4 Handy Life Lessons I Learned From The Very Hungry Caterpillar

Vintage artwork of a tree branch with plump plums and caterpillars crawling on its leaves
Original 18th century illustration from The Smithsonian on rawpixel

I’ve always been a big reader.

It all started when Dr. Seuss introduced me to his Cat in the Hat and Green Eggs and Ham, the illustrated hardcopies my mum bought me as a kid often accompanied by a cassette tape (remember those?) with a reading of the book. Ah, I loved them even though I’m, weirdly, not a fan of audiobooks these days.

I started hanging out in The Magic Faraway Tree with Enid Blyton quite soon after learning about the hatted cat’s antics before Roald Dahl introduced me to The BFG.

As with many 70s-born girls, I graduated to Flowers in the Attic courtesy of Virginia Andrews a touch earlier than the author probably intended. But I reckon I was bang on schedule age-wise to fall into Judy Blume’s Are You There God, It’s Me, Margaret, and Sue Townsend’s chronicles on Adrian Mole’s life.

Yet, even before all of these literary marvels, there was another book that really floated my boat. It was Eric Carle’s classic The Very Hungry Caterpillar, a book that hands down fanned the early flames of my now forty-plus years long love affair with reading.

While Carle is sadly no longer with us, his contribution through his books continues to be a guiding light for millions of people of the young and (not so) young variety. Particularly so of his tale of one very hungry caterpillar who taught me these four handy life lessons.

If there’s one core truth in life, it’s this.

Remember how our very hungry caterpillar pal spent his weekdays munching his way through graduating amounts of fruit?

Starting with one apple on Monday, he took on two pears on Tuesday, moving onto three plums on Wednesday, then gulping down four strawberries on Thursday, before finishing out his working week by digesting five oranges on Friday.

But how did he feel at the end of each day?

You guessed it — still hungry.

You can be a fan of fruit and appreciate its inherent value in a healthy, balanced five-a-day diet. In fact, appreciating fruit’s said value is to be encouraged.

But no matter the number of pieces you eat each day, fruit alone will never sate hunger. Nor will it provide the range of nutrients our bodies need to function optimally (even though subscribers to a Fruitarian diet may argue otherwise.)

As with life, variety is the spice when it comes to nutrition.

You can eat cake.

The same goes for sausages, Swiss cheese, salami, and pickles, amongst other things. And not only on Saturdays.

Such foodstuffs, when ingested as part of a balanced diet, will sate your hunger. As is the case with the very hungry caterpillar who, after eating all the things on Saturday, isn’t hungry anymore.

Not only will a diet spiced with variety help abate hunger, it’s also key to maintaining health and strength. Rather than the alternative which could be, say, wandering the world while resembling an emaciated drone.

There’s a cure for all that ails your achy belly.

A tummy revolting against you can be one of the unfortunate side effects of overindulging on the food consumption front. Our little caterpillar mate can attest to that when he suffers from a stomach ache after eating a bit too much on Saturday. On the bright side, at least he’s not still hungry.

The cure?

Green leafy substances.

Pick one green leaf to munch on, as does the (now no longer) hungry caterpillar on Sunday, or go crazy with five (or more) different types. The choice is yours.

You can grow wings and fly.

Speaking to The New York Times in 1994, Carle said:

As a child, I always felt I would never grow up and be big and articulate and intelligent. Caterpillar is a book of hope: you, too, can grow up and grow wings.

While becoming your own version of a beautiful butterfly may involve breaking out of a cocoon you’re encased in — by your own design or society’s in general — it’s achievable.

You can grow up, find your wings, and learn how to fly — in whatever direction you choose.

And that, along with warding off your hunger by enjoying a balanced diet obviously, is a hope worth aspiring to.

Just like the very hungry caterpillar.

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Lotta Eirado

Lotta Eirado

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Reformed workaholic perfectionist. Practising non-conformist. London-based television maker by day. Writer for the fun of it by night.