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  • Writer's pictureAnca

The Lion that Drowned in the Fountain

Years ago, in a big forest, a lion appeared. He was so big and fierce that if he roared, all the animals in the forest trembled like the leaves of a poplar tree. When the lion went hunting, he would tear apart anything that crossed his path and leave it behind. If he came across a group of wild boars, he would tear them all apart except for one, which he would save for food.

The animals in the forest were terrified and did not know what to do. One day, they gathered together and started to discuss their situation. The bear said, "Every day, the lion tears apart at least ten of us, sometimes even twenty. He only eats one or two of us, and the rest go to waste because he always looks for fresh meat. Let's arrange it so that he only eats one or two of us a day, enough for his food. He shouldn't destroy us out of cruelty."

"Go and try to negotiate with him!" the wolf replied. "Will he even consider what we have to say? He will tear our messengers to pieces, and that will be the end of it."

"Let's try," said the bear. "But who should we send?"

"You go, bear," said the wolf. "You are the biggest and strongest of us all."

"What good would my strength do? I still won't be able to defeat him. If he attacks me, my strength won't matter. You are quicker than me, wolf."

"And what if I'm faster? Do you think I'll be able to escape if he starts to chase me?" The deer stepped forward and said, "You know what? In this case, you need to know how to approach the lion, how to start talking to him so that he doesn't get angry."

"If you're so smart, then you go, deer! I don't know anything about this. All I know is that you can't just talk to the king like he's your brother. You need to know how to approach him."

"Then who could we send, in your opinion?"

"According to me, we should send the fox. She is clever and can manipulate him and tell him how things stand."

"You've thought well," exclaimed the animals. "She knows how to approach the lion."

They called the fox, and the bear said, "It's your turn to go to the king and talk to him if he doesn't agree to us bringing him food. Otherwise, you'll see that he'll destroy us."

"Why me?" said the fox. "Let someone else go. And if nobody wants to go, then let's draw lots! Whoever it falls upon has to go without resistance."

"No, little fox, that's not how it works. If someone who doesn't know how to speak is sent, what will happen to us then? Due to fear, they will say something else, and instead of goodwill, he will become even angrier with us. We've decided to send you, little fox, and if you don't want to go, then we will force you!"

The fox thought for a moment, not knowing what to do. Not going was bad, and going was just as bad. She thought for a while and said, "Fine, I'll go and try my luck. It seems that's my fate. But I don't think I should go empty-handed. I need to bring something to the king."

"Here, take these three rabbits," said the bear.

And so the fox went to negotiate with the lion.

"On the way, the fox had lined up in her mind all her cunning schemes, to see which ones would fit best. She was very scared, but she had to keep going.

As she approached the lion's palace, he came out, roared, bared his mane, and wagged his tail. He was surprised that such small animals came to him with so much courage. But he didn't attack them, waiting to see what would happen next. The fox approached about ten meters, bowed to the ground and said:

“Greetings to you! Do not command that my head be taken, but command me to say a word.”

“Speak, I'm listening.”

“The assembly of animals has commanded me to offer you bread and salt. Here, they have sent you three rabbits and ask, if you please, not to be angry with us. From now on, we want to provide you with food ourselves. We will bring as much as you command. The assembly of animals found it more useful to establish this order, because our conscience troubles us when we think that the king had to procure his own food. For this reason, we have decided to ensure the peace of your majesty's paws.”

“You have thought well, bravo! This will be better for me and for you. Otherwise, you know that my nature is such that if I go hunting, I don't eat as much as I kill.”

“But how many animals do you command us to bring you each day and at what time of day do you kindly take your meal?”

“Send me the animals once a day, at noon. I don't need much food. Every day, at most, I eat two rabbits, and a wolf or a wild boar is enough for me for two days. If I want to eat more, I will tell you.”

The fox made a deep bow to the lion and ran to the assembly of animals, as each one wanted to find out as soon as possible what their mission had resulted in. The fox said:

“Well, the job is done! The lion has agreed that we should bring him food ourselves.”

Everyone was relieved, thinking that it would be easier to live that way. But their anxiety was not completely dispelled, as each one thought that if not today, tomorrow it would be their turn to go to the lion's paws. Now they had to decide who would go to the king tomorrow. The bear said:

“Let's measure ourselves with a stick. Whoever the top falls on must go to the lion.”

But the wolf objected:

“No, that won't work anymore. Maybe it's our turn and we'll have to sacrifice ourselves, while insignificant animals that are afraid of each other will live. That's not fair.”

“It's better to decide that those without tails should go to the lion first. But if the lion finishes all those without tails, then those with long tails will go one by one.”

“Well, wolf, that's not it,” said the bear. “I have a short tail and so does the deer, so we will be against it. It's better for those with long tails to go first and then those with short tails.”

The fox replied:

"Here's the situation. So that no one gets upset, neither the ones nor the others, let's decide like this: the ones who are not capable of working, the elderly who have lived enough in this world and for whom it's time to die, those who don't have a tail not by nature but due to some cause, the blind, crippled, or those who have been injured by hunters, let them go to the lion.”

So they decided. Every day they chose miserable animals and sent them to the emperor. One day passed, another passed, all the sick ones ended, only the healthy and young ones remained. What to do?

No one wanted to go to certain death according to their will, everyone wanted to live, and everyone trembled for their skin. All the animals gathered again and began to discuss.

"What shall we do now? We finished the sick ones, let's draw lots for someone to go to the emperor."

But the fox said, "There is still time before we have to draw lots. Let's finish off the lame ones."

"Who are they?" other animals asked.

"Don't you see that the hind legs of the rabbits are twice as long as the front ones, so they can't walk like all the other animals? They hop and then throw themselves in the back. Are they not lame according to you?"

"That's true," the others replied. "They must go to the emperor."

The rabbits protested, saying that their legs were like that by nature. But the animals didn't want to hear it. They threatened them, "If you don't go, we'll tear you apart."

Although they didn't want to go to certain death, the rabbits left. They had nowhere to hide, they had to perish, one way or another.

A month or two passed, and the lion finished all the rabbits. There was no one left to be sent to the emperor for food. Again, the animals gathered and began to bargain: which of them should go to the emperor as food? In the end, they decided that the one with the longest ears should go. They began to look who had the longest ears. They decided to measure them with a stick when they remembered the donkey.

"Why waste time? He has the longest ears of all the animals. It's his turn to go to the emperor."

"Where is he? Bring him here right away!"

They found him and brought him to the gathering. The bear said, "Donkey, the assembly has decided that those with the longest ears will go to the emperor. And since no one has longer ears than you, you will go.”

The donkey, out of fear, began to cry and then said:

"How did this come to mind? Is it possible?"

"It's better if we toss the lots," he continued. "If it's my turn and I go, then I'll go, but if not, I won't go."

"Donkey, don't oppose it. As we decided, so it must be," the others replied.

"Why don't you judge fairly? Finish with all the sick ones first, and then it will be my turn," the donkey protested.

"Where do you see any sick ones?" the others asked.

"Don't you see that the fox has a torn tail?" the donkey pointed out.

All the animals rushed towards the fox to see its tail. At the tip of its tail, there was a bald spot the size of a hen's egg.

"Well, little fox, now it's your turn to go to the lion," the bear said.

"How come? You decided that the donkey would go, and now you're changing your mind and want to send me to certain death?" the fox protested.

"You have a tattered tail," the bear replied.

"It's like that from birth; it's just a mole," the fox explained.

"Well, it doesn't matter what it is. The point is that something is wrong. It's your turn to go to the lion," the others said.

"Isn't it a sin to send me?" the fox asked. "I stood up to the lion so that he wouldn't kill us, and now you're pushing me towards death."

"Well, what can we do now?" the animals replied. "One day, it will be our turn to perish. Go, fox, you have to die someday, whether it's today or tomorrow."

The fox didn't want to go to certain death, but she had no choice; otherwise, the animals would tear her apart for disobedience. She went with her head down, thinking, "Why did I go to talk to the lion in the first place? I could have avoided him." 

The fox barely walked, like a duck, and kept thinking about how to escape death. She wandered in the woods for a long time, fearing that she would encounter the lion, which terrified her. Then, she saw a well. Here, she thought, "It's better to drown myself than to be caught alive. I'll drown suddenly and die painlessly. Otherwise, I'll suffer until they tear me apart."

The fox approached the well, circled it, and sniffed it.

She looked at the water, it was far away. She looked more carefully and saw a fox looking back at her. At first, she didn't recognise who it was. She shook her head and the other fox did the same, she stuck out her tongue and the other fox did too.

"Hey, wait a minute! That's me! No wonder they say if you look into water, you see your own face. What if I trick the lion? He doesn't know about this, I'll catch him off guard!"

From the well, the fox went straight to the lion. The thought cheered her up and she picked up speed. It was towards evening when she began to approach the king's palace. The lion roared fiercely:

"What, are you laughing at me? Do you want me to starve? I felt sorry for you, so I didn't tear you apart for no reason, but you took advantage of me!"

But the fox bowed deeply and said, "My lord, I am not guilty, nor are the animals. Please have a little patience, and I will tell you why we were delayed. All three of us - two hares and myself - were sent by the animals early this morning to see you. We hurried to your Majesty, but a beast that looked like you blocked our way and asked, 'Where are you going?' I said, 'We are going to the king's palace.' And he shouted at me, 'What kind of king can be there? I am the emperor, everyone must submit to me. I won't let you go, you belong to me.' But I pleaded with him, 'How can that be? He's waiting for us, today is his name day. He can't be left hungry. He'll be angry and kill us all.' And he replied, 'What do I care if it's his name day? If I want, I'll eat him.' I begged him to let me go, and he finally released me."

The lion grew angrier, forgetting that he was hungry, and asked fiercely, "Where is that beast?"

"He is in a stone palace," replied the fox.

The lion roared and pounced towards the palace. When they approached the well, the lion asked, "Where is he? Show me!"

The fox said, "There he is, in that stone palace. I'm afraid to approach him because he'll eat me. Look for yourself."

The lion approached the well, looked into it, and saw another lion looking back at him. He roared and the lion in the well roared back. The lion then roared loudly and jumped into the well. Now he could not get out because the walls were straight and far apart, and he could not hold on to anything. The lion struggled there until he drowned.

The fox waited until the lion drowned and then fled into the world.

This is a free translation of a Romanian folktale using Chat GPT. 

close up picture of lion


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