The Slave and the Lion

"A slave ran away from his master, by whom he had been most cruelly treated, and, in order to avoid capture, betook himself into the desert. As he wandered about in search of food and shelter, he came to a cave, which he entered and found to by unoccupied. Really, however, it was a lion’s den, and almost immediately, to the horror of the wretched fugitive, the lion himself appeared. The man gave himself up for lost. But, to his utter astonishment, the lion, instead of springing upon him, came and fawned upon him, at the same time whining and lifting up his paw. Observing it to be much swollen and inflamed, he examined it and found a large thorn embedded in the ball of the foot. He accordingly removed it and dressed the wound as well as he could. And in course of time it healed up completely.

The lion’s gratitude was unbounded. He looked upon the man as his friend, and they shared the cave for some time together. A day came, however, when the slave began to long for the society of his follow men, and he bade farewell to the lion and returned to the town. Here he was presently recognized and carried off in chains to his former master, who resolved to make an example of him, and ordered that he should be thrown to the beasts at the next public spectacle in the theater.

On the fatal day the beasts were loosed into the arena, and among the rest a lion of huge bulk and ferocious aspect. And then the wretched slave was cast in among them. What was the amazement of the spectators, when the lion after one glance bounded up to him and lay down at his feet with every expression of affection and delight! It was his old friend of the cave! The audience clamored that the slave’s life should be spared. And the governor of the town, marveling at such gratitude and fidelity in a beast, decreed that both should receive their liberty." - Æsop’s Fables, translated by V. S. Vernon Jones


This is the modern Welsh version of the fable, as told by comedian Tommy Cooper…

There’s this bloke who goes on safari and he’s walking through an African jungle.
Suddenly comes across this bloody great elephant that’s lying on the ground in distress.
So he goes up to the elephant and finds that it’s got a sharp thorn stuck in its foot.
He pulls it out, just like that, and the elephant gives a loud roar of thanks and then goes on its merry way.

Years later the bloke’s back at home in Caerphilly and he hears that the circus is coming to town. So he takes his family down to the street corner to watch the procession of clowns, jugglers, acrobats and performing animals.
And would you believe it, right at the head of the procession there’s this bloody great elephant!
When the elephant draws level with the bloke, it takes one look at him and then comes bounding over. It reaches out with its trunk, hoists him into the air and then smashes him to the ground and stamps him to death.
It was a different elephant.


There was another telling/translation of this Aesop-fable that ends with a similar punch line.

Perhaps, the comedian read/heard this version - see below:

"The Lion and the Thorn

A lion roaming through the forest, got a thorn in his foot, and, meeting a shepherd, asked him to remove it. The shepherd did so, and the lion, having just surfeited himself on another shepherd, went away without harming him.

Some time afterward the shepherd was condemned on a false accusation to be cast to the lions in the amphitheater.

When they were about to devour him, one of them said, “This is the man who removed the thorn from my foot.”

Hearing this, the others honorably abstained, and the claimant ate the shepherd all himself." - Ambrose Bierce

The moral of this story must be: it’s better to be eaten by one :lion: instead of a group of hungry lions?

I guess this is a moot-point that wouldn’t be all that important in real-time but, you never know?

The Bodhisatta fed himself to a hungry :lion:-ess out of compassion so, it may have some relevance in our practice - time will tell.

Practicing in jungles in some Asian countries may create an opportunity to let go - out of great compassion?

I suppose death may give rise to a similar challenge no matter when or, how it happens - maintaining equanimity when we are coming to pieces?

Who dies?


This fable came to mind after reading some of the comments on the thread:

It got me thinking about the unconcious forces that seem to have control over our lives and, how they can be pacified, even friendly, if we give them the loving attention they need.

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