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How Brazilian Beetles Got Their Coats

Published June 1, 2008
Countries: None
Age Levels: 5-6 and up

A small brown beetle crawled along the bottom of a stone wall.  He was met by a grey rat that ran out of a hole in the wall.  The rat ran past the beetle to the end of the garden.  Then he turned and ran quickly back.  The beetle had only moved a foot while the rat had run to the far end of the wall and back.

"Oh my!" said the rat, "How slowly you move.  You will never get anywhere in the world.  Look at how fast I can move compared to you." 

The rat ran to the end of the wall and back for a second time.  "You are slow.  Slow, slow, slow!  Don't you wish that you could run as fast as me?" asked the rat.

"You do run very fast," agreed the beetle.  Beetle did not like to boast about the things she could do.  She always tried to be polite to others.  She kept on crawling along the wall.

A large green and gold parrot had seen and heard the two from its perch on a tree that overlooked the garden.  "How would you like to race the beetle?" asked the bird.  I will offer a bright colored coat to the winner of the race as a prize.  I will make the coat in any color that you like," added the parrot.

"Make my coat yellow with stripes like a tiger," said the rat as if he had already won the race.

"I would really like a beautifully colored coat," said the beetle.

The rat laughed, "You do not have a chance to beat me.  The prize will be mine."

The parrot flew to a nearby palm tree to watch for the winner of the race.  He squawked loudly to signal the beginning of the race.  Away the rat ran.  He ran his fastest.  But as he ran he thought, "I wonder why I am running so fast.  It is not like the slow little beetle has any chance of running as fast as I can.  He ran his fastest until he came to the palm tree where the parrot sat on a branch.

The rat reached the palm tree where he saw the parrot.  Beside the parrot, the rat saw the little beetle.  "How did you beat me here?  And, how did you get up there on the branch?"

That is when little beetle unfolded his wings and showed them to the rat.  "No one said we had to run, so I flew," said the beetle. 

"I did not know you could fly," said the rat.

"You never asked me," said the beetle.  "You just insulted me and said how slowly I moved.

The parrot reminded the rat to never again judge someone just by their looks.  "You never know what gifts someone has without getting to know them well," said the parrot.  Then the parrot gave the beetle a beautiful shiny coat made of many colors.  Soon the little beetle from Brazil was seen everywhere in her coat colored with shiny green and gold.

That might have been the end of the story.  But there is more.  For many years all of the Brazilian beetles were happy with their green and gold coats.  But - one small beetle looked up at the blue sky.  It said, "I would gladly give up my green and gold coat for a coat that is blue like the sky."

The little beetle got its wish.  Soon there were big Brazilian beetles with their beautiful green and gold coats and small beetles with coats colored in blue.  However, the green and gold beetles have hard coats.  The hard coats can even be made into jewelry.  The beetles with blue coats have a coat that is soft and that falls apart when the beetles are picked up by people.  The green and gold beetles grow large while the blue beetles always stay small.

When the people of Brazil made their flag, they colored a square green like the green beetle's coat.  They put a small gold diamond inside the square.  The gold looks like the gold on the green beetle's coat.  Within the diamond, they drew a circle.  The circle is colored blue, like the blue beetle.  Brazilians added stars of silvery white on the back of blue circle and drew a white circle around the circle.  They wrote "Ordem e Progresso" on the band.  This means "order and progress."

Adapted from Fairy Tales from Brazil, "How the Brazilian Beetles Got Their Gorgeous Coats" by Elsie Spicer Eells, 1917 - republished by Dodd and Mead and Co., 1944.