The Butterfly Magician
The Butterfly Magician was written as a tribute to the remarkable work by Clive Farrell to preserve butterfly species across the globe. Described as ‘The Lord of the Butterflies’ by both The Independent and The Guardian, Clive has not only established a number of Butterfly Farms in the UK and across the world, he also breeds 5,000 butterflies per week at his Ranch in Belize – an enterprise which is the mainstay of the local economy there. Hardly surprising then that Sir David Attenborough turned to Clive for specimens to display on his programme ‘Wildlife on One’.
Clive is inspired in part by his love of these beautiful creatures and in part by his strong sense of the significance of butterflies to the world’s eco-system. He is alarmed that there are only 60 species of British butterflies still in existence and that 98% of our butterfly meadows have been lost. For some time, I had wanted to write a follow-up to The Magic Makers and, after meeting Clive, I knew it had to be about butterflies. I called my Magician ‘Adonis’ because I knew that the Adonis Blue was one of Clive’s favourites – and it’s a great name for a Magician.
I’d often thought that autumn leaves resembled the ‘skeletons’ of butterflies and decided to incorporate this idea in the poem with Adonis gathering up the dry leaves and letting them fall into a magic concoction prepared by his assistant, Anemone. They are then dried and sewn together to become butterflies.
As I pondered the names of the various types, it occurred to me that there was a kind of social hierarchy in the butterfly world and I thought this would be an interesting way to put them all on parade. It was then that the idea of the Butterfly Ball came to me because the glamorous colours brought to mind some of the wonderful dresses worn at formal dances in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.
All through the poem, I have incorporated aspects of the lives of the butterflies, seeking to amuse and surprise readers with the facts – for example, that the taste buds of butterflies are in their feet! Perhaps the most startling fact of all is that butterflies don’t actually have colour! What we see when they fly before us is a refraction of the sun’s light – a fact which I have slipped into the final section of the poem. It’s a painless way of learning!