This world's most
famous Marcel is probably Proust, and so it's no coincidence that this sweet-as-a-cookie story is a remembrance of things past. Also, its tiny picture-book length notwithstanding, it's a masterpiece.
Marcel, a gosling, and Farfallina, a caterpillar, meet on a rainy day, when Farfallina munches a leaf that Marcel is using as an umbrella. The two like each other immediately. Farfallina likes Marcel's soft feathers and his gentle eyes. Marcel likes the caterpillar's smile and her pretty colors. They play each day in a friendship as tight and
trusting and considerate as any child could wish.
But one day Farfallina (the name is Italian for little butterfly)feels not herself. Not sick, she reassures Marcel, but in need of rest. She crawls up a tree, out of sight. Marcel waits for her to return (his beak pointing like a compass needle), but she does not.
A night goes by, and Marcel is terribly worried and lonely. Weeks go by but when he visits the tree, his friend is never there. The afternoons grew warmer and longer, and Marcel barely recognizes himself when he sees his reflection in the pond. And, of course, he has no idea that Farfallina has been growing and changing, too. Her changes are not just ones of scale, but those of a true metamorphosis: one that presumably might mean she will never be recognizable to her friend, or even her former self.
In the fall, the friends are reunited in a revelation of identity so thrilling that it can make a grown human weep. What it does for children is even better: It reassures them that individuals have an unshakable essence, and that their truest friendships have a grace that surpasses understanding. No matter what one's age or station, Farfallina and Marcel is a story too lovely to miss.