Friday, April 24, 2009
Five uses for butterflies in fantasy
Because I like butterflies and I was feeling whimsical. :)
1. As a food source
Some species of butterfly gather or migrate in huge swarms. It’s just a step from there to people making preparations to catch those butterflies for food. I’m imagining huge netlike funnels that swallow up the swarms, or concentrated pools of pheromone that attract them.
2. As couriers
The patterns on a butterfly’s wings could be manipulated to spell out short words – or they could be a map. Or the butterflies could simply be infused with magic that makes a message appear when, for instance, the butterflies are popped into the ether jar (which would make them one-use only couriers, unfortunately). We’ll also have to assume some other type of magic that makes them fly to a certain destination.
Con: butterflies are fragile and have natural predators, but if they were brightly colored to advertise their poisonous nature, this might keep them alive for that much longer.
3. As scapegoats
if you have a memory or emotional state that you need to lose forever, a butterfly crawls out of your skin, dries its wings for a few moments and flies away, taking whatever’s unwanted with it.
The color of the butterfly’s wings could correspond to various emotions – red for lust, green for envy and so on. I wonder what would happen to whatever ate the butterfly, though.
4. As mounts
These would be really large butterflies.
5. As agents of biological warfare
I like the idea of butterflies being used to transmit grotesque diseases – and there’s something in it for them as well, if they parasitize their prey. Imagine infected people with dozens of caterpillars wriggling just beneath their skins. And when they think they’re getting better (because the caterpillars stop moving), that only means they’re in the pupal stage and will soon split open to release hundreds of butterflies like jewel flakes, petals in flight, tongues of fire and shards of the rainbow.