This is a collection of stories and legends about butterflies or featuring butterfly imagery and symbols. Butterflies have been used in many art forms including that of story telling. I think butterflies make excellent inspiration for stories and below is a collection of my personal favourites, along with a few brilliant contributions from our users (thanks!). Butterflies have had a profound affect on many cultures around the globe; on this page you will find butterfly stories from around the world, including Mexico, where you can witness some of the most fantastic species of butterfly.
I’m constantly looking for more stories, both short and long, to add to the collection. If you have a story to contribute, please get in touch and I will add it to the page.
- 1 1. Butterfly Stories:
- 2 2. Butterfly Stories for Kids
- 3 3. Butterflies in Ancient and Indigenous Cultures
1. Butterfly Stories:
If anyone desires a wish to come true they must first capture a butterfly and whisper that wish to it.
Since a butterfly can make no sound, the butterfly can not reveal the wish to anyone but the Great Spirit who hears and sees all.
In gratitude for giving the beautiful butterfly its freedom, the Great Spirit always grants the wish.
So, according to legend, by making a wish and giving the butterfly its freedom, the wish will be taken to the heavens and be granted.
Author: Papago Tribe
One day the Creator was resting, sitting, watching some children at play in a village.
The children laughed and sang, yet as he watched them, the Creator’s heart was sad.
He was thinking: These children will grow old.
Their skin will become wrinkled. Their hair will turn gray. Their teeth fall out.
The young hunters arm will fail. These lovely young girls will grow ugly and fat.
The playful puppies will become blind mangy dogs.
And those wonderful flowers-yellow and blue, red and purple-will fade.
The leaves from the trees will fall and dry up. Already they are turning yellow.
Thus the Creator grew sadder and sadder.
It was in the fall, and the thought of the coming winter, with its cold and lack
of game and green things, made his heart heavy. Yet it was still warm, and the sun was shining.
The Creator watched the play of sunlight and shadow on the ground,
the yellow leaves being carried here and there by the wind.
He saw the blueness of the sky, the whiteness of some cornmeal ground by the women.
Suddenly he smiled All those colors, they ought to be preserved.
I’ll make something to gladden my heart, something for these children to look at and enjoy.
The Creator took out his bag and started gathering things: a spot of sunlight, a handful
of blue from the sky, the whiteness of the cornmeal, the shadow of playing children
the blackness of a beautiful girls hair, the yellow of the falling leaves, the green of the
pine needles, the red, purple, and orange of the flowers around him.
All these he put into his bag.
As an afterthought, he put the songs of the birds in, too.
Then he walked over to the grassy spot where the children were playing.
Children, little children, this is for you, and he gave them his bag.
Open it; there’s something nice inside, he told them.
The children opened the bag, and at once hundreds and hundreds of colored butterflies flew out,
dancing around the children’s heads, settling on their hair, fluttering up again to sip from this or that flower.
And the children, enchanted, said that they had never seen anything so beautiful.
The butterflies began to sing, and children listened smiling.
But then a songbird came flying, settling on the Creators shoulder, scolding him,
saying: Its not right to give our songs to these new pretty things.
You told us when you made us that every bird would have his own song.
And now you’ve passed them all around.
Isn’t it enough that you gave your new playthings the colors of the rainbow?
You’re right, said the Creator. I made one song for each bird,
and I shouldn’t have taken what belongs to you.
So the Creator took the songs away from the butterflies, and that’s why they are silent.
They’re beautiful even so! he said.
Author: Buck Conner – Member of the ‘Turtle Clan’ – Lenni Lenape Society
The Shoshone “Ladies Fancy Shawl Dance” Butterfly Legend
Many, many years ago when the Earth was still quite new, there was a beautiful butterfly who lost her mate in battle. To show her grief, she took off her beautiful wings and wrapped herself in a drab cocoon. In her sadness, she could not eat and she could not sleep and her relatives kept coming to her lodge to see if she was okay.
Of course she wasn’t, but she didn’t want to be a burden on her people so she packed up her wings and her medicine bundle and took off on a long journey. She wandered about for many days and months, until finally she had gone all around the world.
On her journey she kept her eyes downcast and stepped on each stone she came to as she crossed fields and creeks and streams. Finally, one day as she was looking down, she happened to notice the stone beneath her feet, and it was so beautiful that it healed her sorrow.
She then cast aside her cocoon, shook the dust from her wings, and donned them once more. She was so happy she began to dance to give thanks for another chance to begin her life anew. Then she went home and told The People about her long journey and how it had healed her.
To this day,The People dance this dance as an expression of renewal, and to give thanks for new seasons, new life, and new beginnings.
The shawl in the Fancy Shawl Dance represents the butterfly’s wings, the fancy steps and twirls represent the butterfly’s style of flight. This is another reason you will sometimes hear the Fancy Shawl Competition Dance referred to as ” the butterfly dance.”
How The Butterflies Came To Be
Now, one day after Earth-Maker shaped the world, Iioi, our Elder Brother was sitting and watching the children play. He saw the joy and the youthfulness they displayed. He saw the beauty of their surroundings, and the fresh fragrance of the trees and the flowers. He heard the happy songs of the birds, and saw the blue of the sky. He saw the women as they ground cornmeal. He saw their beauty, and the sunlight as it shone from their hair. These were wonderful things.
But then Elder Brother realized that all of these things would change. He knew that these children would all grow old and weaken and die. The beautiful women would someday grow fat and ugly, and their beautiful black hair would turn gray. The leaves would turn brown and fall from the trees, and the beautiful flowers that smelled so fresh would fade. The days would grow short and the nights would be cold. Elder Brother’s heart grew sad and troubled.
As Elder Brother watched the women grind cornmeal, the wind made some fallen yellow leaves dance in the sunlight. He decided to do something which would capture some of these wonderful things which He saw. He decided that He must make something that everyone could enjoy, that would lift their hearts and spirits. So, He took out His bag of Creation and began to gather some things together.
He took some blue from the sky, and some whiteness from the cornmeal. He gathered some spots of sunlight, and the blackness of a beautiful woman’s hair. He took the yellow of the falling leaves, and the green of the pine needles. He gathered the red, the purple, and the orange from the flowers. As He gathered these things, He put them into His bag. And, last, He put the songs of the song birds in the bag.
When He had finished gathering these things together, He called the children together. He told them to open the bag and there would be a surprise for them. So they opened the bag, and out flew hundreds of beautiful Butterflies! They were red and gold and black and yellow, blue and green and white. They looked liked flowers, dancing in the wind. They flew all around the gleeful children, and lit on their heads. The hearts of the children and the adults soared. Never before had they seen such wonderful, happy things. They began to sing their songs as they flew.
But then song bird lit on Iitoi’s shoulder and asked Him. He said, “It is not right to give our songs to these pretty things! You told us when you made us that each bird would have his own song. These pretty things have all of the colors of the rainbow already. Must they take our songs, too?”
Elder Brother said, “You are right. I made one song for each bird, and I must not give them away to any other.” So butterflies were made silent, and they are still silent to this day. But their beauty brightens the day of all People, and brings out songs from their hearts.
And that is how Elder Brother meant it to be.
Author: Papago Tribe
The White Butterfly
An old man named Takahama lived in a little house behind the cemetery of the temple of Sozanji. He was extremely amiable and generally liked by his neighbors, though most of them considered him to be a little mad. His madness, it would appear, entirely rested upon the fact that he had never married or evinced desire for intimate companionship with women.
One summer day he became very ill, so ill, in fact, that he sent for his sister-in-law and her son. They both came and did all they could to bring comfort during his last hours. While they watched, Takahama fell asleep; but he had no sooner done so than a large white butterfly flew into the room and rested on the old man’s pillow. The young man tried to drive it away with a fan; but it came back three times, as if loath to leave the sufferer.
At last Takahama’s nephew chased it out into the garden, through the gate, and into the cemetery beyond, where it lingered over a woman’s tomb, and then mysteriously disappeared. On examining the tomb the young man found the name “Akiko” written upon it, together with a description narrating how Akiko died when she was eighteen. Though the tomb was covered with moss and must have been erected fifty years previously, the boy saw that it was surrounded with flowers, and that the little water tank had been recently filled.
When the young man returned to the house he found that Takahama had passed away, and he returned to his mother and told her what he had seen in the cemetery.
“Akiko?” murmured his mother. “When your uncle was young he was betrothed to Akiko. She died of consumption shortly before her wedding day. When Akiko left this world your uncle resolved never to marry, and to live ever near her grave. For all these years he has remained faithful to his vow, and kept in his heart all the sweet memories of his one and only love. Every day Takahama went to the cemetery, whether the air was fragrant with summer breeze or thick with falling snow. Every day he went to her grave and prayed for her happiness, swept the tomb and set flowers there. When Takahama was dying, and he could no longer perform his loving task, Akiko came for him. That white butterfly was her sweet and loving soul.”
The Butterfly House
The butterflies had flown only a short distance when they came upon a small village, built on the hillside. “That’s a nice wee town,” Bonnie said. “It’s surrounded by trees, has a river flowing next to it and is very quaint. I wonder what village it is. I’m sure you know, don’t you, Mr. Walking Encyclopedia?”
“Well, as a matter of fact, I do know its name. The village is Lasswade. The river is the River North Esk,” Bruce said, hesitatingly.
“I knew you’d have an answer,” Bonnie scoffed.
“There used to be paper and flour mills here and even once a carpet factory. A long time ago Sir Walter Scott stayed here for several years,” Bruce continued.
“It is a nice little place. What’s that over there?” Bonnie asked, pointing to a large greenhouse.
“I’m not sure. Why don’t we go and find out?”
They flew towards it and landed on the roof. “It’s called the Edinburgh Insect and Butterfly House and it’s filled with butterflies. That’s odd. Itís a house for butterflies?” Bonnie asked. She looked in through the roof and then looked again. “There are waterfalls and pools with tropical fish and, oh, I see a big lizard. It’s green and quite ugly. What do you think butterflies are doing in there?” She was curious.
“It says it’s a butterfly and insect house. They live here. I see them all too,” he said, gazing down through the roof. We might as well go inside,” Bruce suggested.
They flew around the greenhouse. “I don’t see a way in,” Bonnie sighed. Just then some people pulled up in a car and went inside the butterfly house. “Let’s follow them,” she said, “quickly.”
They flew in the door and it slammed shut behind them. “Whew, that was close. WOW!” Bruce cried. “This is beautiful. Look at all the colorful butterflies. I feel like I’m in a rainforest!”
Bonnie flew over to a pool and looked at the fish. “How beautiful! Iíve never seen fish that looked like this before.”
“Don’t get too close. Remember the last encounter with a fish,” Bruce reminded her.
“Look at all the different colors of green,” Bonnie marveled.
Children walked around below, pointing at the butterflies. One of them spotted the iguana. “There’s the big lizard,” Bruce said. “That boy is going to pet it. Yikes!”
“I don’t think it’s dangerous. They wouldn’t keep it in here with all these butterflies if it were. It probably eats fruit and vegetables, not butterflies,” Bonnie pointed out.
“You’re right. Let’s go down and look,” Bruce said. They flew down and landed on a rock near the iguana and the children. The boy was stroking its back. The lizards tongue darted in and out of its mouth.
Bonnie looked around. There were purple butterflies. There were blue, green, orange, red and yellow butterflies. There were striped ones and ones with big colorful dots on them. Bonnie spotted a frog. “Look over there,” she said. “It’s a frog. I wonder if its one of those poisonous ones.”
“Let’s not find out. Leave the frog alone, Bonnie,” Bruce warned.
“I will. Don’t worry. Frogs eat bugs. They eat flies and butterflies,” she said. Another iguana walked past. “This place is fun, but I think it’s time for us to leave. The sun is starting to set and I don’t relish the thought of staying in here during the night. Who knows what happens then,” Bonnie smiled, teasing Bruce.
“You’re right. It might be kind of scary. We could be sleeping and one of those frogs could eat us or something,” Bruce shivered. “How do we get out of here?”
“Follow me,” Bonnie said. Some children were heading towards the exit. “Land on their shoulders or their back and hold on tight.” As the children left, Bonnie and Bruce secured themselves to a coat and soon found themselves outside. They flew up to a nearby tree.
“Wow! That was really pretty and maybe we can come back again someday. Do you think we could, Bonnie?” Bruce asked.
“Sure, but for now, let’s find a big flower that we can curl up inside and sleep for the night. I’m tired,” she yawned and the two butterflies fluttered away up the rolling hills.
The Wings of the Butterfly:
A Tale of the Amazon Rainforest
“The mind sees this forest better than the eye. The mind is not deceived by what merely shows.”
H. M. Tomlinson
On the banks of the Amazon River, in a clearing in the forest, there once lived a girl named Chimidyue. She dwelt with her family and relatives in a big pavilion-house called a maloca.
While the boys of the maloca fished and hunted with the men, Chimidyue and the other girls helped the women with household chores or in the farm plots nearby. Like the other girls, Chimidyue never stepped far into the forest. She knew how full it was of fierce animals and harmful spirits, and how easy it was to get lost in.
Still, she would listen wide-eyed when the elders told stories about that other world. And sometimes she would go just a little way in, gazing among the giant trees and wondering what she might find farther on.
One day as Chimidyue was making a basket, she looked up and saw a big morpho butterfly hovering right before her. Sunlight danced on its shimmering blue wings.
“You are the most magical creature in the world,” Chimidyue said dreamily. “I wish I could be like you.”
The butterfly dipped as if in answer, then flew toward the edge of the clearing.
Chimidyue set down her basket and started after it, imitating its lazy flight. Among the trees she followed, swooping and circling and flapping her arms.
She played like this for a long time, until the butterfly passed between some vines and disappeared. Suddenly Chimidyue realized she had gone too far into the forest. There was no path, and the leaves of the tall trees made a canopy that hid the sun. She could not tell which way she had come.
“Mother! Father! Anyone!” she shouted. But no one came.
“Oh no,” she said softly. “How will I find my way back?”
Chimidyue wandered anxiously about, hoping to find a path. After a while she heard a tap-tap-tapping. “Someone must be working in the forest,” she said hopefully, and she followed the sound. But when she got close, she saw it was just a woodpecker.
Chimidyue sadly shook her head. “If only you were human,” she said, “you could show me the way home.”
“Why would I have to be human?” asked the woodpecker indignantly. “I could show you just as I am!”
Startled but glad to hear it talk, Chimidyue said eagerly, “Oh, would you?”
“Can’t you see I’m busy?î said the woodpecker. “You humans are so conceited, you think everyone else is here to serve you. But in the forest, a woodpecker is just as important as a human.” And it flew off.
“I didn’t mean anything bad,” said Chimidyue to herself. “I just want to go home.”
More uneasy than ever, Chimidyue walked farther. All at once she came upon a maloca, and sitting within it was a woman weaving a hammock.
“Oh, grandmother!” cried Chimidyue joyfully, addressing the woman with the term proper for an elder. “I’m so glad to find someone here. I was afraid I would die in the forest!”
But just as she stepped into the maloca, the roof began to flap, and the maloca and the woman together rose into the air. Then Chimidyue saw it was really a tinamou bird that had taken a magical form. It flew to a branch above.
“Don’t you ‘grandmother’ me!” screeched the bird. “How many of my people have your relatives hunted and killed? How many have you cooked and eaten? Donít you dare ask for my help.” And it too flew away.
“The animals here all seem to hate me,” said Chimidyue sorrowfully. “But I can’t help being a human!”
Chimidyue wandered on, feeling more and more hopeless, and hungry now as well. Suddenly, a sorva fruit dropped to the ground. She picked it up and ate it greedily. Then another dropped nearby.
Chimidyue looked up and saw why. A band of spider monkeys was feeding in the forest canopy high above, and now and then a fruit would slip from their hands.
“I’ll just follow the monkeys,î Chimidyue told herself. “Then at least I won’t starve.” And for the rest of that day she walked along beneath them, eating any fruit they dropped. But her fears grew fresh as daylight faded and night came to the forest.
In the deepening darkness, Chimidyue saw the monkeys start to climb down, and she hid herself to watch. To her amazement, as the monkeys reached the ground, each one changed to the form of a human.
Chimidyue could not help but gasp, and within a moment the monkey people had surrounded her.
“Why, it’s Chimidyue!” said a monkey man with a friendly voice. “What are you doing here?”
Chimidyue stammered, “I followed a butterfly into the forest, and I can’t find my way home.”
“You poor girl!” said a monkey woman. “Donít worry. We’ll bring you there tomorrow.”
“Oh, thank you!” cried Chimidyue. “But where will I stay tonight?”
“Why don’t you come with us to the festival?” asked the monkey man. “We’ve been invited by the Lord of Monkeys.”
They soon arrived at a big maloca. When the Monkey Lord saw Chimidyue, he demanded, “Human, why have you come uninvited?”
“We found her and brought her along,” the monkey woman told him.
The Monkey Lord grunted and said nothing more. But he eyed the girl in a way that made her shiver.
Many more monkey people had arrived, all in human form. Some wore animal costumes of bark cloth with wooden masks. Others had designs painted on their faces with black genipa dye. Everyone drank from gourds full of manioc beer.
Then some of the monkey people rose to begin the dance. With the Monkey Lord at their head, they marched in torchlight around the inside of the maloca, beating drums and shaking rattle sticks. Others sang softly or played bone flutes.
Chimidyue watched it all in wonder. She told her friend the monkey woman, “This is just like the festivals of my own people!”
Late that night, when all had retired to their hammocks, Chimidyue was kept awake by the snoring of the Monkey Lord. After a while, something about it caught her ear. “That’s strange,” she told herself. “It sounds almost like words.”
The girl listened carefully and heard, “I will devour Chimidyue. I will devour Chimidyue.”
“Grandfather!” she cried in terror.
“What? Who’s that?” said the Monkey Lord, starting from his sleep.
“It’s Chimidyue,” said the girl. “You said in your sleep you would devour me!”
“How could I say that?” he demanded. “Monkeys don’t eat people. No, that was just foolish talk of this mouth of mine. Pay no attention!” He took a long swig of manioc beer and went back to sleep.
Soon the girl heard again, “I will devour Chimidyue. I will devour Chimidyue.” But this time the snores were more like growls. Chimidyue looked over at the Monkey Lord’s hammock. To her horror, she saw not a human form but a powerful animal with black spots.
The Lord of Monkeys was not a monkey at all. He was a jaguar!
Chimidyue’s heart beat wildly. As quietly as she could, she slipped from her hammock and grabbed a torch. Then she ran headlong through the night.
When Chimidyue stopped at last to rest, daylight had begun to filter through the forest canopy. She sat down among the root buttresses of a kapok tree and began to cry.
“I hate this forest!” she said fiercely. “Nothing here makes any sense!”
“Are you sure?” asked a tiny voice.
Quickly wiping her eyes, Chimidyue looked up. On a branch of the kapok was a morpho butterfly, the largest she had ever seen. It waved at her with brilliant blue wings.
“Oh, grandmother,” said Chimidyue, “nothing here is what it seems. Everything changes into something else!”
“Dear Chimidyue,” said the butterfly gently, “that is the way of the forest. Among your own people, things change slowly and are mostly what they seem. But your human world is a tiny one. All around it lies a much larger world, and you can’t expect it to behave the same.”
“But if I can’t understand the forest,” cried Chimidyue, “how will I ever get home?”
“I will lead you there myself,” said the butterfly.
“Oh, grandmother, will you?” said Chimidyue.
“Certainly,” said the butterfly. “Just follow me.”
It wasn’t long till they came to the banks of the Amazon. Then Chimidyue saw with astonishment that the boat landing of her people was on the other side.
“I crossed the river without knowing it!” she cried. “But that’s impossible!”
“Impossible?” said the butterfly.
“I mean,” said Chimidyue carefully, “I don’t understand how it happened. But now, how will I get back across?”
“That’s simple,” said the morpho. “I’ll change you to a butterfly.” And it began to chant over and over,
Wings of blue, drinks the dew.
Wings of blue, drinks the dew.
Wings of blue, drinks the dew.
Chimidyue felt herself grow smaller, while her arms grew wide and thin. Soon she was fluttering and hovering beside the other.
“I’m a butterfly!” she cried.
They started across the wide water, their wings glistening in the sun. “I feel so light and graceful,” said Chimidyue. “I wish this would never end.”
Before long they reached the landing, where a path to the maloca led into the forest.
The instant Chimidyue touched the ground, she was changed back to human form.
“I will leave you here,” said the butterfly. “Farewell, Chimidyue.”
“Oh, grandmother,” cried the girl, “take me with you. I want to be a butterfly forever!”
“That would not be right,” said the butterfly. “You belong with your people, who love you and care for you. But never mind, Chimidyue. Now that you have been one of us, you will always have something of the forest within you.”
The girl waved as the butterfly flew off. “Good-bye, grandmother!”
Then Chimidyue turned home, with a heart that had wings of a butterfly.
Author: Aaron Shepard
2. Butterfly Stories for Kids
The Cocoon and the Butterfly
One day, a man saw a cocoon. He loved butterflies and had a craze for its wonderful combination of colours. In fact, he used to spend a lot of time around butterflies. He knew how a butterfly would struggle to transform from an ugly caterpillar into a beautiful one.
He saw the cocoon with a tiny opening. It meant that the butterfly was trying to make its way out to enjoy the world. He decided to watch how the butterfly would come out of the cocoon. He was watching the butterfly struggling to break the shell for several hours. He spent almost more than 10 hours with the cocoon and the butterfly. The butterfly had been struggling very hard for hours to come out through the tiny opening. Unfortunately, even after continuous attempts for several hours, there was no progress. It seemed that the butterfly had tried its best and could not give any more try.
The man, who had a passion and love for butterflies, decided to help the butterfly. He got a pair of scissors and tweaked the cocoon to make larger opening for the butterfly and removed the remaining cocoon. The butterfly emerged without any struggle!
Unfortunately, the butterfly looked no longer beautiful and had a swollen body with small and withered wings.
The man was happy that he had made the butterfly come out of the cocoon without any more struggles. He continued to watch the butterfly and was quite eager to see it fly with its beautiful wings. He thought that at any time, the butterfly might expand its wings, shrink the body and the wings could support the body. Unfortunately, neither did the wings expand nor the swollen body reduce.
Unfortunately, the butterfly just crawled around with withered wings and a huge body. It was never able to fly. Although the man did it with a good intention, he did not know that only by going through struggles the butterfly can emerge to be beautiful, with strong wings.
The continuous effort from the butterfly to come out of its cocoon would let the fluid stored in the body be converted into wings. Thus, the body would become lighter and smaller, and the wings would be beautiful and large.
If we don’t want to undergo any struggle, we won’t be able to fly!
Struggles make us shine!
3. Butterflies in Ancient and Indigenous Cultures
The fact that butterflies feature in numerous stories from around the world is to due to prevalence of the butterfly in ancient and indigenous cultures. The butterfly often stands from something in such cultures.
Butterflies and the Ancient Greeks
For the ancient Greeks, the transformation of Butterfly from pupa to adult was a metaphor of the soul’s resurrection and immortality. In fact, the ancient Greek word for butterfly is a word which also means “soul” or “mind.”
Butterflies and the Native Americans
Native Americans embroidered Butterflies onto their children’s caps to bring sweet dreams.
Butterflies and Guatemalan Mayans
Tzutujil Mayans in Guatemala speak of simultaneous Twin Realities: the world of dreams and the world of work.
These worlds are likened to the opposing wings of a Butterfly: the dream world is one wing, and the awake world is the other. They believe the wings must connect at the Heart for the Butterfly to fly and live. Real life occurs because of the interaction of the wings. The Life is the Butterfly’s Heart. Life, like the Butterfly’s Heart, is kept alive by the two opposing, mirroring twin-like wings.
Butterflies in Mexico
According to people of certain areas of Mexico, Monarch butterflies carry the spirits of dead ancestors to visit. They arrive each year on (or near) the Day of the Dead (November 2), to visit and to take the souls of the newly-departed away with them.
Butterflies in Ireland
In certain areas of Ireland, people believe a white butterfly or moth is a soul on its way to paradise. If the wings are spotted, the soul must pay for its sins in purgatory but a pure soul will be all white.
Don’t forget to send in your butterfly stories, we can’t wait to read them. Do so by using the contact form found by clicking ‘contact’ at the top of this page, or contact us by click on the contribute section of the site. Here you will find an email where you can send your butterfly tales to! Look forward to your submissions.
Back to top