The amazing metamorphosis of the Butterfly-boy
by Nilza Amaral, Brazil

Once upon a time on a Friday night a full moon was shining brightly in the sky. It was so bright a moon that the night was as clear as a sunny day.

That round silver ball in the sky, the hot night, the silence, no single breeze, it seemed like magic in the air.

At that magic moment a baby was born in a hospital in Brazil.

He rests quietly in his little bed.

Suddenly as the windows of the bedroom are wide open a butterfly enters and gently rests on the baby´s back and there it remains.

Doctors can not explain the fact. First they say it could be a moon struck.

Then they decided to explain to the disappointed baby´s parents that it was a nevus, the scientific name of the spot.

They try to clean the nevus using several resources. All the medicines are used. But the more they try the more the spot stuck to the baby´s skin.

Finally they give it up and the butterfly remains there beautiful and shining. ¨For good¨, think the doctors.

A friend of the baby´s parents who is a poet compares the spot with a fluttering flag for the variety of colours in it.

The baby is named after his father: Pedro.

As Pedro is getting older his back is covered with a fine golden dust made up of millions of finely ridged scales arranged in overlapping rows like a rainbow of beautiful yellows, pinks, blues and reds.

Pedro is now a slender child and his thin body looks like the antennae of a butterfly. His hair is black like the grauna´s(1) wings, his skin is the colour of the jambo(2) and his eyes are as greenish as the Brazilian oceans. He is a very handsome young boy.

Pedro lives in a big city. São Paulo. Near his house there is a big park - the Ibirapuera Park.

He is allowed to play in the park on Mondays, because on the weekends the park is crowded and his parents fear Pedro can suffer some kind of prejudice for being marked with that butterfly on his back.

Pedro goes to school. But he is forbidden to play with the other children.

Soon he becomes a very lonely child. But not unhappy.

Despite the butterfly on his back he goes on.

He knows everything about butterflies and moths and the difference between them.

Some of the moths fold their wings at sunshine and others open them to the sun.

As he cannot do the things the other children uses to do, he spends his time looking up the animals, the insects, in his dictionary, surfing in the computer after the butterflies, trying to forget the nicknames he is given: butterfly-boy, big-spot, all those cruel names that the children choose to hurt him.

One Monday as he is alone in the park he takes his t-shirt off. At that moment the breeze that is blowing gently turns into a huge tornado. The flowers and leaves fall of the trees leaving a green carpet on the ground.

Pedro is so frightened that he cannot take a step to run away. Then the wind stops blowing, the sun is in the sky again, the flowers come back to the trees and Pedro hears a loud noise!

He looks up and and out of the blue a squadron of butterflies starts flying around him! He is surprised and bewildered at such a vision!

He sits on the green carpet of leaves to see better the movement of the wings. And thinks how good it may be to know how to fly!

Then the first miracle happens: the wings on his back comes to life! They open up over him and cover him with a tissue of colours. Pedro remains under them in a a fetal position containing his anxiety. He does not know what he is expecting. Then he remembers that some kinds - the moths - fly only at night.

When the silvery moon appears in the sky he hears a voice coming from inside his body: tonight we are going to get a ride over the country. And then he feels the enormous wings open up taking him to space.

Somebody looking at the sky on that night would see an enormous butterfly going across the moon. And would never suspect that the body of the big insect was a boy named Pedro.

The wings fold a while over a big cloud. Where are we going to? -- To a seminar of butterflies, answered the voice from inside him.

--Why are you taking me there?

Because we have decided to cut these wings off your back. Actually you are neither a boy nor a butterfly. When you were born one of us laid eggs on your back. Now we have decided to fix things.

-- Ah, says Pedro, and how are you fixing things ? Do you know what the doctors say about that?

Doctors do not know all the things. Nature can decide better.

At that moment Pedro stops talking. The sun is rising beyond a wonderful rainbow. They are entering Panatanal, with its beautiful scenery.

Time to sleep, says the inner voice. Now, I will fold my wings but you may walk around. Saying this the wings take him gently to the ground and remain only on his back.

Pedro is at Panatanal, a vast region in Brazil, the sanctuary of all animals. It is an area of 140.000 kilometers, the weather is around 24` centigrade, there are lots of rivers, the sunrise and sunset are wonderful and animals are protected by law.

Pedro starts walking. Millions of lightning bugs light the night. Shade trees called wooden-foot are around him. He is hungry. Hummingbirds are sucking honey from the Jati tree. He does the same. Like a butterfly uncoils its tube to suck honey, he uncoils his lips and sucks the sweet meal. One of the birds, a tall one with a long neck asks him: What are you doing here? Are you a moth or a butterfly?

-- I am just a boy, walking around to look for some food.

--Indeed you are too thin, peeps the bird. Come on, let´s go for a ride. The animals are kings here. Nobody will hurt us. But tell me how have you got that spot on your back? Are you half butterfly?

-- Nature was absent-minded the day I was born. I am here tonight to give these wings back.

-- Hum... Very very funny croaked the bird. Pedro goes onto the bird´s back. --Look down Pedro, can you see the capybaras, the sariema, and that big bird, the Tuiuiu ? They are beautiful aren´t they?

--Indeed they are, Pedro agrees solemnly

--By the way, Pedro you know my name?

-- Sure, you are a heron.

-- Incorrect, croaks the bird. I am a snow-egret. --Oh, I´m so sorry... --Never mind . . nobody knows these subtle differences.

Finally they land on the soft grass under the wooden-foot Jati. The sun is setting far away in the horizon. All the green in the forest is turning into pink.

The snow-egret says to Pedro: -- Be careful of moths, my butterfly-boy, they aren´t good company. They cause enormous losses to plants, food and forests, they are worms although they are so beautiful

-- Incorrect, says Pedro. You do not know the differences.

-- Oh, no, there are no differences.

-- Incorrect, says Pedro again. -- The adult moths, the millers, are harmless. What else? Books say that birds are their great enemies!

-- Hum... very funny, mumbled the bird That´s a jungle, you have to practice self-defence. Books don´t know everything, my boy.

-- So butterflies and moths have to survive don´t they? asked Pedro.

-- Well, my butterfly-boy, I have to leave now, but remember "Nature is wise". And the snow-egret takes off.

As soon as night comes, the wings open up again. Leaning under them Pedro can´t see thousands of butterflies coming to the meeting. But he can hear the noise of fluttering wings.

Pedro is going to see the second miracle of Nature. A caterpillar is to become an adult. He is about to see a metamorphosis: the grown caterpillar is ready to turn into a pupa. As the old caterpillar skin peels off there appears a naked pupa , a chrysalis or cocoon. It is "an insect in the making" encased in a tough and flexible shell. At that moment Pedro looks up and can see thousands of caterpillars changing their form. He is breathless at this sight. All the insects' organs and tissues are breaking and turning into a semiliquid. From this semiliquid the wings, legs and other parts of the adult insect are been formed. A marvelous change is taking place. Gradually the wings are expanding and hardening.

Suddenly the spot on Pedro´s back becomes the same liquid as that of the caterpillars. He feels wet and cold. Very frightened, he can see in the water of the moonlit lake nearby that his back white and clean. His wings have gone.

In a few hours butterflies and moths are ready to fly to live their span of life. And Pedro is ready to live his own metamorphosis free from the spot which had turned him into such a lonely boy. The second miracle had taken place.

Suddenly a gentle breeze begins to whistle. Pedro is frightened because he is alone. All the butterflies have gone with the wind; he is away from home and by now he is without his wings. In a certain way he is disappointed. It is so good if you can fly, to surf in the open space!

Then, out of the blue, a white bird appears. Its neck is black and around it there are yellow and red feathers. Pedro recognizes it -- it is the Tuiuiu.

-- Come along, my friend. I´ll take you home. Hurry up. When the wind finishes blowing we must be very far from here. You should stay away from those caterpillars and bugs. Remember -- on a hot night you have got your wings...

-- How do you know that ? asked Pedro.

-- Miracles, miracles..., peeps the bird. Pedro is now sitting on the carpet of leaves at the Ibirapuera park. He won´t forget that adventure.

But on Friday nights with a full moon, someone looking at the sky will see an enormous butterfly crossing the moon. Nobody will know, but us, that it is Pedro going to Pantanal to a meeting of butterflies.

That´s the third miracle.

The end


(1) Grauna - a black Brazilian Bird
(2) Jambo - a Brazilian fruit


Nilza Amaral, of Sao Paulo, Brazil, graciously offered the Butterfly WebSite the opportunity to publish this short story. Nilza has published many novels and short stories in Portuguese in her home country, and has been the winner of numerous awards. Her novels are not yet available in English.