Once upon a time, as they say, there was an ugly insect who lived in a pond.
He was really a very ugly insect. He was so ugly that even the midges that gathered in clouds above the water mocked him, and the tadpoles that cruised among the weeds laughed at him before swimming away. And, perhaps, they were right to laugh, because he was such an ugly insect.
He was fat and slow, his eyes were huge and bulging, and he didn’t even have a single patch of vivid colour to liven up his dull tones. But the worst of it was his mouth.
He had a huge and ugly mouth. It was so big that he had to keep it folded up, and it expanded almost like a trumpet when he opened it. That’s why all those who made fun of him called him Bigmouth.
The tadpoles were bad, and the little fishes worse, but the worst of all were the midges. “Look at Bigmouth,” they jeered, flocking over the water and dancing with contempt. “He’s the fattest, ugliest insect we ever saw. Why, even the caterpillars on the trees look good compared to him!”
“Why can’t you leave me alone?” Bigmouth asked, his huge jaws opening and closing as he spoke. “I’m not bothering you.”
“Hey, Bigmouth’s upset,” the midges jeered. “Bigmouth’s going to eat us all up.” And they danced and laughed and flew away.
All this made Bigmouth so sad that in the end he decided to go away. Crawling slowly over the weeds and pebbles at the bottom of the pond, he only found more tadpoles and fish all eager to laugh at him. At last he could bear it no longer.
“I’ll crawl up the stem of this weed,” he said to himself. “Then I’ll just keep climbing up it until I can’t climb any more, and then I’ll stay up there until I die of old age. At least neither the tadpoles nor the midges can make fun of me then.”
But the climb up the weed was difficult and exhausting for a fat and slow insect like Bigmouth, and after a while he began to feel sleepy. At first it was only a little sleepy, and then a lot, and finally he simply could not go on any further.
“I’ll just sleep a while,” Bigmouth said to himself. “Then I’ll go on again.” And so he fell asleep, clutching the weed stem.
And while he was sleeping he had a terrible dream. He dreamt that he was surrounded by thousands and thousands of midges, who had all come to laugh and jeer at him. “Bigmouth,” they all shouted, “look at Bigmouth. How fat and stupid and ugly he is!”
And in his dream, for the first time in his life, Bigmouth got angry. “I am not fat or stupid,” he raged, “but even if I were, what about it? I didn’t choose to be like this, any more than you chose to be small and noxious and annoying!”
“Oh, Bigmouth is angry,” the midges hooted. “Bigmouth thinks he’s beautiful and slim. Maybe Bigmouth thinks he has wings and can fly up here and eat us all.” And they laughed all the harder.
In his dream, poor Bigmouth began to feel extremely uncomfortable. He felt as though with each jeer he was getting fatter and uglier and slower, until he was so fat that he thought his body was going to burst. And then there was a cracking noise as though he was really bursting, and all the midges shouted with laughter.
With a start, Bigmouth woke up.
He woke up, and he was no longer fat and ugly. He spread his four new gauzy wings, and he jumped into the air, the sun gleaming on his iridescent blue and green body, the world bright and new to his enormous eyes. He flew up high with joy, and came down again, swooping along the surface of the pond, his body light as gossamer in the air. He flew along, and he saw the midges in the distance, darting and buzzing over the water. And, strange to relate, he no longer hated or feared them at all, and had no desire to flee from them again.
No. Flying fast above the water on his huge new wings, he reached the midges, who were dancing and darting, but now he didn’t have to struggle in the water, slow and fat and clumsy. Now he could dance and dart with them.
And then he ate them.