The Butterfly Lion

Style: Good

Attitude: Positive

Cover of The Butterfly Lion

Author: Michael Morpurgo

Publisher: Collins

Published in: 1996

Age Range: Children+

Period: Early 20th C

Setting: Rural England / South Africa / Wartime France

Genres:  Growing-UpSpookyWar


  • Michael is the narrator, a young boy running away from his boarding school.
  • Bertie is a boy who befriends an orphaned lion cub and is heartbroken when it is sold to a circus. He goes to school in England, from where he enlists at the start of the First World War. Convalescing in France after performing an heroic rescue , he finds the lion again and takes it back to England.
  • Millie is a young girl who meets Bertie when he runs away from school. They grow very close and meet again in the nursing station in France. Eventually she marries him, and, an old woman now, tells their story to the young narrator.


Bertie grows up in South Africa and befriends a lion cub which must go to a circus when he goes to school in England. Much later, fighting in France in the First World War, he finds the lion again and takes it to England. When it dies, he and his wife make a carving of it in chalk on the hillside nearby, and butterflies gather there, giving it colour.


General: A quiet book, dealing with the loneliness of two children, the attachment of one to a lion he had rescued, and the bravery shown in wartime.

Family: Bertie's father is quite strict with him; when his mother dies while Bertie is in England, his father remarries and Bertie wants never to go back to him. Millie's mother died in childbirth and her father is rarely there; she is brought up by nannies.

Bertie came every Sunday after that. Sometimes it couldn't be for long because he had detention back at school, or maybe I'd have to send him away because Father was down for the weekend, shooting pheasants in the park with his friends. We had to be careful. He did ment my best box kite, but after a while we forgot all about flying kits, and we just talked and walked.

Bertie and I lived for our Sundays. In those two years we became, first, good companions, and then best of friends. We never told each other we were, because we didn't need to. The more I got to know him, the more I believed everything about Africa, and about “the White Prince” in the circus somewhere in France. I believed him too when he told me again and again how somehow, someday he would find his white lion, and make sure that he'd never have to live behind bars again.

Saturday 13th March 2004