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Once upon a time, as the year-end holidays approached, several insects met around a fire to chat and chase away the cold. All around them, happiness abounded as people feverishly made beautiful gift packages and bright decorations.
 
But they felt no desire to chirp, to flutter about, or to search for pollen among the flowers…
“What’s going on”? said the cricket.
“I’m not knitting anymore”, said the spider.
“I just want to hibernate”, said the ant.
 
They had to do something to wake up this small, invisible world shivering under the first snowflakes that had begun to fall!  
That was when they remembered their friend Jeanjean, the Queen’s gardener, who each spring transformed the castle’s landscapes into marvellous playgrounds where they found the rarest of nectars to taste.
“Knock knock”. No answer…
 
Everything about this medieval castle seemed to be deeply asleep. The butterfly flew up into the cloudy sky, and when he came to a window, he used his warm breath to melt the frost that had formed. Looking into the kitchen, he could see the gardener slumbering next to the fireplace.
“Knock knock”. Opening just one eye, our friend and was amazed to see the beating of multi-coloured wings, which reminded him of spring.
“What’s happening”?
The beautiful butterfly responded immediately. “Come save us from our sadness! The entire world around us is so happy, and yet here we are, unable to say why our lives in winter seem so dreary to us…”
 
Shaking off his sluggishness, the gardener went to his library to consult one of the tomes of magic formulas that he had inherited from his friend, the flower fairy. He went to the chapter called “When insects become sad”, and there he found the recipe that could save his little friends from their gloom! He had to create a flower as red as passion, as white as snow, and as pink as tenderness.
 
The rose already existed, so there was no point in trying to copy the beauty of the queen of all flowers.
 
“Let me think for a bit…”
Jeanjean began to work in earnest. He searched his trunks for the most beautiful silks, leaved through his colour charts, and began to cut opulent petals with lace edges…
He worked for a long, long time, but our insect friends know what it means to be patient, so they just kept watching Jeanjean as he worked in silence.
 
And at dawn on a sunny day, a beautiful flower came to be.
“I christen you Peony,” said the magician gardener. Peony was the name of a princess who visited the castle gardens one day, and with whom he had secretly fallen in love.
The insects instantly found their smiles again!
 
But they were not yet completely happy. The flower was missing a certain something that would make it irresistible. “Your creation is magnificent,” said the half-asleep cicada to Jeanjean, “but I know what it needs”!
He remembered the time he had spent in Grasse, word capital of perfumery. He knew that, in Fragonard’s enchanted laboratories, you could sample scents to turn a beautiful marquise’s head and make any prince that much more charming!
 
Jeanjean set off for this sunny land.
“Knock knock…” No answer.
“Knock knock. I am a friend of the cicada”.
The door opened.
“We only welcome friends who know the password”, said the mysterious perfumer. “Everything that happens in here is a total secret”.
 
Jeanjean spoke about the sadness of the insects in winter, and of his creation that remained unfinished because it remained unscented. And at that very moment, the most delicious and enchanting fragrance began to waft forth from a copper still. The peony had found its scent.  
 
Upon his return to the castle, Jeanjean could not believe his eyes. The king and queen had organized a ball, and the guest of honour was… Peony!
The insects danced all night to celebrate happy Peony who spread her enchanting perfume with the help of a caressing Fragonard breeze!


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The Tale of the Peony

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