The king of the jungle, the lion, lived in a big dark cave at the foot of the hill. He was a good king, and used to hunt only when he was hungry. Every night, he would go out to hunt and bring back one animal to his cave. After eating to his heart’s content, he would go to sleep.

In his cave, a little mouse had made her house too. She would wait for the king to fall asleep, and then come out to eat, the leftovers. She was so small that leftovers were more than enough for her. She was very happy, as she got to eat the best food. Thanks to the lion, of course.

Many months passed, and the mouse became fat. Having lived so close to the lion, she had stopped fearing him. One day, after the king had eaten, and was sleeping, the mouse came out for her dinner. She ate as much as she could, and started to go back. It was then that she thought of taking a close look at the lion. She had never touched a lion before, so she went close and touched him. Nothing happened, the king was asleep. Oh! The lion feels so soft, thought the mouse. His hair is like a soft cushion. Without stopping to think, she climbed on to the lion’s back. The king must have been very tired after the hunt, and did not notice. And the foolish mouse had lost all her fear. She thought, uhmmm, this is so nice, and the king doesn’t mind. Thinking so, she fell asleep on the lion’s back.

D-I-S-A-S-T-E-R.

When the lion woke up and found the mouse there he was furious. How dare a mouse climb on the king of the jungle. He roared loudly and was about to kill her. The roar woke up the mouse; she knew that she was in deep trouble. She begged and pleaded for mercy, she said, “My lord, I have made a grave mistake, but please do not kill me. If you spare my life I promise to help you whenever you need me.” The lion started to laugh loudly. “You puny little thing, you will help the king of the jungle?” He laughed so much that he was not angry any more. He said, “Ha, ha, ha, Go, I grant you your life, but don’t you go around cracking funny jokes.” Saying that he let the mouse free.

The Mouse who Lived in the Lion's Cave
The Mouse who Lived in the Lion’s Cave [Illustrations by Amarjeet Malik]

While this was happening in the lion’s cave, some hunters were laying a trap for the king, a short distance away. They wanted to catch the lion alive and then sell him to a circus.
Unaware of the evil designs of the hunters, the lion walked into their trap, the very next day. The king of the jungle was furious. He roared, and jumped and tried to claw his way through the net. The hunters were very cunning, they had used a strong net. The harder he tried to escape the tighter the net became. The king was helpless, he was caught and did not know what to do.

The fat mouse who was sleeping in the king’s cave, heard the angry roar of the lion. She knew that the king was in some kind of danger. She also remembered the promise she had made to the lion. Even though she was a little afraid, she ran towards the roar of the lion. On finding the king of the jungle in such a sorry state she felt sad. She felt she must do something, and thought hard till she came up with a plan.

The mouse came close to the lion’s ear and said, “Your majesty, I hope you remember me. You had spared my life. And I had said that I’d help you some day. That day has come, my lord. I will try to cut this net with my teeth and hopefully, before the hunters return, I will be able to free you. But I request you to keep quiet and not roar, otherwise the hunters will know that you are caught and will come running. Besides, your roar frightens me, and I will not be able to work.

The fat mouse went to work. For months she had done no work, living off the lion’s leftover food. Her teeth were not as sharp as they used to be. But the mouse was not going to give up. She worked very hard, till her gums started to bleed. And soon, she managed to cut through the thick net and make a large enough hole for the lion to come out.

The lion felt sorry that he had made fun of the mouse. He said, “You are so small, but today you have saved my life, you are welcome to continue to live in my cave, but beware don’t you ever sleep on my back again!” Saying that the lion started to walk away. Suddenly, he stopped and roared so loudly that the hunters, wherever they were, must have run for their lives.