On The Story of the Moth

One night, all the family, except my mother and myself, went to bed early.  Why, I do not know, but we two remained sitting alone.  The candles had already been put out.  They had been blown out in their globes by means of a curved tube of tin. That tube seemed to me the finest and most wonderful plaything in the world.  The room was dimly lighted by a single light of coconut oil. In all Filipino homes such a light burns through the night. It goes out just at day-break to awaken people by its spluttering.

My mother was teaching me to read in a Spanish reader called "The Children's Friend" (El Amigo de los Ninos). This was quite a rare book and an old copy. It had lost its cover and my sister had cleverly made a new one. She had fastened a sheet of thick blue paper over the back and then covered it with a piece of cloth.

This night my mother became impatient with hearing me read so poorly.  I did not understand Spanish and so I could not read with expression.  She took the book from me.  First she scolded me for drawing funny pictures on its pages.  Then she told me to listen and she began to read.  When her sight was good, she read very well. She could recite well, and she understood verse-making, too. Many times during Christmas vacations, my mother corrected my poetical compositions, and she always made valuable criticisms.

I listened to her, full of childish enthusiasm. I marvelled at the nice-sounding phrases which she read from those same pages.  The phrases she read so easily stopped me at every breath.  Perhaps I grew tired of listening to sounds that had no meaning for me.  Perhaps I lacked self-control.  Anyway, I paid little attention to the reading.  I was watching the cheerful flame. About it, some little moths were circling in playful flights. By chance, too, I yawned.  My mother soon noticed that I was not interested.  She stopped reading.  Then she said to me: "I am going to read you a very pretty story.  Now pay attention."

On hearing the word 'story' I at once opened my eyes wide.  The word 'story' promised something new and wonderful. I watched my mother while she turned the leaves of the book, as if she were looking for something.  Then I settled down to listen.  I was full of curiosity and wonder.  I had never even dreamed that there were stories in the old book which I read without understanding.  My mother began to read me the fable of the young moth and the old one.  She translated it into Tagalog a little at a time.

My attention increased from the first sentence. I looked toward the light and fixed my gaze on the moths which were circling around it.  The story could not have been better timed.  My mother repeated the warning of the old moth. She dwelt upon it and directed it to me.  I heard her, but it is a curious thing that the light seemed to me each time more beautiful, the flame more attractive.  I really envied the fortune of the insects.  They frolicked so joyously in its enchanting splendor that the ones which had fallen and been drowned in the oil did not cause me any dread.

My mother kept on reading and I listened breathlessly. The fate of the two insects interested me greatly.  The flame rolled its golden tongue to one side and a moth which this movement had singed fell into the oil, fluttered for a time and then became quiet.  That became for me a great event.  A curious change came over me which I have always noticed in myself whenever anything has stirred my feelings.  The flame and the moth seemed to go further away and my mother's words sounded strange and uncanny. I did not notice when she ended the fable. All my attention was fixed on the face of the insect.  I watched it with my whole soul... It had died a martyr to its illusions.

As she put me to bed, my mother said: "See that you do not behave like the young moth. Don't be disobedient, or you may get burnt as it did." I do not know whether I answered or not... The story revealed to me things until then unknown.  Moths no longer were, for me, insignificant insects. Moths talked; they know how to warn. They advised just like my mother. The light seemed to me more beautiful. It had grown more dazzling and more attractive. I knew why the moths circled the flame.

1 comment:

  1. Rizal was a keen observer since his childhood. When his mother is telling him story that day, he noticed this moth. He really was not interested in his mother's story rather he paid much attention to the moths circling around the flames of their lamp. Then, the flame accidentally subdued the young moth and it died. However, Jose's mother was watching him and she gave her a lesson just like the what happened to the moth if he wasn't listening to her.

    Romero,Daryll Ian C.
    Contributor, www.ourhappyschool.com

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