the lion and the mouse

sher khan, mightiest of all lions and noblest of all the woodland creatures, was king of the forest.  he made his home in a rocky cave, with his wife and two children who kept the floors swept and the walls clean.  he held court from his throne, a huge rock above the cave, and all his subjects stood down below from where they told him their reasons for being there.  sher khan was known to be just and whatever decision he came to on an issue was law.

now sher khan loved to hunt.  he was swift and fierce and brought back many tasty meals for his family.  once in a while he would bring back succulent lamb or a pig or calf from the farms that were outside the forest.  his children loved these treats, but the farmers were none to pleased by their loss.  the farmers complained to the chief of the village, and he came to the decision that the lion must be killed, for the safety of all.  but how?  the people all asked.  all feared sher khan, even the hunters did not want to go after him.  there was a council held and they came up with a plan:  sher khan must be trapped, only then could he be killed.  so the women, children, and men got busy making a net of ropes, and the farmers offered up some goats to be used as bait.

then the hunters went into the woods and found a clearing amidst the trees.  here they dug a pit, into which they lay the net, and covered it with sticks and twigs.  over this they spread pine needles and leaves, so it looked like the rest of the forest floor.  the goats were tied to trees around the trap and the hunters lay in wait with their spears and bows and arrows outside the forest, where they listened for the roar the lion would give when he found himself netted.

sure enough, sher khan set out that day to bring back some food, for his children were growing fast and ate more with each passing day.  as he walked, he would stop to listen and look about the quiet woods for prey.  on one such occasion he heard a small shriek come from below.  he looked down and there beneath his paw was a little mouse whose tail he was standing on. “mighty king,” said the mouse, “i am your humble servant with a large family to feed.  please spare my life, for much as i long to be of service i fear i would be a meager meal for your majesty.”  hearing these words, sher khan burst into laughter and said, “little mouse, you are but a speck that i would not dream of eating, not even as a snack.  you are tiny and weak and quite a pitiful creature to be sure, of what good are you at all to anyone other than your family, i wonder!  that you think you can be of service is amusing enought to me to set you free, be on your way lest i change my mind.”  and he removed his paw from upon the mouse’s tail.  the mouse scampered off thankfully and sher khan went on his way.

the sun was high up in the sky when sher khan became aware of the goats and went leaping toward one.  into the pit went he and was snared!!  he slashed with his claws and gnashed with his teeth, all to no avail.  he was held fast and he roared a mighty roar.  many times he roared in frustration and the hunters heard him.  all the creatures of the forest heard him too, but none came to see what had happened.  none except the little mouse.  she scurried toward her king’s roaring and happened to see the hunters.  she rushed now and came upon the snare.

“my king,” she said, “there are hunters coming along, what can i do to help?”

“fetch bear, or wolf,” said he.

but the little mouse knew that the hunters would be by before she could do so.  she thought fast and climbed up the ropes and began to chew.  sher khan roared in despair.  but the mouse gnawed on and before long a hole formed in the netting.  sher khan stuck his paw through and tore his way out.  when the hunters arrived, they found the snare empty and were afraid.  now they would be hunted!  sure enough, sher khan leapt out at them and chased them all the way back to the village.  the little mouse rode upon his crown.  she trembled with excitement!  sher khan took her back to her home afterward and set her down gently.  with a bow he said, “i thank you little mouse for your aid this day.”

this was my telling of the fable of the lion and the mouse, three days ago.  since then many versions of it have been played out and drawn out by the children.  we also all performed it as a play.  in our play, tenderfoot dressed up as a princess in one of my dresses.  she and stormy were princess sisters who were talking beneath a tree, when sher khan (myself) comes along and carries tenderfoot away.  stormy goes to tell the brave hunter (little man) what has happened, and he jumps upon his steed (laughing fox) and follows sher khan’s tracks to where he has the princess tenderfoot captured.  sher khan is away so he rescues the princess and then sets forth to ensnare the lion.  they laid out sticks and covered it with shawls.  tenderfoot played the goat and stormy the mouse.  in this version, sher khan is released by the mouse but our brave hunter puts an end to the mighty lion (he was rather upset with me because i didn’t know i was meant to die, as we hadn’t discussed this as an ending!!  thus it took our brave hunter three tries before he killed the lion, and in our neck of the woods three is not a good, clean kill, as a *really* good hunter only takes one shot!!! but it was a lot of fun, despite the messy ending).

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