The rose is quite rightly celebrated for its beauty. But sharp and painful protrusions are part of this perfect flower. Not for nothing do we have the saying: ‘no rose without thorns’. Officially, however, a rose does not have thorns, it has prickles. Did you know that the tip of the prickles used to point upwards? But not anymore. You can discover how this happened in the following tale of devilry.
The angel Lucifer had been banned to hell for his crimes. Hell was not a lot of fun. For days on end he paced up and down in the fiendish heat, thinking up strategies to escape from this miserable place. To his utter dismay all his attempts failed.
One day it became crystal clear to Lucifer that his plight was hopeless and he gazed dejectedly about. Just then a single seed floated down and landed near his feet. He smiled; yes, there was still hope!
With great care he scooped up the tiny seed. In every nook and cranny of hell Lucifer gathered together all the dust and rubbish he could find and piled it in a heap in a place where there was some light and not too much heat. He pushed the seed one centimeter down into the top of this small heap. Finding water in the infernal heat of hell was a serious problem. Lucifer was not going to be defeated by that. So he let vapour condense and carefully collected the precious water which he trickled drop by drop onto the small seed. Lucifer applied himself to the task of making this small seed germinate.
The plant climbed up towards the light and matured into a strong climbing rose. With endless patience Lucifer waited until the rose had grown nearly so high that it reached the edge of the world. He used the rose´s prickles which pointed proudly upwards to climb up. Freedom was just a breath away!
Lucifer was a little too hasty though. The banished angel climbed right up to the top, but the rose had not grown quite high enough. However hard he tried to jump up and reach out from the uppermost prickle, still the edge of the world remained just beyond his grasp. Finally, overwhelmed by his impotence, Lucifer ranted and raved…..and that was when God heard him.
`Rose, what are you up to? That´s not allowed. You´re letting yourself be used by the devil´ cried God.
As he uttered these words, the rose´s prickles all rotated and pointed downwards….and Lucifer? He lost his footing on the prickles and slid right back down into the depths of hell, covered in scratches from top to toe. Probably that is where he is right now, as we speak, sulking over his fate.
Roses do not have thorns, but prickles! A thorn is a sort of twig with a sharp point joined up to the inside of a twig like the blackthorn. A prickle, by contrast, is a growth in the bark or outer surface and can easily be removed without this damaging the twig. Because of its exquisite form, the rose is also known as the queen of the flowers.
Already in Greek and Roman culture, the rose played an important role: the flower was a reminder of paradise´s beauty, while the prickles pointed to the world´s harsh reality. Roses have been cultivated by selection and breeding in the West as early as the 16th century, resulting in an increasing range of colours, fragrances and other characteristics.
© Els Baars, Natuurverhalen.nl