THERE was once a forest where a Lion dwelt. Over all the beasts of the forest the Lion lorded it, and of men not one durst come near the place for fear of King Lion; none, that is, except one only, a Woodman who lived in a little hut just upon the borders of the woodland; and between the forest and the hut a river flowed. This Woodman came often into the forest, to cut wood; and he had no fear to do so, because the Lion and he were bosom friends. Such fast friends they were that if ever the Woodman failed to pay his daily visit, the Lion was grieved and missed him sorely.
It happened once that the Woodman fell ill of a fever. In his woodland hut he lay all alone, for no wife was there, or sister to care for him. So he tossed and moaned, and waited for the hours to pass.
Of course during all this time the Woodman could not visit the forest, and his friend the Lion missed him. "What can be the matter," thought King Lion. "Has some enemy killed him, or has he fallen sick?" At last he could no longer bear the suspense, and set out in search of the Woodman.
I do not think that the Lion had ever yet been to his friend's house; and for all he knew he might be walking straight into a trap. But he was so fond of the Woodman that he never thought of danger. All he wanted was to see his friend. Accordingly, he followed the path by which the Woodman came into the woods; and in due time this path led him to the bank of a wide and swift river, and over on the opposite bank was a hut.
In plunged the Lion, not waiting to think; and though there were crocodiles in that river ready to eat him, and though the current bade fair to sweep him away, so strong was his love for his friend that he swam across.
The Woodman's house stood within an enclosure, and all the doors and gates were shut; but the Lion jumped over the wall, and searched about, until he managed somehow to force his way into the house. Then he saw his friend lying upon a bed, and very ill, all alone, with no one to tend him.
How grieved the Lion was to see his friend, you can imagine better than I can tell. The Lion knelt down by his friend's side, and began to lick him all over. This woke the man from his dazed condition; and when he found the Lion licking his body, he did not like the smell of the Lion, so he turned his head away, with a grunt of disgust.
Now I think this was very unkind, because the Lion had no other way of showing how much he cared for his friend. Think what a long way he had come to see his friend, and think what danger he had faced; and now to be met with a grunt of disgust! The Lion stopped licking the Woodman, and got up slowly, and went away. Back he swam over the deep and swift river, but all the heart was taken out of him; he cared not for the crocodiles, indeed now he would not have been very sorry if a crocodile had devoured him. One crocodile did actually get a nip at his leg, and left a wound there. Back to his den he crept, solitary and sad. And when he got to his den, he lay down, sick of his friend's fever, which he had taken by licking him.
In a week or so, the Woodman was well again; and thinking nothing of what had passed, he shouldered his axe, and trudged away to cut wood. When the time came for his midday meal, he went as his custom was to the Lion's den; and there he found his friend the Lion, thin and sick.
"Why, friend, what is the matter?" the Woodman asked.
"I am ill," said the Lion.
"What is it?" asked the Woodman again.
But the Lion would answer nothing; and do what he would, the man could not get him to say another word. So he left him for that day, and went home.
For several days after, the man did the same thing; and gradually the Lion got better. At last one day, when the Lion was quite well again, the man said to him--
"Tell me, good friend Lion, what it is that has made you so silent and gloomy of late?"
Then answered the Lion, "O Woodman, I will tell you. When you were ill, I swam a swift river and faced death, all for your sake; I came into your house when you lay deserted, and licked your body, and took the fever which you had into my veins; and this wound which you see, I received from a crocodile as I was swimming across on my way back. But you received me with scorn, and turned away your face in disgust. The fever is gone, and this wound (as you see) is healed; but the wound in my heart can never heal. You are no true friend; and from henceforth our ways lie apart."
The man was ashamed of his unkindness, but it was too late, for, as the poet says--
"Who snaps the thread of friendship, never more
Can join it as it once was joined before."
Told by Shaikh Faríd Ahmad, and recorded by the teacher of the village school, Barhauli, district Bahraich, Oudh.
No change, except the Wound is dealt by the Woodman's axe, at the command of the Lion, when first he visits him after the sickness. The verses are—
Samman dhaga prem ka jin toryo chatkay
Jore se na jurat hai, aut ganth par jay.
Wound and the Scar, The
Crooke, W. & Rouse, W. H. D.
Talking Thrush, The: And Other Tales from India
Crooke, W. & Rouse, W. H. D.
E. P. Dutton & Co.
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