The Butterfly Lion

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First edition

The Butterfly Lion is a children's novel by Michael Morpurgo. It was first published in Great Britain by Collins publishers in 1996. It won the 1996 Smarties book prize.[1] The book was adapted into a stage play by Daniel Buckroyd of the Mercury Theatre Colchester, and toured the UK in 2013.[2]

Michael Morpurgo has said that, of those he has written, this is one of his favourite books.[3]

Plot summary[edit]

A young boy runs away from a boarding school in Wiltshire. He meets an old woman called Millie, who tells him the story of Bertie and the butterfly lion. When living in Africa, Bertie rescued a white lion cub, but was forced to part with it when he went to boarding school and the lion was sold to a circus. Bertie promises to find the lion one day. At boarding school, he sneaks away every day and becomes best friends with the young Millie.

Later, when fighting in France in the First World War, where he saves two men and is given a Victoria Cross, Bertie is reunited with the lion.

He marries Millie and brings the lion back to England, where they live happily for many years. When the lion dies, Bertie and Millie carve a lion out of the chalk in the hillside in memorial, before Bertie dies himself.

After being told the story, Michael returns to school. He finds a plaque commemorating Bertie's heroic acts in the war, and learns from a teacher that Millie died only a few months after Bertie. Michael goes back to the house, finding it deserted.

He then hears Millie's voice asking him to look after the chalk lion.

Main characters[edit]

  • Michael Murpurgo
  • Bertie (the main character)
  • Millie
  • Bertie's dad
  • Bertie's mum


  1. ^ The Houghton Mifflin Dictionary of Biography. Houghton Mifflin. 2003. p. 1087. ISBN 978-0-618-25210-7. 
  2. ^ "War Horse author’s The Butterfly Lion to tour UK in stage production | News | The Stage". The Stage. 2013-07-03. Retrieved 2017-01-19. 
  3. ^ "About Michael Morpurgo".  [1]