Long ago and far away, in the fabled lost land of Lepidoptera, there lived a young moth with his family. Nothing is remembered about the land of Lepidoptera except that this one moth lived there: if it were not for him it would have been quite forgotten.
His family was respected and respectable, with a distinguished history. His great-grandfather had been burned by a bolt of lightning, one of only two moths in the history of Lepidoptera to have died such an honourable death. Many other of his relatives had been almost as distinguished. His maternal great-uncle had been immolated in a goldsmith's torch, and fragments of his mortal remains had thus come to adorn the finger of a princess. His second-cousin by marriage (on his father's side) had ended her days in the image of the Sun cast by a great scientist's telescope. And his first cousin once-removed (the daughter of his maternal great-aunt's first marriage) had been frazzled by the end of a Havana cigar being smoked on stage by the greatest actor of the day.
So you can see that the young moth was of no ordinary stock, and from the earliest age his ambitions were in keeping with his background.
At school, while the other moths of his age were content to batter their heads against a dull red light bulb, he was with the bigger moths, singeing his wings in the flame of a birthday candle. He graduated with the highest marks in the history of his school, after scorching off every single hair on the left side of his body by flying backwards around a burning tree.
It was very unusual for a young moth to live with his family in those days. Partly it was unusual because the family was usually nothing but ashes and a smell of burning soon after the children were old enough to look after themselves. And partly it was unusual because the young moths wanted to have a family of their own as quickly as possible so that they too could move on into flames and glory.
He stayed with his family and did not marry because he had decided that nothing should distract him from his ambition in life: to make a name for himself that should last through the ages, to be the greatest son ever of the land of Lepidoptera. His parents had decided to support him in this endeavour, and had postponed their own departures from the world until after his. (They were thinking of something modest, the flame of a lighthouse on a stormy night, maybe: they knew their limitations.) They were so proud of him.
And so he prepared himself for his moment of glory, with exploits that themselves drew gasps of amazement. He singed a single hair in each of the burners of the stoves in the kitchens of Lepidoptera's finest hotel. He passed through the exhaust flames of every one of the rockets in the fireworks display at the King's coronation. He honoured his great-grandfather's memory by having his left wing pierced by a bolt of lightning as he flew in a spiral around a lightning conductor. His fame spread far and wide.
There were some, of course, jealous souls, who refused to be impressed by his exploits. "It's all very clever," they would say, "but it's only playing around. The boy's still alive. He hasn't got what it takes." And to demonstrate their point, there would then be a flash and a hiss and a puff of grey smoke, as they plunged into a flame or shorted a circuit. But others believed in him, understanding that he was only preparing himself for the great moment that was to come.
They took it as a sign that the moment was approaching that his exploits became less spectacular, while needing greater reserves of determination and stamina. In the course of a single night he flew head-first against every single light-house on the coast of Lepidoptera. He flew for hours or days at a stretch, sometimes without even scorching or singeing himself, but flying once around each of the street-lights of a city, or into and out of all of every open window he could find, whether there was light beyond it or not. Connoisseurs preferred these performances to the earlier, flashier ones: "There's a lot more goes into what he's doing now than the moth in the street usually realises," they would say, before going to their own subtle end, maybe circling all night above the embers of a campfire until their wings dried out in the feeble heat and they fell gently to be grilled in the ashes.
But when it became known for what the young moth was preparing himself, even his staunchest followers had their doubts. He intended to burn himself in the heat of a star. In the whole of the history of Lepidoptera, no-one had ever seen a star as more than a point in the sky, not even those who had flown to the greatest of heights, but the young moth was certain of his goal: "A candle looks like no more than a point of light when you see it from a distance, but when you get close enough you can see that it is a flame. A star must be just the same, only bigger." He was prepared to fly for a month on end to reach his star and find glory. He knew that if the star was too far away he might not reach it, and would fall to Earth exhausted, but that was a risk he was prepared to take. He knew that even if he did not reach his goal, he would be remembered forever as the moth who had tried to fly into a star. And so far it looks like he was right, although forever is a very long time.
He chose a star, and pointed it out to his friends, and on a calm moonless night he started his journey. His friends watched the star every night for the puff of flame that would tell them that he had arrived. Some gave up watching after a week, saying that no-one could ever fly for that long. Others held out for a month, and then went to their own fates, saying that even if he was still flying, he must be too far away for them to see any sign of his ending. And one young moth watched every night for a year and a day, and then dived into a volcano alone.
Some say that he made it, and the flash was hidden by a wisp of cloud. Some say he dived into the far side of the star, and that that was why there was nothing to see. Others said simply that they never could know, but hoped for his sake that he had made it. And of course there were always the jealous souls, who said that he had turned back and ended his days in a burning pile of stinking old boots. But whatever the truth, he has not been forgotten, for he was the moth who tried for a star.