Folktales Wednesday: The Immoderate Lion


Hello folks, thanks for joining us today. Some time ago when I was writing my M.A project on Yoruba Folktales in the department of Communication and Language Arts at the University of Ibadan, I tried to search for stories I could use as data for my research online, I discovered that there were not many sites sharing actual Yoruba stories online. Then sometime later I got this message from Theophilus Adedokun, a postgraduate student all the way from South Africa:

Thanks for your writings especially the Yoruba short stories. Please what’s your full name as I used one of your stories for my research and I want your name to be on the reference list.

Therefore because of people like Theophilus and me who need Yoruba folktales for research and perhaps other people who are just interested in reading them for leisure or for amusement, I have decided to start a new column called Folktales Wednesday. Every Wednesday, I will be sharing free translations of some Yoruba folktales that I like, for you to read and enjoy.  To kick off the column today’s post is titled The Immoderate Lion, and it is adapted from popular  Yoruba author D. O Fagunwa’s Ogboju Ode Ninu Igbo Irunmole. I hope you enjoy it.

The Immoderate Lion

Once upon a time, a lazy Lion lived in a forest. This lazy Lion being the only Lion in that forest felt that he shouldn’t have to hunt before getting before getting his food. So one day he called a meeting of all the other animals in the forest and said to them

“I thank you all for answering my call today. it shows that all of you respect my status as your king. You all know that I am not a wicked king, though I have killed some of your friends and family members in the past. But I can assure you that it is not something I love to do. As you all know, God has given every animal its food to eat and everybody here knows that when hunger comes, everything else is secondary. Because you know that I love you all but I have to kill some of you out of necessity, I want to suggest that you all draw up a list of all the animals in the forest and one by one all the animals on the list will come to be eaten. This way every animal will know how to put his affairs in order when it is time for him to die. Also, I roar a lot when I am hungry and that scares a lot of you. if you draw up this list my roaring will stop and the forest will be better for it”

When the Lion had finished speaking, none of the animals could reply, all the other animals looked at each other in puzzlement. Then a wolf stood up. After he had greeted all the animals, he said: “I noticed that the king mentioned the kind of food eaten by each animal, which I believe is very important. However  I think if we decide to write this list that the king has spoken of, then not all the animals would have to go to the king to be eaten, personally, I don’t think even the king eats more meat than I do. I eat both wild and domestic creatures. Thus I think one-third of the animals should also come to my house to be eaten, and then the rest can go to the king’s den. It will be such a good idea that the king’s name will never perish in this forest. That is my own submission.

After the wolf had sat down, a tiger stood up and said ” What our king, the Lion has said makes plenty of sense, what the wolf has said is also very sensible. I want us to realize however that if the wolf says a third of the animals should come to his house to be eaten I can demand that half come to my house as well, because the wolf cannot kill as quickly and as efficiently as I can besides only a few animals are as attractive as I am in this forest. I kill and eat cows without any stress at all, how much more mere sheep.” The Tiger continued “my own suggestion is that every animal that holds a title in this forest should not go to the king to be eaten. Animals like myself, who is deputy to the king, the elephant who is third in command, and the wolf who is fourth in command. Everybody else has to be part of the list. I also want to suggest that the fox is chosen to write this list as he is a wise animal. Thank you very much.” The elephant trumpeted his support for the tiger’s suggestion, and all the other animals had no choice but to agree.

When the started to compile the list, he put his own name first and wrote every other animal’s name after his. According to the list, the fox was supposed to go to the lion’s den to be eaten the very next day, but he did not go. Morning turned into afternoon, the afternoon turned into the night there was still no sign of the fox.

The next day the Lion called all his four chiefs, the tiger, the elephant, and the wolf, and complained that the fox did not come when he was supposed to come to be eaten. The other animals were surprised at this and immediately summoned the fox to come and explain his disrespectful behaviour.  When the fox arrived, he said “I know that you love me so much, that is why you gave me the enviable position of being the first animal to be eaten by the king. I want you all to know that I did not mean to be cheeky at all, it was due to circumstances beyond my control.” “over there,” He pointed in the said direction “is where I live.” He continued “near my house is a huge Iroko tree, ” four animals just like you, a lion, an elephant, a tiger,  and a wolf have been terrorizing those of us who live around there. I suggest you come and help us eliminate them so that they would no longer scare us away when we come to your house to be eaten. These animals are as big as you are but they are not as strong as you are. I am sure if you come and fight them you will conquer them with ease.”

The four animals were surprised at this, and the persuasive tone in which the fox presented his statement was so convincing that they did not suspect that he was actually lying.  The four animals asked him to lead them to the other animals he talked about. The fox led them to a full deep well and pointed inside. The four animals noticed that when they bared their teeth the animals in the well (which were really just their reflections) bared their teeth too when they shook their tails the reflections did the same.  They all promptly jumped in to attack the four animals who dared to look like them and that was how they all died and peace returned to the forest.

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