Created By: PapercutChainsaw on October 26, 2011 Last Edited By: timharrod on January 18, 2013

Caterpillar Becomes Butterfly

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Any story that involves a caterpillar will end with the caterpillar becoming a butterfly.

The metamorphosis event itself is not remarkable, since it is, of course, a Truth in Television. However, what is interesting is that the life cycle of other animals that undergo metamorphasis is not featured nearly as prominently in fiction. Why do we rarely see cartoons about tadpoles growing into frogs? Where are all the picture books about the Very Hungry Maggot?

A possible explanation is the symbolism associated with butterflies. We tend to consider them more beautiful, elegant creatures, and the idea that something as ugly and clumsy as a caterpillar can become one appeals to our imagination.

Some stories choose to follow the caterpillar's point of view as it goes through metamorphosis.

Others, however, particularly animated series, will have a young or naive character adopt a pet caterpillar, only to later "lose" it, and spend the episode worrying about it. At the end, their pet is revealed to have miraculously undergone metamorphosis in the space of twenty minutes, becoming a butterfly. The young character then learns about this wonder of nature. (This is a good episode to have if you want to pass your show off as "educational").

Examples

Literature

Film

Western Animation
  • An episode of SpongebobSquarepants parodies this. Spongebob's pet caterpillar becomes a butterfly, but Spongebob assumes that the butterfly is a monster that ate his pet, and is utterly terrified of it for most of the episode. We even get treated to Gross Up Close Ups of a real life butterfly to make it appear scary.
  • At the end of A Bug's Life, Heimlich the caterpillar emerges from a crysalis, looking exactly the same except for a tiny pair of butterfly wings that he can't even fly with. He is overjoyed nonetheless.
  • The 1967 Czech cartoon <a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bs9nlPJmoZE">Sametka</a>, released in the U.S. as "Caterpillar."
Community Feedback Replies: 21
  • October 26, 2011
    ZombieAladdin
    Would Caterpie, Metapod, and Butterfree count? (There are many other examples in Pokémon though, and it's not even the only butterfly-based one.)
  • October 27, 2011
    Arivne
    Film
    • In Disney's Alice In Wonderland, the Caterpillar changes into a butterfly at the end of his encounter with Alice.
  • October 27, 2011
    PapercutChainsaw
    ^^ This is a plot trope, so if it was featured in an episode of the anime it might count...
  • October 27, 2011
    Stratadrake
    • The catterpillar/butterfly motif is mentioned in Warriors Of Virtue, but with a different meaning: When a character tried to "help" the butterfly break out of its cocoon, it died shortly afterwards because that's something it has to get strong enough to do by itself.
  • October 27, 2011
    Duncan
    In the classic book Hope For the Flowers [1], two caterpillars want to "get high" and join a bunch of other caterpillars in making a pillar to the sky- one breaks off from the group and eventually becomes a butterfly, leading the others to follow their true instincts.
  • October 27, 2011
    NoirGrimoir
    ^^^It is, Ash catches a Caterpie and over time it evolves into a Butterfree.
  • October 27, 2011
    KevinKlawitter
    In one Animorphs book, Cassie agrees to trap herself in caterpillar morph in exchange for a Yeerk freeing its host body. Later, after she becomes a butterfly, she's able to change back (the metamorphosis or "natural morphing" reset her morphing clock).
  • October 28, 2011
    Mozgwsloiku
    One insect-themed filler villain team in Naruto included a stout ugly woman who could make a one-time Deadly Upgrade transformation into a much more graceful and powerful female.
  • October 28, 2011
    Earnest
    In one Teen Titans episode, Starfire goes through such a metamorphosis, at first becoming progressively uglier, then getting encased in a coccoon, and finally emerging as... her normal self, but with Eye Beams!
  • October 28, 2011
    elwoz
    Used for a Green Aesop in an episode of Fraggle Rock. The Gorgs' garden is infested with caterpillars, which they try to poison (not entirely successfully); the Fraggles are horrified at this destruction of life. At the end of the episode the surviving caterpillars all transform into a variety of butterfly that the Gorgs are especially fond of. (I suspect I am forgetting important details here.)
  • October 28, 2011
    Stratadrake
    ^ No doubt the hungry caterpillars were munching on their precious garden flowers, which is why they wanted to get rid of them.
  • October 29, 2011
    Omeganian
    Katy Caterpillar?
  • October 29, 2011
    troacctid
    Tabletop Games:

    Video Games:
    • Pokemon has had Caterpie and Weedle from the start, small bug-type caterpillars that evolve into cocoons before eventually evolving into Butterfree and Beedrill, respectively. Subsequent generations added Expies like Wurmple.
  • October 29, 2011
    FrodoGoofballCoTV
  • October 30, 2011
    TonyG
  • October 30, 2011
    Artemis92
    The antagonist in Making Money goes on about turning into a butterfly as he tries to become Havelock Vetinari, but none are actually shown in the book.
  • October 30, 2011
    Mozgwsloiku
    • Chouji from Naruto. He is a fat kid, and later a Stout Strength fighter using shapeshifting and sumo-themed moves - until he learns his clan's ultimate technique of converting mass into energy, upon which he becomes a Bishonen with butterfly wings of Pure Energy.
    • During a tournament held in Warrior Heaven in Dragonball Z one caterpillar-like alien uses transformation as his final technique - and promptly gets disqualified when the audience learns that it will take him many centuries to emerge from the cocoon.
  • October 30, 2011
    Konoka
    To elaborate on Ash's Caterpie/Metapod/Butterfree, I'd say it is rather significant: Caterpie was the first Pokemon to evolve in the anime, having evolved to Metapod in the same episode it was caught in, and becoming Butterfree in the following episode. In the games, Caterpie and its expies are some of the easiest to evolve Pokemon. In both cases this evolution is the first viewers (or one of the first for players) witness, and since the caterpillar metamorphosis is one every person is familiar with, it basically introduces first timers to the idea of Pokemon-brand evolution.
  • November 5, 2011
    Mozgwsloiku
    so, is this stil being worked on?
  • February 27, 2012
    Arivne
    The OP Papercut Chainsaw hasn't posted since October 2011, so it's Up For Grabs.
  • January 18, 2013
    elwoz
    This seems like a valid trope to me but the description still needs work...
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