By Shobha Diwakar
Somewhere beyond the boundaries of the city there lay a dense jungle where resided a number of wild beasts of all shapes and sizes. Some elephants, tigers, lions, leopards, bears, wild lizards, jackals, foxes and wild boars even rattle snakes and venomous cobras … the fauna densely populated with herds of deer, which soon became a welcome sight for sore eyes. The soft and gentle deer were supple target for everyone. Wide- eyed and innocent, they made a dainty meal for most of the carnivorous animals that hung out their ‘galloping’ tongue, greedily dangling for a bite of the unroasted delectable ‘meat’ that the deer offered.
It so happened that one fine morning a donkey brayed and brayed for a long, long time. A gong rang and suddenly the tame ‘lions’ and ‘tigers’ that lived like friends, except when no one crossed their solemn path, rushed blindly to be the first to reach the ‘stage’ where the ‘drama’ of the donkey clothed in lion’s skin was to begin. The donkey had quite forgotten that he was NOT a lion but a donkey, the ancient species that trudged lazily across the pebbled paths loaded with bundles of clothes or other ‘luggage’ to its final destination.
The first to draw attention to the loud display of the ‘lion’ was the wolf… the senior most in line to lead the pack. He had scampered here on the sly so as not to raise suspicion. As he stared into the face of this new addition to the jungle, he ‘yelled’ ‘Who are you?’ ‘Are you a new species of the lion come here to join us?’ Initially the ‘donkey lion’ thought it better to keep mum but upon being instigated at the howl of the wolf, he determined to challenge the intruder and so he opened his mouth … but lo! Instead of the lion’s roar, all that he could do was to bray, bray and bray. ‘So…’ howled the wolf… ‘You imposter, you…donkey… you come here attired in a lion’s skin and try to rule over us?’ ‘How dare you?’… and saying so he lurched at the so called lion and dragged him to the ground but evcn as he tried to tear him apart the poor donkey pleaded forgiveness and making an attempt to rise to his four hooves he fell prostrate before the furious wolf begging forgiveness for his unintentional masquerade. ‘Please don’t kill and eat me up, if you wish I’ll donate this skin to you and you can frighten all the wild animals in the jungle and rule as long as you wish.’
The wolf thought a while and then grinning whispered softly into his dangling long ears, ‘Ok if that’s what you propose. It’s not a bad offer… after all the lions, tigers, and the leopards in the jungle are ferocious and we poor little animals are so scared of them that half the time we remain hungry for fear of being hunted and eaten up by these obnoxious creatures. You have made a good deal. I’ll spare your life in exchange of that lovely lion’s skin on condition you quietly scamper away and do not open your mouth about all this to anyone you may chance to meet.’
The donkey and the wolf stealthily crept into a shady, dark spot of the jungle where neither was visible to the naked eye. Hurriedly the donkey undressed and passed on the skin to the wolf that proudly attired himself and turned around to inspect his appearance. The donkey shook his tail in appreciation and greeted ‘his honor’ the king of the beasts with a gentle bow and without unfaltering delay decided to quit in case the now wolf in lion’s skin decided to feast upon him. The rule of the game is well understood by those who are apt at the art of deception and so it was that the donkey made a hasty retreat out of the jungle, pleading god to spare him form this imposter of a lion. While the donkey was speeding away crossing the distance between the ‘lion’ and himself, he failed to notice the barbed wire fence and his hind leg got caught fiercely in it and there he lay bleeding . He groaned, and twisted and turned until finally he managed to free his ‘leg;’ he dangled his long tongue and painfully curling around, licked the wound. He lay there awhile but dreading to face his adversary finally managed to stand up on his fours and ran out of the edges of the jungle as never before in the opposite direction.
In the meanwhile, the wolf now attired in the lion’s skin crept out of his hideout and thought he would frighten his brethren with his roar and all would disperse. Moving a little ahead, he ‘roared’ but no sound came from his mouth, ah, but what happened? The pack was still there, and was staring straight into his eyes with a familiar sly grin on their faces as if saying ‘catch me if you can,’ but retreated hastily away from the new intruder’s sight. The wolf, now in lion’s hide pompously strode into the jungle, turning his head and eyes, now to the left, now to the right, while his ears stood erect to catch any sound that might come from anywhere around him.
For some time nothing happened; he remained unobserved and so he felt not all was well. He moved towards his concealed area and suddenly heard a wailing, mournful cry. He staggered wondering what could the matter be, then stealthily crept towards the place from where the wild howl was coming… there he perceived a new pack of wolves mourning his loss since they found him missing and believed the king of the jungle had fed himself upon him. Now the wolf thought it was time for him to declare himself as the NEW KING of the jungle. Therefore, just like the donkey, he opened his mouth. Oh no, he did not bray like him for He was not a donkey, yet, … before he even got a chance to proclaim himself as the new Head … the pack of wolves glared appallingly at him with horror stricken eyes bulging out of their sockets. Turning upon their tails, they scooted off hoping against hope that the ‘lion’ would not make them his prey.
The ‘wolf lion’ now thought it was time for him to roar and so he … opened his mouth. Aha, no roar rang out to cause panic amongst the pack. The new leader of the pack halted, as did the others behind him and rushed back towards him with wild, wild jaws opened wide projecting their hideous fangs ready to dig into his hide. They surrounded him; the new leader of the pack yelled viciously… ‘So you rascal of a wolf, you come here to frighten us garbed in lion’s skin?’ ‘Did you forget that your ancestors are all wolves and they can and never shall become lions?’ ‘You are bestowed to howl and so shall it be, come what may.’ ‘Stop masquerading. You wanted to roar and cause terror but the moment you opened your mouth you howled.’ ‘Join the pack or we all will drag you to hell and tear you apart.’
The ‘wolf lion’ was in fact a cowardly fellow. His character as a wolf was torn to pieces. He was now taken to be a spineless, uncouth, traitor who had cheated the pack to fulfill his greed to rule the jungle. Just then the wildest roar thundered and echoed as the king of the jungle made his presence known frightening away all the birds, monkeys , and smaller animals that sheltered into the branches of the large twining trees that was home to them. Even as the king of the jungle strode majestically forward the ‘wolf king’ fell upon his fours pleading the pack to save him. They were sorry to see that their brother wolf was shivering with his tail between his legs and so they tore open his ‘lion hide’ and challenged him to speed away as fast as he could into the jungle where they took shelter to save themselves from the sore eyes of the jungle king. Once out of sight the real king of the jungle heaved a sigh of relief. The dispute of the territory had solved itself effortlessly.
This is a fictional work of satire similar to Aesop’s Fables. Each one of us has created a false image of his/ her inner being, and so confront many challenges in life. Moral: Discard pretence. Do not humiliate yourself.
About the Author: Dr. Shobha Diwakar lives in Jabalpur, India and retired as the head of English department at C.P. Mahila Mahavidhyalaya, Jabalpur. She has published many research papers, stories, poems and essays in national, international and online journals. She contributes regularly to writerslifeline and Indian Periodical.