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Androcles And The Lion

from Europa's Fairy Book





It happened in the old days at Rome that a slave named Androcles
escaped from his master and fled into the forest, and he wandered
there for a long time till he was weary and well nigh spent with
hunger and despair. Just then he heard a lion near him moaning and
groaning and at times roaring terribly. Tired as he was Androcles rose
up and rushed away, as he thought, from the lion; but as he made his
way through the bushes he stumbled over the root of a tree and fell
down lamed, and when he tried to get up there he saw the lion coming
towards him, limping on three feet and holding his fore-paw in front
of him. Poor Androcles was in despair; he had not strength to rise and
run away, and there was the lion coming upon him. But when the great
beast came up to him instead of attacking him it kept on moaning and
groaning and looking at Androcles, who saw that the lion was holding
out his right paw, which was covered with blood and much swollen.
Looking more closely at it Androcles saw a great big thorn pressed
into the paw, which was the cause of all the lion's trouble. Plucking
up courage he seized hold of the thorn and drew it out of the lion's
paw, who roared with pain when the thorn came out, but soon after
found such relief from it that he fawned upon Androcles and showed, in
every way that he knew, to whom he owed the relief. Instead of eating
him up he brought him a young deer that he had slain, and Androcles
managed to make a meal from it. For some time the lion continued to
bring the game he had killed to Androcles, who became quite fond of
the huge beast.

But one day a number of soldiers came marching through the forest and
found Androcles, and as he could not explain what he was doing they
took him prisoner and brought him back to the town from which he had
fled. Here his master soon found him and brought him before the
authorities, and he was condemned to death because he had fled from
his master. Now it used to be the custom to throw murderers and other
criminals to the lions in a huge circus, so that while the criminals
were punished the public could enjoy the spectacle of a combat between
them and the wild beasts. So Androcles was condemned to be thrown to
the lions, and on the appointed day he was led forth into the Arena
and left there alone with only a spear to protect him from the lion.
The Emperor was in the royal box that day and gave the signal for the
lion to come out and attack Androcles. But when it came out of its
cage and got near Androcles, what do you think it did? Instead of
jumping upon him it fawned upon him and stroked him with its paw and
made no attempt to do him any harm. It was of course the lion which
Androcles had met in the forest. The Emperor, surprised at seeing such
a strange behaviour in so cruel a beast, summoned Androcles to him and
asked him how it happened that this particular lion had lost all its
cruelty of disposition. So Androcles told the Emperor all that had
happened to him and how the lion was showing its gratitude for his
having relieved it of the thorn. Thereupon the Emperor pardoned
Androcles and ordered his master to set him free, while the lion was
taken back into the forest and let loose to enjoy liberty once more.





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Previous: The Swan Maidens



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