Hundreds of additional titles available for
online reading when you join Gateway to the Classics
 SEVENTEEN years is a long, long time to be getting ready to
fly; yet that is what the Seventeen-year Locusts, or
Cicadas, have to expect. First, they lie for a long time in
eggs, down in the earth. Then, when they awaken, and crawl
out of their shells, they must grow strong enough to dig
before they can make their way out to where the
green grass is growing and waving in the wind.
The Cicada who got so very much puzzled had not been long
out of his home in the warm, brown earth. He was the only
Cicada anywhere around, and it was very lonely for him.
However, he did not mind that so much when he was eating, or
singing, or resting in the sunshine, and as he was either
eating, or singing, or resting in the sunshine most of the
time, he got along fairly well.
Because he was young and healthy he grew fast. He grew so
very fast that after a while he began to feel heavy and
stiff, and more like sitting still than like crawling
around. Beside all this, his skin got tight, and you can
imagine how uncomfortable it must be to have one's skin too
tight. He was sitting on the branch of a bush one day,
thinking about the wonderful great world, when—pop!—his
skin had cracked open right down the
 middle of his back! The
poor Cicada was badly frightened at first, but then it
seemed so good and roomy that he took a deep breath,
and—pop!—the crack was longer still!
The Cicada found that he had another whole skin under the
outside one which had cracked, so he thought, "How much
cooler and more comfortable I shall be if I crawl out of
this broken covering," and out he crawled.
It wasn't very easy work,
because he didn't have anybody to
help him. He had to hook the claws of his outer skin into
the bark of the branch, hook them in so hard that they
couldn't pull out, and then he began to wriggle out of the
back of his own skin. It was exceedingly hard work, and the
hardest of all was the pulling his legs out of their cases.
He was so tired when he got free that he could hardly think,
and his new skin was so soft and tender that he felt limp
 queer. He found that he had wings of a pretty green, the
same color as his legs. He knew these wings must have been
growing under his old skin, and he stretched them slowly out
to see how big they were. This was in the morning, and after
he had stretched his wings he went to sleep for a long time.
When he awakened, the sun was in the western sky, and he
tried to think who he was. He looked at himself, and instead
of being green he was a dull brown and black. Then he saw
his old skin clinging to the branch and staring him in the
face. It was just the same shape as when he was in it, and
he thought for a minute that he was dreaming. He rubbed his
head hard with his front legs to make sure he was awake, and
then he began to wonder which one he was. Sometimes he
thought that the old skin which clung to the bush was the
Cicada that had lain so long in the ground, and sometimes he
 the soft, fat, new-looking one was the Cicada.
Or were both of them the Cicada? If he were only one of the
two, what would he do with the other?
While he was wondering about this in a sleepy way, an old
Cicada from across the river flew down beside him. He
thought he would ask her, so he waved his feelers as
politely as he knew how, and said, "Excuse me, Madam Cicada,
for I am much puzzled. It took me seventeen years to grow
into a strong, crawling Cicada, and then in one day I
separated. The thinking, moving part of me is here, but the
outside shell of me is there on that branch. Now, which part
is the real Cicada?"
"Why, that is easy enough," said the Madam Cicada; "You are
you, of course. The part that you cast off and left clinging
to the branch was very useful once. It kept you warm on cold
days and cool on warm days, and you needed it while
 you were
only a crawling creature. But when your wings were ready to
carry you off to a higher and happier life, then the skin
that had been a help was in your way, and you did right to
wriggle out of it. It is no longer useful to you. Leave it
where it is and fly off to enjoy your new life. You will
never have trouble if you remember that the thinking part is
the real you."
And then Madam Cicada and her new friend flew away to her
home over the river, and he saw many strange sights before
he returned to the meadow.