Aesop's Fables: Lions, Part 1

The lion can be terrifying and powerful in the fables, but some fables are about the situations in which the lion is weak and/or defeated. Sometimes, the lion can even be kind and grateful!

The "lion's share" is such a famous fable that the title has become a proverb of its own. As you will see from the fable, the real meaning of that phrase is not "the bigger part," but instead the way that someone takes the whole thing by force, not sharing at all! In some versions of this story, the lion goes hunting with a sheep, a goat, and a cow, but here you see he is hunting with two other predators. You can read more about this fable at Wikipedia.

The fable of "Androcles and the Lion" is also quite famous; you can read more about this story at Wikipedia.

[Notes by LKG]

These fables are part of the Aesop's Fables (Jacobs) unit. Story sources: The prose fables are from The Fables of Aesop by Joseph Jacobs (1894) and the limericks and illustrations are from The Baby's Own Aesop by W. J. Linton and illustrated by Walter Crane (1887).

Lions, Part 1

Jacobs 4. The Lion's Share (Perry 339)

The Lion went once a-hunting along with the Fox, the Jackal, and the Wolf. They hunted and they hunted till at last they surprised a Stag, and soon took its life. Then came the question how the spoil should be divided.

"Quarter me this Stag," roared the Lion; so the other animals skinned it and cut it into four parts.

Then the Lion took his stand in front of the carcass and pronounced judgment: "The first quarter is for me in my capacity as King of Beasts; the second is mine as arbiter; another share comes to me for my part in the chase; and as for the fourth quarter, well, as for that, I should like to see which of you will dare to lay a paw upon it."

"Humph," grumbled the Fox as he walked away with his tail between his legs, but he spoke in a low growl: You may share the labours of the great, but you will not share the spoil.

~ ~ ~

Jacobs 9. The Sick Lion (Perry 481)

A Lion had come to the end of his days and lay sick unto death at the mouth of his cave, gasping for breath. The animals, his subjects, came round him and drew nearer as he grew more and more helpless.

When they saw him on the point of death they thought to themselves: "Now is the time to pay off old grudges."

So the Boar came up and drove at him with his tusks; then a Bull gored him with his horns; still the Lion lay helpless before them.

So the Ass, feeling quite safe from danger, came up, and turning his tail to the Lion kicked up his heels into his face.

"This is a double death," growled the Lion.

Only cowards insult dying majesty.

~ ~ ~

Jacobs 23. Androcles and the Lion (Perry 563)

A slave named Androcles once escaped from his master and fled to the forest. As he was wandering about there he came upon a Lion lying down moaning and groaning. At first he turned to flee, but finding that the Lion did not pursue him, he turned back and went up to him.

As he came near, the Lion put out his paw, which was all swollen and bleeding, and Androcles found that a huge thorn had got into it, and was causing all the pain. He pulled out the thorn and bound up the paw of the Lion, who was soon able to rise and lick the hand of Androcles like a dog.

Then the Lion took Androcles to his cave, and every day used to bring him meat from which to live.

But shortly afterwards both Androcles and the Lion were captured, and the slave was sentenced to be thrown to the Lion, after the latter had been kept without food for several days.

The Emperor and all his Court came to see the spectacle, and Androcles was led out into the middle of the arena. Soon the Lion was let loose from his den, and rushed bounding and roaring towards his victim. But as soon as he came near to Androcles he recognised his friend, and fawned upon him, and licked his hands like a friendly dog.

The Emperor, surprised at this, summoned Androcles to him, who told him the whole story. Whereupon the slave was pardoned and freed, and the Lion let loose to his native forest.

Gratitude is the sign of noble souls.

~ ~ ~

Jacobs 35. The Lion and the Statue (Perry 284)

A Man and a Lion were discussing the relative strength of men and lions in general. The Man contended that he and his fellows were stronger than lions by reason of their greater intelligence.

"Come now with me," he cried, "and I will soon prove that I am right." So he took him into the public gardens and showed him a statue of Hercules overcoming the Lion and tearing his mouth in two.

"That is all very well," said the Lion, "but proves nothing, for it was a man who made the statue."

We can easily represent things as we wish them to be.

Crane 30. The Lion and The Statue (Perry 284)

On a statue king Lion dethroned,
Showing conqueror Man, Lion frowned.
"If a Lion, you know,
Had been sculptor, he'd show
Lion rampant, and Man on the ground."


Next page: Lions, Part 2

(700 words)

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