day, there came a
regular crowd of suitors round the beautiful princess; but
day after day she sent them off in quest of a spark of fire.
Prince Gold-beetle waited till night set in, then flew off
gaily to the nearest city. He came up near a lovely little
house, standing in a large garden; he looked in at the
window, and there he saw a large table laid out with tea and
cakes, sweets and fruit, and twelve little girls and boys
sitting round, having their tea; on the table a large lamp
was burning very brightly.
"Why, this is just what I want," said Prince Gold-beetle;
and as the window was open he flew in. The lamp
burnt beautifully, it quite fascinated him; he flew quite
close, in order to get a better view of the bright flame.
"Oh, what a lovely beetle," he heard one of the little
children say, "Mother, do look! What beautiful wings it
"Oh, dear, it is flying so near the lamp I am sure it will
burn its wings," said another.
The Gold-beetle took no notice of what they said, but drew
nearer and nearer to the coveted prize; there was a spark of
lovely fire, how pleased the beautiful princess would be
when he brought it
home for her. At last he made a bold dash to catch
the flame, when lo! alas! he felt his poor wings all
singed and burnt; he could not fly any more,
but fell fainting on the tablecloth.
He heard the little children say to each
"Stupid beetle to go flying into the
lamp; now it has burnt
its lovely wings."
Then somebody else said,
"Throw away the nasty thing, or put it out of its misery."
That was the end of poor Prince Gold-beetle's life.
Another suitor of Fire-fly, a Hawk-moth,
while fluttering about one evening, wandered into a
room where, at first, he
could see nothing, it seemed pitch
dark; presently he noticed a large luminous object,
which turned out to be long blue flames,
apparently emerging from a large
bowl, filled with plums; all round he
saw eager little laughing faces, and
every now and then little fingers would
boldly make a dash into the bowl and bring
out a flaring sugar plum. Hawk-moth watched them for a time,
very much interested; you see, they don't play snapdragon
in the Lotus kingdom. Then he suddenly thought
this would be a grand opportunity to steal a lovely spark of
blue fire, and with it claim the hand of the proud princess.
He fluttered round the bowl for some time, but no one paid
any attention to him, they were all so merry pulling
out the plums and eating them. It seemed so easy that
Hawkmoth determined to try his luck, and boldly flew into
the flames. Alas! poor fellow, he was burnt to a cinder,
you could hardly tell him from a raisin.
One after another the suitors tried, and
one after another they failed. There was a Hornbug
who actually, one night, saw a green light in a
cat's eye; he tried to snatch that, but you may well imagine
how pussy, very much annoyed, made a short meal of my lord
A venturesome Carrion-beetle having
drifted towards the sea-shore, late one
some fish lying there apparently all glowing
with fire. He picked off one of the glistening scales,
and went away proud and happy, quite convinced that
the necessary prize—the much-sought-for spark of fire—was
at last in his grasp. He was hurrying to get to Lotus land
as fast as his legs could carry him, when he met a
 who apparently was also carrying a luminous
object in front of him. The fact of the matter was, that
Mr. Stag-beetle had also
fallen madly in love with the beautiful but capricious
princess, and had determined to succeed in bringing her a
spark of fire, even if it should cost him his wings!
After several unsuccessful attempts he had found at the
foot of a large tree, a funny little bit of old wood, which
gave out a beautiful little
bright blue light. He approached very carefully (as he
had been severely burnt several times), and you may
be sure he was delighted when he found that it did not give
out any heat, so that he was able to carry it off without
burning himself. He was hurrying off with his prize to
claim the Princess, when he met Mr. Carrion-beetle bent on
a similar errand.
They both stopped short, and glared at each other. No
explanation was necessary. Each knew where the other one
was hurrying to, and each was determined
to get there first. They could not both marry Princess
Fire-fly, that was very evident, so, after talking matters
over for a while, they determined to fight it out till one
of them remained dead on the battle-field. It was pitch
dark, but the fish-scale and the bit of wood were quite
enough light to kill one another by, so they each put down
their prize, and began boxing in true beetle-like fashion.
As they both were equally tall, and equally strong, the
fight lasted a considerable time. When lo!
behold! as the first ray of dawn illumined
the eastern sky, and the two combatants
turned for a rest, previous to renewing
hostilities, there, on the ground, instead of
the two tiny sparks of blue flame, lay
only a nasty fish's scale and an ugly bit of
wood. King Phosphorus had vanished with
the dawn. Further fighting was useless.
Carrion-beetle and Stagbeetle each went his own way to seek
Meanwhile, the Princess, in her beautiful
in vain for the return of one of her many suitors. When
she heard of the sad fate of Prince Gold-beetle, she wept
bitterly, for though she was so proud and
vain, she was not wholly devoid of feeling, and of
the many who had come
wooing her she had preferred Prince Gold-beetle.
When the Queen saw her tears, she tried
to make her forego her purpose; but all her persuasions
were of no avail,
for the Princess was very
obstinate, and would not own to being in the
Suitor after suitor came, and they were one and all sent off
on the same hopeless errand. One day a most beautiful "Red
Admiral" was on the point of committing
suicide on the thorn of a rosebush, being so fearfully
despondent on account of his non-success, when he caught
sight of a luminous object underneath the very branch upon
which he meant to end his life. His joy was great; what
was it? Would it hurt him? He thought not, it
looked so beautiful as it lay and sparkled in the sun.
All round it
was a hoop of gold. He went closer; no, it did not burn.
Then came the question, how was he to convey it to the
Princess? It was far too heavy for him to carry. Whilst he
was considering how he could possibly convey it, he heard
footsteps, and in another second a little child's voice
exclaim, "Why, look! here is your diamond ring you
lost; . . . . how
lucky it is I have found it," and the child picked it
up and gave it to a grown-up lady who was a little way off.
 This was the last straw for the beautiful Red Admiral, and
in another minute he had committed suicide.
And thus it was with one and all—some were frightened, and
never attempted the task, others were badly singed, some
died, none succeeded, and even to this day, in far-off
lands, where the lotus grows, we always say when we see a
crowd of insects fluttering round a flame: "Ah! Princess
Fire-fly has many suitors to-night!"