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Europe - Spanish

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Europe – Spanish


Sierra, Judy. 2000. The beautiful butterfly: A folktale from Spain. Illustrated by Victoria Chess. New York: Clarion Books.


Rating: ♥♥♥♥♥ (out of ♥♥♥♥♥). (Picture from


Summary: A beautiful butterfly marries a mouse who is eaten by a fish soon after the wedding. The butterfly, her friends in nature, and the queen and king mourn.  When the king makes everyone laugh, the fish spits up the mouse, who is happily reunited with his wife.


Type:  This is a combination cumulative and beast tale. If forced to choose one, I would label this a cumulative tale.


Characters: None of the characters have any depth. The butterfly is beautiful, well-liked, and emotional. The mouse is a good mate who sings sweetly and meets an early death.

The queen is a hard worker and good friend. The king is funny, whether or not he means to be.


Setting:  Sierra provides the setting and time frame in her opening sentence: “In Spain, once upon a time, there lived a beautiful butterfly” (5).


Plot: This story seems to have two plot lines. In part one, the beautiful butterfly chooses a mate by how well he sings, selecting her third suitor, a mouse. In part two, the mouse meets an untimely death, the butterfly and her friends mourn, the king unintentionally makes everyone laugh, and the mouse reappears and is reunited with his loved one. In her notes, Sierra writes that the story originally had a sad ending, but that she (has) “taken the storyteller’s liberty” of changing the ending to a happy one (Folklore Note, The beautiful butterfly).


Themes: One theme is that people from different backgrounds can be happily married. Another theme is that nature and friends join us in our mourning. A final theme is that “laughter is good medicine" -  it often can restore things back to normal.


Rating Considerations: The attractive illustrations complement and extend this well-written story.


Illustrations: The colorful watercolor illustrations are filled with rich detail and humor. Chess portrays priceless facial expressions on animals and people.  For example, the butterfly and mouse are ecstatic about being reunited.