There is no bravery that compares to that of a lion.
You know this intuitively if you ever meet one. From the long golden mane that billows like an imperial cloak, the deep eyes that seem to take in their surrounding’s with a sense of ownership and the indiscernible tilt to the head as if adorned by a regal crown. But there is one lion that is the bravest of them all. The lion of the Wilde Fare Forest. He had an air about him. The way he moved shore footedly across the forest carpet with a sense of grandeur and royalty reminded one of a king.
The creatures of the forest, a small haven unbeknownst to man, knew that they could always count on the lion to protect them from harm. One soft growl was enough to send the bravest hearts and spirits into a tremulous stupor, their valour quivering and their postures shifting into drooping flower limbs as they stumbled back in gasps of alarm. When troops would arrive at the gate of their enchanted woodland dwelling, the lion’s roar was enough to throw them in disarray. It was the sound of a fevered, wild mantra. A sound as deafening as a gong in one’s ears.
But one day the lion vanished without a trace. The forest animals were soon filled with a quivering trepidation as every forestry shadow, every moving tree branch surrounded them like tremulous snipers. When new troops arrived, hacking away at the lovely shoulders of trees the animals had no one to shield them. The gentle woodland creatures searched every secretive crevice in the forest’s arms for the lion but to no avail. Great panthers hurried through the tall grasses of meadows where the sunshine fell with romantic affection. The meretricious beauty of butterflies attending to thickets of wild flowers was interrupted by inquisitive bees. Fish roamed bubbling brooks that hummed softly to themselves and great eagles soared above the forest roof where spring trembled on the verge of summer. But not even a paw in the murky grounds hinted of the lion’s whereabouts.
One night, a small, soft rabbit, with brindle coloured fur and a curious twitch to the nose, was wondering under the star painted twilight when he came upon an astonishing sight. A patch were the limbs of forest trees gave way to the frail edges of a colossal lake. Moonlight beat a soft staircase down on the ground below, casting everything under its fingertips in a glistening, ethereal glow. In its centre, the rabbit saw a great hulking specimen. There, leaning over the water’s circumference was the lion. Yet, as he gazed at the rippling reflection beneath, he saw a small, gentle lamb starring back at him and not the mighty king of the forest.
The rabbit’s eyes opened wide in exquisite wonder for the lion looked very different. He had become transfigured by a deep disgrace. The lingering devils of anxiety had marred his lovely hair so that it had fallen misshapenly in places and the roar for which he had been wildly adored for had snuffed out like a shy fire’s breath. The rabbit understood naturally that it was not the lion that had disappeared but the lion’s courage. The terrible thing about losing one’s nerve is that it takes courage to get it back.
The rabbit approached the hulking beast who appraised him with startled eyes.
“Who goes there?” The Lion murmured in an ancient wizened voice that echoed throughout the forest like the soft beginnings of thunder. The rabbit did not recoil. He knew that if the forest were to be saved the lion needed to find his courage once more.
“It is I, a small forest rabbit from the burrows.”
“And what is it that you wish to tell me.”
“I wish to tell you that I have a way for you to find your courage.”
“You do? How so?”
“Meet me tomorrow at the highest Summit of the forest when the sun reaches the top of the sky and I will give you your courage.”
The rabbit was so gentle and earnest that the lion felt himself moved by the creatures fighting spirit. He had an extraordinary influence over him. He gazed at the tiny creature for a long moment before he uttered “Very well young one.”
The next morning the lion climbed up to the summit. The process was filled with uneasiness, his body migrating restlessly as each conscientious hour lingered, almost mimicking the weight of years. When he finally reached the top, he gazed out at the forest floor below. There, peering up at him was all the forest’s inhabitants. Swift footed dears, speckled jaguars, foxes with tails vibrantly tipped in red, woodpeckers with freshly sharpened beaks and poison dart frogs leaping in the air. Even the sleepy bears had awoken and lumbered out from their caves of solitude. And there, standing at the very front row was the tiny forest rabbit, it’s noise twitching in earnest excitement.
The lion stared back at them in wonder and mad curiosity. Why had they all gathered there?
As if in answer, one by one, the forest creatures threw back their heads and roared. The sound of the forest alive and calling casted a fantastic melody across the land. Nothing could describe the wonder and fascination it evoked. For it was no song of war but one of courage and camaraderie.
The lion finally understood the significance of their presence. No longer would he have to brave the troops alone, protecting the innocent forest dwellers in his mighty shadow. Now they would run beside him. It was an irrevocable vow. A vow that he was no longer alone in this battle. Rose coloured joy filled the lion’s heart and seeped their miracle into his eyes. The lion stood forward so that his shadow magnificently elongated itself across the world, threw back his golden mane and roared.