Enjoy a lesson in kindness with The Lion and the Mouse, an ancient fable retold here with some humor, for children and adults alike.
The Lion and the Mouse
Once upon a time on the African grasslands or the veld, as many call this vast expense of grass and bush, a lion was snoozing under the flat shade of a gracious Umbrella Thorn tree. It was still spring, the thorns were soft, and the flowers… the flowers were like white butterflies growing in clusters on the old wood, making the entire tree shimmer sweetly in the soft breeze.
And sweet were the lion’s dreams too, while his great head rested on his paws, his mane fluttering with each snore.
That was when a lost mouse scurried by. He was in such a hurry that his little feet barely touched the ground. And he was in a hurry because he was late for lunch. Late for he got lost!
So the little grey field mouse, lost and late, late and lost, nearly bumped into the lion’s bum. But he stopped just in time and went all the way around, such a long way as the lion was large and the mouse tiny, all the way around he went until he happened to stop by the lion’s head – with its rich mane as dry and s brown as the grass…
Oh, not a good idea.
The lion’s nostrils quivered, now growing, now shrinking, now looking so big that the mouse was sure they could suck him in, whiskers and tail too. Next the lion’s mane shook, waving angrily with another snore that the mouse thought the lion was only resting… And surely, if such a great beast would know that a tiny creature stares at him, any moment, any moment now, he would choose to squash it under one of his giant paws.
How fast the tiny heart of the small mouse was beating! How much the small mouse shook in his skin, feeling even smaller. So much, that he forgot all about being late and finding his way home and all he thought of doing was run, run in any direction, run as far as he could, away from the beast that shook and shook.
So he ran.
He ran just across the lion’s nose.
Oh, little mouse, what have you done?
Of course, the lion rose from his nap. Of course, he did so angrily for he was right in the middle of a sweet dream involving a huge amount of meat. Of course, his paw closed on the mouse in a single swipe. The poor mouse, he didn’t even see it falling over his head.
‘Spare me,’ a tiny voice somehow reached the lion’s ears.
So unusual was the noise, that the lion stopped and listened. Irritated. And a little curious too.
‘Spare me, oh, mighty lion, strong lion, you mighty king,’ the voice rose again. And the lion quite liked the plea. He liked to be admired and feared like that.
‘Please let me go and one day I will surely repay your kindness. We never know when we need a friend,’ the voice said again and this time the lion realized that it came right from underneath the lion’s heavy paw.
Down glanced the lion in surprise. Up stared a minuscule mouse, his eyes as round as two brown seeds dancing in the wind.
How the lion laughed! So much, that it sounded like a roar, and a whole rain of white flowers landed all around him, freshly shook from the Umbrella Thorn tree. Even the grand thorn tree acknowledges my place, he thought.
The lion enjoyed himself so much, that he felt rather generous and let the mouse go. Even more, he stood tall and searched the horizon and told the mouse exactly where his home was, for the mouse lived by a Baobab tree.
Soon enough, as life is, the lion forgot all about the tiny mouse as he fell into his daily routine of snoozing, sleeping, napping, and occasional hunting.
Until some days later when, while stalking a juicy prey around the veld the lion, sure of his every move, jumped right into a poacher ‘s trap.
At first the lion thought he had jumped on brambles, on twigs, or even in a swamp. And he fought and fought, yet no good came out of it for his feet could not touch the ground. How angry he was, and a little afraid too yet he kept that to himself. Swiping left and right, but catching only air. Jumping, without a movement to follow. It felt as if he was swimming through air. And he hated swimming. So he roared and roared till he could roar no more.
And the wind carried his roaring far away, and all the animals knew that something terrible had happened to the lion. Yet they were all scared of him, so none tried to come and help.
None except for a tiny mouse. And the mouse recognized the roar, for that was a roar he’ll never forget, and remembered his promise to the great lion.
So he scurried along the root of the Baobab tree, along the veld, along the bush, along the path left by the poacher’s truck tires, and again through the veld, not getting lost once for he listened to the roar and went straight for its source. Only to find the lion struggling in a gigantic net. Unable to touch the ground, unable to free himself, only able to fill the world with his angry roaring. Trapped.
Up looked the mouse, down stared the lion, his pupils rounder and bigger than ever. The sour ooze of fear surrounding him. A swarm of flies buzzing nearby, already waiting, anticipating the feast. The lion’s whiskers quivered, as if they were beckoning the mouse to hurry. To help him. Free him.
A branch snapped. Was that the hunter? Was it too late? The lion’s fate sealed?
But the mouse paused and thought. What to do next? Had he wondered if the lion will really spare his life once freed? Had he recognized, and remembered, the fear in the beast’s eyes? Remembered his promise? He did.
Sure is that the mouse ran as fast as he could straight to one of the thick ropes that held the net up in the tree, and the lion in it, hanging just above the ground. The rope was of its finest kind, as thick as a lion’s tail and much thicker than our little mouse. Yet the mouse was not discouraged by the task, but started gnawing and chewing, on and on till the rope thinned to a mere thread. Then he stopped, considered the beast, and his promise, and… scurried away to safety!
When the lion saw the mouse running away, stealing all hope of freedom too, he gave a long sigh, as if he had released his last breath. The flies even closed in, surrounding his head. Yet to the lion’s surprise the last thread suddenly snapped, the net dropped to the ground, the lion landing with a thud. As soon as his great paws touched earth again the animals’ king shook himself free from his netting trap. And he laughed at the mouse’s ingenuity, although the laugh sounded like a mighty roar.
Only the mouse understood it. ‘You laughed when I said I would one day repay you,’ he squeaked. ‘See, even a tiny mouse can help a great lion.’
Moral of the story
An act of kindness, no matter how small, is never wasted – but be clever about it 😉
The BLT, the Bear, the Lion and the Tiger is a picture book inspired by true life events, the real friendship between a BEAR, a LION and a TIGER.