Marianne and the Magic Butterfly

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Marianne dreams of being like her father, who dreams of being like Jesse Owens. What happens when a mystical visitor comes to guide Marianne on a tour of the past?

Adventure / Children
Age Rating:

Marianne and the Magic Butterfly

“We all have dreams. In order to make dreams come into reality, it takes an awful lot of determination, dedication, self-discipline and effort”

~Jesse Owens

One evening, a young girl sat in her parents’ room playing in front of her mother’s mirror as her mother folded laundry on the bed behind her. Seeing a framed photo of her father beside the jewelry box, the girl picked it up.

“Mom, why does Daddy like to run so much?” Marianne asked, gingerly stroking her father’s picture. Looking up, the girl returned the photo to her mother’s vanity and bounced onto the edge of the bed. Her mother smiled, putting down the shirt she held in her hands to sit beside her daughter.

“Because it makes him happy,” she answered, wrapping an arm around Marianne. Just as Marianne opened her mouth to ask another question, the girls heard the front door swing open. Marianne jumped up, squealing as she ran through the house to greet her father.

“Daddy!” Marianne ran into her father’s arms. Smiling, he picked her up and swung her around in circles before setting her down again.

“You’re getting faster and faster every day,” he said, “Soon you’ll be as fast as I am! Then what will I do?”

“You’ll have to take me with you to train!” Marianne grinned, “Can I go running with you tomorrow?”

Ruffling her hair, he chuckled, “If you think you can keep up.”

“Yes!” Pumping her fists in the air, Marianne yelled out, “Did you hear that, Mom? He said I can go with him tomorrow!”

Turning back to her father, the girl gasped, “I almost forgot. I have something for you.” She ran to fetch the two crafts she’d worked on for most of the day.

“What’s this?” her father’s eyes lit up. He crouched down to accept the gold medal made of a paper plate and ribbon. Marianne handed him an Olympic torch made of an old paper towel roll and tissue paper.

“I made them for you,” she said, “I even used my markers, see?”

“I see that,” he pointed to the torch, “Does this mean I get to run in the relay?”

“Of course, silly!”

Marianne’s mother came into the room, “Okay, you two, it’s dinner time.”

“Mom! Mom! I can go running tomorrow,” Marianne jumped up and down.

“I heard,” her mother smiled, “We’ll have to lay out your running shoes.” She hugged her husband and welcomed him home. “Go get cleaned up while Marianne and I set the table,” she said to him.

That night, as Marianne lay down to sleep, she begged her father to tell her a bedtime story. She snuggled down into her purple, flower-covered covers, and clutched her favorite stuffed dog.

Clearing his throat dramatically, Marianne’s father began her favorite tale, “Once upon a time, there was a young boy. He lived on a farm with lots of animals, big and small.” Marianne listened intently, giggling when her father made funny noises and his eyes grew wide. Her mother stood in the doorway, smiling as she watched.

“The boy spent all of his time at recess racing! It was his dream to run and run and never stop. But the other boys and girls on the playground thought it was silly that the farmer boy liked to run.”

Marianne smiled brightly, “But not for long! They’ll see, won’t they, Daddy?”

“That’s right,” he nodded, “Because one day, a special man visited the boy’s school.” “Jesse!!” Marianne squealed, nearly jumping out of her bed.

Her father chuckled, “That’s right. Jesse Owens came to the boys school and he spent the whole afternoon at recess with all of the kids. He raced with them and he chased after them and he talked with them.”

“And what did he say?” Marianne’s mother asked, coming to stand behind her husband.

“Well, I’m glad you asked! He told the kids that they should never give up on their dreams. He said that no matter who you are, you should have the chance to run after your dream.” Marianne’s father pointed at her chest, poking her, “And that. Means. You.”

“But I want to grow up to be just like you,” Marianne whispered, starting to feel drowsy. She yawned, turning onto her side as her father brushed her hair aside to kiss her forehead.

“Dream big, sweetie,” he replied, “I love you.”

“Love you too, Dad,” her voice faded into the night as her eyes finally slid shut. Her mother tucked the blankets in around her and said goodnight before turning out the light. And, soon, Marianne was fast asleep.

A gentle breeze blew through the window, and the curtains reached out for Marianne, swaying in the current. As silent as the whispering wind, a beautiful butterfly floated into Marianne’s bedroom. A sweet tinkling sounded, almost like laughter, as the majestic butterfly landed gently on the little girl’s nose.

“Marianne,” a wispy voice called in the meadow.

Marianne turned at the sound, “Here I am!” A beautiful butterfly flew to the girl, followed by the same sweet tinkling that she’d heard earlier. A shimmery trail fell behind the butterfly marking her path. Marianne giggled as the purple sparkles fell down to her. She reached her hands up to catch it, but it disappeared before it reached them.

“Marianne, what are you doing?” the butterfly asked.

“I’m playing in the meadow. Do you want to play with me?”

“What are you playing?”

“The trees are playing hide and seek with me,” Marianne’s eyes twinkled, “It’s my turn to count.”

“I see.”

“Do you want to play too?” the girl asked again.

The butterfly laughed her tinkling laugh, “No, not right now.”

“Then why are you here?” Marianne asked.

“Because,” the butterfly said, “I show little boys and girls how to dream. I want to show you something very special. Come with me, Marianne.”

“How do you know my name?” asked the girl as she followed the butterfly to the edge of the meadow.

“I know many things,” the butterfly responded, “but I like to share what I know.”

“Do you have a name?” Marianne tilted her head to the side as she stared up at the beautiful purple butterfly.

The tinkling laughter came again, “My name is Vanessa.” With that, the leaves on the trees turned the colors of autumn and began to fall. Instead of falling to the ground, though, the leaves began to dance in the wind. They danced in circles around Marianne and the butterfly until Marianne couldn’t see the meadow and the forest any more. It was like they were standing in the eye of a great storm.

Slowly, the rush of the wind died down and the autumn leaves fell away. When Marianne looked up this time, she was in a place she’d never been before.

“Where are we, Vanessa?” Marianne asked, gawking at all of the people scurrying around them. No one seemed to notice that they were standing in the middle of the street. No one seemed to notice them at all.

“We are in Germany,” the butterfly answered, “Follow me.” She flew down the street with the little girl in tow.

“Germany!” Marianne exclaimed, jumping a little in her excitement, “Oh, wow!”

Marianne looked around as she trotted after her guide. There were many people on the street. They all walked under many flags and lanterns that seemed to hang from the sky. Everything looked new and bright. The houses were painted brightly and the street was the cleanest street she’d ever seen. It even smelled fresh and new here.

“What are we doing in Germany?” she asked, suddenly curious.

“This is Berlin, a very important city in Germany. This is where the Olympic Games were held in 1936.”

“Oh,” Marianne put a finger to her mouth, “Daddy wants to be in the Olympic Games one day. He told me about them.”

“That’s right. He wants to run, doesn’t he?”

“Yes! Just like Jesse.”

“Marianne,” the butterfly stopped and turned to look at the girl, “Would you like to see Jesse Owens run in the Olympic Games?”

“Would I ever?” the girl nearly shouted, but still no one turned to look in their direction. She followed Vanessa, the butterfly into the Olympic stadium. No one stopped them from walking in and finding front row seats.

“Why are there so many policemen everywhere?” asked Marianne as she settled into her spot.

“Those men are German soldiers,” Vanessa explained, “They were called the Wehrmacht, which translates from German to mean ‘Defense Force’.” The butterfly turned around to glance at a podium far above which overlooked the growing crowd. “See there,” she indicated with a wing, “That man is Adolf Hitler. He was in charge of Germany in this time.”

Marianne gazed at the tall outlook and the man who stood gazing at the arena. “That name sounds familiar,” Marianne tossed the name over in her mind.

“That’s because he was a very important figure in World War II. He was the leader of the Nazi party and responsible for many, many deaths. It was not a pleasant time.” Vanessa paused, waiting for Marianne to absorb the information. When the girl looked up, expectantly, the butterfly continued, “This was before the war began, but Hitler was already making big plans. In order to trick the other countries into thinking that Germany was truly at peace, he put as much fanfare into the Games as possible.”

“So, it was just like a gigantic party for everyone?”

“Exactly,” Vanessa turned toward the track as the announcer’s voice rang over the stadium, “Now watch. Here’s the race I wanted you to see.”

A line of men crouched at the start line of a race. Marianne stood to get a better view. The crowd roared as a shot fired in the air and the racers took off. Marianne couldn’t help but join in their excitement. She cheered as loudly as she could.

“Jesse! Jesse! Jesse!” the roar was deafening.

When she caught a glimpse of the runners as they passed, her breath caught in her throat.

“Whoa,” she breathed.

A grin broke out across her face as Jesse Owen rounded the corner and eyes locked on hers for the briefest of moments. It was as if time stood still as his eyes slid from hers back to the track.

“He won! He won! He actually won!” Marianne jumped up and down, shouting.

Vanessa’s tinkling laughter pierced through the excitement of the crowd, “Did you ever doubt that he would?”

Marianne shook her head, gazing proudly toward the racers on the other side of the finish line. “But did you see how fast he was? He has to be the fastest man alive!”

“They called him the Buckeye Bullet,” the butterfly said, “The victory was well-won.” As the crowd began to settle, Vanessa led Marianne back out of the stadium.

Looking up as they wove through the masses of people, the girl noticed that Mr. Hitler had left his spot behind the podium. I wonder if he missed the race?, she pondered. Another question plagued her mind, one she decided to ask aloud, “Vanessa?”

“Yes, dear?”

“How did the Olympic Games start? Why do the athletes come together and compete every four years?”

The butterfly paused, turning to the girl, “Those are very good questions, but I think it would be easier to show you than to tell you.” With that, the colorful world of Berlin swirled together around Marianne and the butterfly until they couldn’t see the city any more.

As the blur of sounds and colors from Berlin died down, Marianne found herself standing on yet another road, this one made of dust and dirt. Tufts of grass spotted the path they stood on. Far down the path, a tall stone structure stood, casting a shadow in the afternoon sun.

Vanessa led the pair toward the building. People travelled the path beside the butterfly and the girl, but no one seemed to notice them as they made their way down the road. Others milled around the courtyard, entering and exiting the grand structure. The pair paused just outside of the front of the very large building.

“What is this place?” Marianne breathed, gazing up at the humongous stone pillars.

“We are in Olympia, a sanctuary in ancient Greece,” Vanessa answered, “And this is the temple of Zeus.” White stones stood side by side, leading up to the temple. The building was much longer than it was wide and there were columns that circled all the way around the building to hold up the roof. Bronze figures stood on the corners of the roof at on the tops of some of the pillars. Men, women, and animals protruded from the stone in the archway on the roof.

“Come,” Vanessa fluttered forward, “I want you to see the inside.”

“Who is Zeus?” Marianne followed her guide, skipping up the large stone steps. The inside of the building was quiet, so Marianne lowered her voice, “Wow, it’s like the walls tell stories!” Elegant marble sculptures guarded the intricate carvings that covered the walls.

Soft tinkling filled the air, “That’s a very good way to put it, dear.” The pair walked through three bronze gates and through tall arched doorways until they came to a large open room with a very big statue in the middle.

“This is Zeus,” Vanessa indicated the marble man who sat in the center of the room. He was so tall that his head almost reached the ceiling, and he had a long, curly beard.

“What is he holding in his hand?” Marianne squinted and then backed up to get a better look, “Is that...lightning?”

“Very good,” the butterfly said, “Zeus was said to harness the power of the lightning bolts. A very, very long time ago the Greek people believed that Zeus was a god and that he was the king of all of the gods. This place is dedicated to him and the people who worshiped him.”

Marianne stared up at the depiction of Zeus, thinking about what Vanessa had told her. Tilting her head to the side, she looked back to the butterfly who hovered near her shoulder, “But what does this have to do with the Olympic Games?”

Vanessa turned to leave the temple, beckoning the girl to follow. As they made their way back to the front, Vanessa replied, “The ancient Greeks started the Olympics to honor Zeus. The people considered the event a religious festival and came from all over to participate and watch.”

“So, it was like a celebration instead of a competition?”

“A little of both,” Vanessa showed Marianne to a grass-covered hill that overlooked a large patch of dirt, “The athletes trained and then competed here. The games were violent and brutal, not like we have today.” The girl looked down at the rectangular space. “You see,” Vanessa continued, “The people believed that if they won the games, they became like their gods. It was the closest thing they had to becoming perfect.”

Marianne giggled at that, “That doesn’t make much sense. Why would playing sports make you perfect?”

“It made sense to them,” Vanessa answered, “the people thought that victory led to honor and that being very in shape meant they were godlike. It was very important to their culture, but it was also very dangerous to participate.”

“What happened if they lost?”

“It would have been better for an athlete to die than to lose.”

Marianne shook her head sadly, imagining what Vanessa described as best she could, “That doesn’t sound like much fun to me.”

“Sometimes things in the past aren’t very fun to learn about, but it’s important that we remember them so that we learn from them. It also helps us to understand different cultures and people when we look at the past. Wouldn’t you want someone to look back and try to understand you one day?”

“Were many people hurt?” the girl asked softly, wondering how her father could want to be in the Games if this was how they started.

Vanessa fluttered her wings, coming face to face with the child, The Olympics now have been changed in many ways.”

“I guess they have,” Marianne’s eyes shone with all that she had learned, “Thank you for bringing me here.” Marianne’s mouth stretched open wide in a yawn. She stood on her tiptoes, reaching her arms to the sky, “Where are we going next?”

Just as she spoke, the dust from the field below rose and swirled around the pair, mixing with blades of grass from the hill they stood on. The dust and grass swirled around them until they couldn’t see Greece any more.

When the grass and dirt began to fall away, Marianne stood in another field, but she recognized this one. “This is where we started,” disappointment seeped into Marianne’s voice as she noticed the trees she had been playing with earlier.

“Yes, it is,” the butterfly said, “It’s time for me to go.”

“Vanessa,” Marianne whispered, “Will you come back again?”

“Maybe,” the butterfly answered thoughtfully, “For now, you should return to your games. Goodbye, Marianne.”

“Bye, Vanessa,” the girl waved until the butterfly flew into the trees where she could not see her anymore.

Marianne stirred in her sleep, turning onto her side as she lay dreaming of playing hide and seek and tag in distant meadows. Content with her night’s work, the butterfly flew from the little girl’s side and back out the open window, followed by the faint sound of tinkling.

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