Adapted from an ancient Chinese folktale

Once, in a little pond, in the muddy water under the lily pads, far from the light of the sun, there lived a little water beetle in a whole community of water beetles. The water beetles were a busy and industrious bunch who lived a simple life scurrying around in the mud at the bottom of the pond, with few disturbances or interruptions.

Once in a while, a great sadness would come to the community when one of their fellow beetles would climb the stem of a lily pad and disappear, never to be seen again.

When the community noticed a water beetle climbing the stalk they would ask “What is he up to?  “Why is he climbing the stalk?” “Where is he going?”

But there were no answers.

All they knew was that when this happened their friend was dead, gone forever.

Then, one day, one little water beetle felt an irresistible urge to climb up that stem. However, he was determined that he would not leave forever. He would come back and tell his friends what he had found at the top.

He laboriously clambered up the slippery stalk of the lily pad. Determined, he pushed on. Slowly and steadily he moved up and up. It wasn’t easy but he climbed on with great determination. When he slipped he pressed on even harder.

When he finally reached the top and climbed out of the water onto the surface of the lily pad, he was exhausted by his efforts. The sun felt so warm that he decided he must take a nap and he dropped down onto the leaf.


As he slept, his body changed and when he woke up he realized he felt very different. He looked at himself and was amazed at the transformation. His body had turned into a beautiful blue-tailed dragonfly with four broad silver wings and a long slender body designed for flying. He was a little moist but soon dried out in the warm sun.

He felt an overwhelming urge to fly. So, fly he did! He nervously moved his wings a little and found himself rising up into the air without much effort. He rejoiced in the freedom of this new heady experience, flitting around almost intoxicated.

And, as he swooped and dipped through the air in great curves he saw the beauty of a whole new world and a broader and far more complex way of life to what he had never known existed.


dragonfly story


By and by he came to rest again on the lily pad. He chanced to look down into the water below and through the clear water he spotted the pond bed and remembered the water beetle community scurrying about hard at work as usual.

He remembered that his beetle friends would now be thinking he was dead. Only recently he had been a part of that community. He wanted to go back to tell them, and explain to them that he was now more alive than he had ever been before. His life had been fulfilled rather than ended.

He tried to dive into the water to go back and tell them but his new body bounced back as he tried to dive. It could not go down into the water. He could not get back to tell his friends the good news. As he realized he could not return he felt dismayed. But he also  knew that even if he could return none of them would recognise him in his new body.

And he understood that their time would come, when they, too, would know what he now knew and understand why he did not return.

So, he raised his wings and flew off higher and higher into the wonderful world of warmth, air and sunlight that his transformation had brought him to. He few away into his joyous new life!

— Author Unknown And Greatly Appreciated!

How did you feel as you read this story?

The dragonfly is thought to be a symbol of transformation in many cultures. But it also has many other meanings. In Japan it is a symbol of strength, victory and power; in China of good luck, harmony and prosperity; to the Native Americans it signifies happiness and purity; and some Australian Aboriginal communities see the dragonfly as a cheeky stickybeak which shares the important healing abilities of various medicinal bush plants with us. However, in Russian folklore it is seen as a horse possessed by the devil.

What does the dragonfly symbolise for you?


Many see this story as allegorical. What do you see as the message of this story?

image: <a href=””>Water vector created by brgfx –</a>