Curing a Sick Lion

fables of Aarne-Thompson-Uther type 50
selected and edited by

D. L. Ashliman

© 2008


  1. The Lion, the Wolf, and the Fox (Aesop).

  2. The Lion, Wolf, and Fox (Jean de La Fontaine).

  3. The Hyena Outwitted (India).

  4. The King of the Tigers Is Sick (Malaya).

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The Lion, the Wolf, and the Fox


A lion, infirm with age, lay sick in his den, and all the beasts of the forest came to inquire after his health, with the exception of the fox. The wolf thought this was a good opportunity for paying off old scores against the fox, so he called the attention of the lion to his absence, and said, "You see, sire, that we have all come to see how you are except the fox, who hasn't come near you, and doesn't care whether you are well or ill."

Just then the fox came in and heard the last words of the wolf. The lion roared at him in deep displeasure, but he begged to be allowed to explain his absence, and said, "Not one of them cares for you so much as I, sire, for all the time I have been going round to the doctors and trying to find a cure for your illness."

"And may I ask if you have found one?" said the lion.

"I have, sire," said the fox, "and it is this: You must flay a wolf and wrap yourself in his skin while it is still warm."

The lion accordingly turned to the wolf and struck him dead with one blow of his paw, in order to try the fox's prescription. But the fox laughed and said to himself, "That's what comes of stirring ill-will."

The Lion, Wolf, and Fox

Jean de La Fontaine

A feeble lion, gouty, given o'er,
Desired some remedy for his old age.
Tell kings that remedy avails no more,
'Tis waste of words, that but excites their rage.
Ours ordered doctors in of every kind,
For skilled there are in every branch we find.
They to the lion came from their retreats,
From every side came givers of receipts.
Among the visitors to show their skill,
The fox dispensed with going, and lay still.
Hence fawned the wolf, his absent friend belied,
As the king went to bed, when quick he cried:
"He shall be stifled in his room with smoke!
First bring him here." The fox appeared and spoke,
Knowing the wolf had injured him at court:
"Sire, I'm afraid that some unfair report
May for contempt have taken my delay
Thus to condole with you, and homage pay.
I've been, dread sire, on pilgrimage by stealth,
To pay the vows I promised for your health.
Wise men and skilful met I on the way;
And your own fears from danger but too great.
Sire, all you want, they said, is heat,
Which age in you has quenched within;
Of a wolf flayed alive, then, wear the skin,
Quite hot and smoking from his body peeled;
A secret doubtless ne'er before revealed:
It gives to wasting nature life and ease.
Here good Sir Wolf will serve you, if you please,
With chamber robe so very choice."
The monarch relished the advice:
The wolf was flayed, and cut up in a trice;
Warm in his skin the king wrapt up,
Upon his body straight sat down to sup.
Cease, courtiers, cease to work each other's woe,
And while ye flatter, deal no treacherous blow:
Quadruple wrath may wait you on the throne,
Which ye think calumny has made your own.
Ye run a race, and as the swiftest choose,
Nothing is pardoned to the men that lose.

The Hyena Outwitted


Once upon a time there was a great tiger who lived in a forest; and all the other animals that lived in the forest treated him as their Raja, down to the very birds. They all felt safe under his protection, because he was so much feared that no men dared hunt in that forest. One day it happened that this Raja tiger killed a man and made such a enormous meal on the flesh, that he got very bad indigestion. The pain grew worse and worse, till he felt sure that his last hour was come.

In his agony he sent for a hyena and offered to make him his dewan [chief minister], if only he would call all the other animals of the forest to come and pay a farewell visit to their lord. The hyena readily agreed but thought it would be better to send another messenger, while he stayed by the tiger to see that all the animals duly presented themselves. Just then a crow flew overhead; so they called him and deputed him to summon all the animals.

The crow flew off and in a short time all the animals assembled before the tiger and paid their respects to him and expressed wishes for his speedy recovery -- all except the jackals. They had been summoned along with the others; but somehow they paid no attention and only remembered about it in the afternoon. Then they were very frightened as to what would be the consequence of their remissness; but one chief jackal stood up and told them not to fear, as he would contrive a way of getting the better of the hyena. There was nothing else to be done, so they had to put what trust they could in their chief and follow him to the tiger.

On his way the chief jackal picked up a few roots, and took them with him. When they reached the place where the suffering monarch lay, the hyena at once began to abuse them for being late, and the tiger also angrily asked why they had not come before; then the chief jackal began humbly "O Maharaja, we were duly summoned; your messenger is not to blame; but we reflected that it was useless merely to go and look at you when you were so ill: that could do you no good; so we bestirred ourselves to try and find some medicine that would cure you. We have searched the length and breadth of the jungle and have found all that is necessary, except one thing and that we have failed to find."

"Tell me what it is," said the hyena, "and I will at once dispatch all these animals to look for it and it will surely be found."

"Yes," echoed the tiger, "what is it?"

"Maharaja," said the jackal, "when you take these medicines, you must lie down on the fresh skin of a hyena, which has been flayed alive; but the only hyena we can find in the forest is your dewan"

"The world can well bear the loss of one hyena," said the tiger: "take him and skin him."

At these words all the animals set upon the hyena and flayed him alive; and the tiger lay down on the skin and took the medicines brought by the jackal; and as he was not seriously ill, his pain soon began to pass away.

"That is a lesson to the hyena not to scold us and get us into trouble," said the jackal, as he went home.

The King of the Tigers Is Sick


When the great king of all the tigers was sick, the tiger crown prince made obeisance and said, "If my lord will taste of the flesh of every beast of the field peradventure my lord may recover."

To the great king commanded the crown prince to summon every kind of beast into his presence, and as they appeared, the king ate them. Only the mouse-deer, who was likewise summoned, refused to appear. Therefore the great king's wrath was kindled against the mouse-deer, and in the end he too was fain to appear. And when he appeared he was questioned by the king, "Why did you not attend at the first when we had summoned hither every kind of beast that lives in the field?"

The mouse-deer replied, "Your slave could not approach your majesty because of a dream of certain medicine that would make your majesty well."

The king replied, "What medicine was this of which you dreamed?"

"Your slave dreamed that the only remedy for you majesty's sickness was for you majesty to seize and devour that which is nearest your majesty."

Immediately on hearing this, the great king of the tigers seized the prince of the tigers and devoured him also. And straightway the king was cured, and the mouse-deer himself became crown prince in turn.

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Revised March 29, 2008.