Gateway to the Classics: Indian Fables by Ramaswami Raju
Indian Fables by  Ramaswami Raju

The Lion, the Fox, and the Storyteller

A lion who was the king of a great forest once said to his subjects, "I want some one among you to tell me stories one after another without ceasing. If you fail to find somebody who can so amuse me, you will all be put to death."

In the East there is a proverb which says, "The king kills when he wills." So the animals were in great alarm.

The fox said, "Fear not; I shall save you all. Tell the king the storyteller is ready to come to court when ordered." So the animals had orders to send the storyteller at once to the presence. The fox bowed respectfully, and stood before the king, who said, "So you are to tell us stories without ceasing?"

"Yes, your majesty," said the fox.

"Then begin," said the lion.

"But before I do so," said the fox, "I would like to know what your majesty means by a story."

"Why," said the lion, "a narrative containing some interesting event or fact."

"Just so," said the fox, and began: "There was a fisherman who went to sea with a huge net, and spread it far and wide. A great many fish got into it. Just as the fisherman was about to draw the net the coils snapped. A great opening was made. First one fish escaped." Here the fox stopped.

"What then?" said the lion.

"Then two escaped," said the fox.

"What then?" said the impatient lion.

"Then three escaped," said the fox. Thus, as often as the lion repeated his query, the fox increased the number by one, and said as many escaped. The lion was vexed, and said, "Why, you are telling me nothing new!"

"I wish your majesty will not forget your royal word," said the fox. "Each event occurred by itself, and each lot that escaped was different from the rest."

"But wherein is the wonder?" said the lion.

"Why, your majesty, what can be more wonderful than for fish to escape in lots, each exceeding the other by one?"

"I am bound by my word," said the lion, "else I would see your carcass stretched on the ground."

The fox said in a whisper, "If tyrants that desire things impossible are not at least bound by their own word, their subjects can find nothing to bind them."

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