There once lived a clever lioness in the champak forest. She had four healthy and really adorable cubs. They were very young and their eyes hadn’t still opened. They slept for most of the time and the only time they were awake was when their mother fed them. But if the mother was late even by a minute, they would wail so loudly so as to bring the whole cave down!
In the same forest, there lived another lion. He was old and feeble. His sight and hearing had become poor and many of his teeth and claws had also broken. This made him completely unable to go hunting for animals. The only food he therefore ate was fruits and leaves.
One day, the old lion was lying in the sun when his only friend, the sly monkey, came up to him munching a guava. “Do you want a bite?” he asked the lion. “I see that you’ve become very weak. Maybe you should eat some meat”.
“But how will I go hunting? I can hardly run!” said the lion sadly.
“Don’t you worry about that, my dear friend! There is a cave only a short distance from here. Yesterday I happened to pass by it. There are four fat cubs living there. You can kill those cubs and eat them”, explained the monkey.
“But what about their mother? She will surely kill me if she sees me there!” said the old lion.
“Listen!” the monkey said, drawing himself close to his friend. “The mother feeds her babies in the evening and leaves for hunting for the night. I have seen her do so. I will take you there when night comes”.
“But I can hardly wait for night to come!” said the greedy lion, sitting up straight. “Please take me to the cave right now, my friend.”
But if the mother is in the cave you should not enter”, warned the monkey.
The monkey then jumped on to the lion’s back and both went towards the cave. As they neared the cave, the monkey said to the lion — “There’s the cave. Follow those bushes and you will reach the opening of the cave. But first hide yourself and see if the lioness has left for the night or not.”
Thus following the monkey’s instructions, the old lion crept towards the cave. The thought of eating four fat cubs for dinner made his mouth water. “I shall keep two for tomorrow”, thought the old lion. When he was almost there, his stomach gave a big growl! “Oh! I’m so hungry!” he said. “I think I shall eat three now and keep only one for later”. And the foolish lion forgot all about the mother.
Inside the cave, the lioness was just about to feed her cubs when she heard noises among the bushes outside. She peered out and saw the old lion creeping towards her cave. His mouth was watering and his stomach growling! “Now that I am here, my babies will be safe”, thought the lioness. “But what if he comes back when I’m not there?…I shall have to drive him away forever!”
The clever lioness at once knew what to do. She waited for a while until the old lion was almost at the opening of the cave. Then she pinched her babies hard and woke them up. As soon as they were up, the cubs started wailing as loudly as ever. But the mother lion didn’t feed them. Instead she said aloud “Oh! My poor babies! I know how hungry you are. I think last night’s roasted boar wasn’t enough for four hungry stomachs…Don’t worry, tonight you can eat a bigger animal”.
The old lion who was listening to all this leapt up in fright. “My goodness! Those hungry cubs can eat me too! I had better run from here”. Saying so, he lifted his tail and ran back as fast as his old bones could carry him. Seeing the lion so scared, the monkey asked him — “What happened? Didn’t you eat?”
“Eat those monsters?!” exclaimed the old lion, panting. The hair in his mane stood up like needles at the very mention of those wailing cubs. And he told the monkey what he heard at the cave.
“Ha! Ha! The clever lioness fooled you all right!” laughed the cunning monkey. “Don’t be so scared, friend. Those cubs are harmless — they can barely walk! Come with me, I will show you another secret passage to the cave from where you can watch properly. You will then see what babies they are”.
Thus feeling somewhat reassured, the old lion took his friend on his back and started walking towards the cave again. In the meantime, the clever lioness hadn’t left for hunting. She had a hunch that the old lion might return. She now peered out and saw the monkey riding on the lion’s back. “So that’s it! It is all the sly monkey’s idea”, she thought. “Just wait, you fools! I will teach you a lesson. You will never think of eating my babies even in your wildest dreams!”.
When the monkey and the old lion were fairly near the cave, the lioness pinched her cubs again. As usual they started wailing, but this time more loudly than ever before. They hated being woken up so frequently.
The lioness then said loudly, “Just wait for a little while more, my dears! You will get your dinner very soon, I promise. In fact, I have sent your bandar mama to get a lion for you this time! He will be here any moment”.
When the old lion heard this, he was shocked! And so was the monkey! Both looked into each other’s eyes but none could speak! Whatever it was, the poor old lion was terribly frightened and he leapt so fast that the amazed monkey fell right off his back! And he ran for his dear life, not looking back even once. From that day on, the old lion never thought of eating meat again!