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Androcles and the Lion

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Androcles fleeing into the forest.

Androcles fleeing into the forest.

Androcles was a slave with a very cruel master. The brutality was getting worse as he grew older in the master’s household. One day, after a severe beating, he decided to escape from his master.

At the first opportunity, he fled into the forest. As he was walking aimlessly in the deeper part of the forest, he came upon a lion lying down, groaning and moaning.

“I did not escape from my master to be devoured by a lion,” Androcles thought as he ran for his life.

Then he realized that the lion was not chasing him. He could not contain his curiosity so he turned back and crept slowly to where the lion was.

androcles-and-the-lion

As he got nearer, the lion put out his paw which was bleeding and swollen. Androcles realized that the lion was not out to get him, and that it needed help. For whatever reason, he stayed to help the lion.

At closer inspection, Androcles found a huge thorn stuck into the paw which was causing so much pain to the lion.

He pulled out the thorn, tore up a piece of his clothing and bound up the lion’s paw. Soon the lion was able to rise. Fear crossed Androcles’ mind because he knew that lions would be lions. They would not know how to show gratitude, but the lion licked the hand of Androcles, just like a friendly dog.

It was then that Androcles found a friend. With nowhere to go, he stayed with the lion in his cave and lived by the meat that the lion brought to the cave every day.

Then came a time when they had to part ways. So Androcles left the lion to continue his journey to freedom.

After walking for a long time, he decided to live in the forest on his own, and he never ventured into the village for fear of being captured. He was sure that his master had already alerted the authorities about his escape.

Almost a year had passed when Androcles thought it was safe to visit the village. So he came out of the forest and followed the road to the village. Unfortunately, he came face to face with his old master who immediately recognized him. He was promptly arrested by the authorities and sentenced to death.

Androcles knew how death would come to a slave like him. He would be fed to the lions. He grieved for his fate.

In spite of his impending brutal death, he did not regret escaping from his master. He was grateful for the year that he lived in the forest where he was free to do what he wanted, free from the daily beatings and the verbal abuse.

He thought, “I was a man for a year. If I stayed with my master, I would no longer feel like human. I was treated like animal so much, sometimes I think I was really an animal.”

The Emperor and all his Court came to see the carrying out of the death sentence. The place was packed with spectators.

The lion which had been kept inside a cage was not given food for several days to make sure that he would devour the slave as soon as he was let out of the enclosure.

Androcles was led out into the middle of the arena. Fear gripped him. It was not the fear of death for he welcomed death when he was a slave in his master’s household. Every time he was beaten, he would hope death would come and end his pain and his misery but death never came.

It was dying in the jaws of a beast that sent chills down his spine. But it wouldn’t take long. This time, death would overtake him for sure.

androcles-and-the-lion

Soon the lion was let loose from his den, and rushed bounding and roaring towards Androcles.

Androcles felt a numbing fear as he fell kneeling to the ground. But as soon as the lion came nearer, he stopped and looked at the slave. He recognized his friend!

He fawned upon him, and licked his hands like he did before. Androcles was beyond happy to see his friend, he could not control his tears.

Everybody was astonished at the sight. The Emperor could not believe what he saw. He summoned Androcles to explain what had just happened.

When he heard the whole story, the Emperor was so touched by the lion’s loyalty that he pardoned and freed Androcles who lived as a free man in the village. The lion was also returned to his native forest, never to be bothered again. Once in a while, the two friends would reunite in the forest.

“If having a soul means being able to feel love and loyalty and gratitude, then animals are better off than a lot of humans.”

-James Herriot-

© 2020 Norma

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