A caterpillar lived on a tree by a lake. It crawled from branch to branch, eating soft leaves. One day, the caterpillar crawled on a branch over the lake and looked at its reflection in the water below. It had never known before how it looked. As soon as it saw the reflection of its face, the caterpillar froze. After it gained its composure, it said to itself, “What an ugly face I have!” Tears flowed from its eyes.
A bird flew, singing in a beautiful voice, down to the lake for a drink of water. “How beautiful feathers you have,” the caterpillar said to the bird, “I am nothing but a heap of ugly lumps. You can soar in the sky; see the world below. I can hardly crawl, bound to the tree.” The caterpillar posed for a moment and then added, “I don’t know why I am here. You may as well eat me. At least it will do some good to your beautiful feathers and melodious voice.”
“Thank you,” the bird replied, “but you are beautiful too. Your beauty is hidden inside you.” Puzzled, the caterpillar looked at the bird as it flew away. The caterpillar stretched its lumps but saw no feathers. It tried to fly and almost fell off the branch in the mud below. “It’s no use. There is no beauty outside or inside me. I am just plain ugly,” the caterpillar said and crawled back to the tree. “I may as well go hide somewhere, where no one can see me,” it thought.
The caterpillar wove a cocoon around itself and decided to stay inside forever. Many days passed. Then the spring flowers bloomed around the lake. A head peaked out of the cocoon and a butterfly squeezed out through a small hole. It had beautiful wings, colored in red, yellow and blue. It flapped its wings and to its astonishment, it could fly. “As a cocoon, I was nothing but a dead hunk stuck to a branch; now I can fly, all the way to the horizon, if I wish!” It felt liberated and flew all around. “I can fly over the lake without falling in it,” it said to itself, “What a difference! The other day I almost fell in the lake and then in the mud!!” it mused.
It did fly over the lake and saw its reflection in the water. “Wow, how beautiful I am! How colorful, sparkling, wings! I am as beautiful as the bird I saw the last season!!” The butterfly smiled. It flew from flower to flower, drinking nectar. Every now and then, it would fly over the lake just to look at its reflection.
Then, a bird flew down to the lake for a drink of water. “Hello, beautiful bird,” the butterfly said, “we have met before. I was a caterpillar then.” The bird looked at the butterfly. “I would never have been able to recognize you, although I knew you would look something like this,” the bird said smiling.
“You were right. I was beautiful inside. I just had to bring my beauty outside. Thank you for telling me,” the butterfly said, also smiling. “It is one of those times,” the bird said, “when saying ‘I told you so’ feels good.”
The bird flew away, singing, after its drink of water. The butterfly waved good-bye by fluttering its beautiful wings.
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