A Lion’s Tale

The lion cub was scared of his father. Big and imposing, his father intimidated with his roar and his fearful temper.

“Quiet down, I’m trying to sleep!”

“You made a mess again!”

“Stop cuddling against your mother like a baby!”

His father snapped at him, roared at him and even bit him.

Terrified, he constantly ran to his mother and cowered by her.

This went on for a number of years, during which he grew to perceive his father as his enemy and his mother as his protector.

It finally came to a head.

The other lions in the pride came to notice, over time, either the fearful, scared look in the cub’s eyes, or perhaps the cub told another cub and it reached the ears of the other lions.

Regardless of how it happened, the lions all approached the cub’s father one day and told him he had to leave his pack, along with his lioness and cubs. The pride will take care of them. But he had to go.

Hurt, angry, proud, humiliated, defiant, all those feelings swam through the lion with the turmoil of a stormy sea.

“Why?” he demanded, hating himself for even having to fight for what was his by right.

“Because of how you treat your cub. He is terrified and miserable. You mistreat your own young. Give him to us. We will raise him well, so you will be proud in the end.”

“I raise him how I was raised.”

They didn’t listen or respond.

He did not have a choice and was banished, without so much as a farewell.

The cub didn’t understand or realize what had happened, but everyone reassured him that he no longer had reason to be afraid, that his father was gone.

He grew up not knowing and little remembering his father except for a few distant memories and a dark image of an arch enemy who had wanted to hurt him.

Then there were the times when his mother grew angry and roared at him, that he withdrew to himself, cried, and imagined his absent father who would not have grown angry or roared, but who would have protected his cub.

As always, the changes in the winds of time distort the past and creates nostalgia from what were really difficulties.

The cub grew up and before long was a lion himself. Gangly, awkward, with a barely grown in ragged mane, he was nervous and anxious around everyone. Without a father to raise him and show him how to be a lion, he only had his mother and the distant pride members to serve as father figure. He was shy at the best of times, and shied away from the other lions. His mother had her paws full with the other little cubs and could only be a lioness, nothing more.

While his peers were taught by their fathers to hunt and in time found lionesses of their own, he never caught on. He felt awkward with the other lions like he didn’t really belong. He never got the hang of hunting, and while every lion offered him their assistance, none cared for him as much as they cared for their own. Because of this he acquired some skill but it was poor and inconsistent. His mother could not teach him but instead tried to get other lions to. The lions did it out of pity or to please the lioness, but with no real care or love for the young lion.

Before long the young lion lost interest in even trying.

He grew into a lost, listless wanderer.

He spent his days being envious of his peers, watching them hunt and frolic with their young lionesses while he wondered why he didn’t have any of that.

He grew depressed, envious and resentful. Not at anyone in particular, but there was reason to resent everyone.

As the years went by, the lions of the pride grew old and indifferent.

It was in this environment that the young lion’s father, long tempted to return but wary of the opposition to his presence, finally decided that the time was ripe.

Indeed he was right in that.

The old lions were too tired to stop him and thought, the cubs are old enough that he cannot do any more damage.

When the lion strolled in, a look of easy confidence and almost arrogance on his face, his heart was beating wildly, nervous, fearing that his cubs won’t accept him, but for the sake of his dignity, tried to appear calm and unworried.

His son, the young lion, stood tensely and nervously from afar, with all his brothers and sisters, watching their father approach, an amused and cocky look in his eye. He felt like he was standing on the battlefield and the enemy was approaching.

After the image of his father had been built up in his imagination for so long as a fearful and terrifying spectre, he could not watch him without trembling and his mind screaming at him to run away.

But his father approached smiling, if a bit awkwardly and said, “Do you know who I am?”

They were all so scared they couldn’t even respond. The young lion stood there, oldest of his family and yet felt the most cowardly.

He treated me terribly. Should I demand an apology? No, he must love and care for me enough to do it of his own accord or there will be no forgiveness.

He thought this as he beheld his father looking at him long and carefully, taking everything in.

We’ll see what he does, he thought.

He looks angry and stubborn, his father thought. Perhaps now is not the time. He will surely change given some time. After all, I am a stranger to them.

Unfortunately, as time went on it became apparent that neither the father nor the son felt like breaking the ice between them.

The father seemed to write off his eldest son and instead of trying to talk to him, found it easier to avoid him and develop his relationship with the younger cubs.

The young lion saw and felt that and his hatred and anger and resentment towards his father only increased.

Why did he have to come back? We had it so good before. Who invited him back?

He watched with envy and jealousy as his brothers and sisters were courted by their long absent father.

He wanted to confront his father, to demand an explanation for his actions then and now, but he couldn’t. He didn’t know what to say, how to say it and above all this inadequacy, he was fearful. An irrational, deeply rooted fear, lay deep inside his mind from the frightened days of his childhood and the stories and thoughts since then which had fed upon and magnified the original fears, into a deep, primal, irrational but very present fear.

As time went one, the hatred fed into the fear and the fear fed into the hatred.

The young lion one day was tearing into a deer that his mother had given him, when his father approached.

Feeling his fur bristling, he right away thought that his father was coming to take what was his. He growled and bared his sharp fangs at the threat.

His father stopped a short distance away and a look of anger passed over his face.

“A little respect. I’m not your friend.” His father said, turning and walking away.

A feeling of guilt washed over him, but he didn’t know how to apologize with the tension that existed between him and his father.

One day he was out walking on the Savannah. The sun was out full, burning onto his fur, the short Baobab trees barely rustled in the sultry air and all the birds were quietly resting in the shade, trying to escape from the scorching sun.

The young lion ambled through the tall grass, enjoying the solitude of a quiet walk where usually competing lions were roaming around in search of prey.

Finding a nice cool spot under a the shade of a Baobab tree, the young lion stretched his lean, golden legs, enjoying the loosening of the tension in his limbs so much that he didn’t hear a faint click coming from the bushes nearby, where a hunter sat crouched alongside his companions, their jeep parked close by.

The hunter had found the perfect location and had the sight of his rifle pinpointed exactly on his target, a lazy, young lion relaxing under the shade of a Baobab. The lion was so out of it, it seemed the perfect and easiest kill.

His finger pressed on the trigger, when a great, big lion bounded out from somewhere and caught the bullet with his immensity as the young lion leaped back in shock.

“Wow boys, looks like we landed a biggie!”

The young lion watched horrified as the hunters came out with their guns pointed and dragged his father’s body away.

He could only watch helplessly as his father’s eyes told him to run.

Running away from the guns, feelings cascaded through him, feelings of guilt, of regret and shame.

He did love me after all. And now he is gone.

Tears flowed down as he ran, sobbing through the Savannah.

He found his family and they all mourned at the news.

The old lions of the pride came and offered their condolences.

He looked at them fiercely.

“You robbed me of my father. My entire life I never knew my father and when he came back it was too late. Why did you banish him? Who gave you the right?”

They didn’t respond, only looked at him silently, their eyes opaque.