It was a warm summery day, and Jonathan and Robbit were resting in the sunshine.
Robbit scratched his ear in a comfortable, absent-minded sort of way.
“I was wondering,” He said, “Why nettles have stings.”
Jonathan couldn’t think of a good answer.
“Let’s ask Farmer Jack,” He said.
And off they went, Jonathan’s little round shell glinting in the sunlight.
Farmer Jack was digging his potato patch.
“Hallo, Robbit,” Farmer Jack rested on the handle of his spade, “And Jonathan.”
“Hallo, Farmer Jack,” They replied.
“Farmer Jack,” Said Robbit, “Why do nettles?”
Farmer Jack scratched his head.
“I’m not quite sure, ” He replied, “But I did hear a story that seems to make sense.”
“Can you tell us?” Asked Robbit.
Farmer Jack settled down on a nearby tree stump.
“Once upon a time,” He began, “There was a nettle growing in a meadow.”
“This nettle was really sad,” Farmer Jack went on, “Because nobody liked him.”
“That’s’cos he stung them, ” Muttered Robbit.
“M’mm,” Agreed farmer Jack, “But he couldn’t help it: that’s the way he was made.”
One day, a beautiful butterfly settled on one of the nettle’s leaves. “Why are you so quiet?” She asked the nettle.
“Because I sting everyone,” Said the nettle sadly, ” I can’t help it.” “You don’t sting me,” Said the butterfly.
She paused for a moment.
“I was wondering,” Said the butterfly thoughtfully, “if you would keep my eggs safe during the winter?”
Nobody had ever asked the nettle a favour before. He was thrilled.
“I’d be honoured,” He said.
And so, all through the snow and storms, the nettle kept the eggs safe and dry under its leaves, where no animal would dare try to eat them. In the spring, as the weather grew warmer, the eggs hatched out into caterpillars
Later, each caterpillar turned into a chrysallis and then, in the middle of the summer, into a beautiful new butterfly.
“Thank you,” Said the butterfly, “For looking after me all winter. I think your leaves are the strongest and safest leaves in the whole wide world.”
And, from that day on, every winter, the nettle has looked after the eggs of the beautiful Peacock butterfly.