Friday Fable. Aesop’s The Lion and the Shepherd.*

Posted by jlubans on February 20, 2015

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Caption: A Roman relief. One kind shepherd, one happy lion.

“A LION, roaming through a forest, trod upon a thorn. Soon afterward he came up to a Shepherd and fawned upon him, wagging his tail as if to say, ‘I am a suppliant, and seek your aid.’ The Shepherd boldly examined the beast, discovered the thorn, and placing his paw upon his lap, pulled it out; thus relieved of his pain, the Lion returned into the forest. Some time after, the Shepherd, being imprisoned on a false accusation, was condemned "to be cast to the Lions" as the punishment for his imputed crime. But when the Lion was released from his cage, he recognized the Shepherd as the man who healed him, and instead of attacking him, approached and placed his foot upon his lap. The King, as soon as he heard the tale, ordered the Lion to be set free again in the forest, and the Shepherd to be pardoned and restored to his friends.”

One moralist has it: “When a man acts righteously, he can never be defeated by the punishments inflicted on him by his enemies.”

Maybe. I’d say this story of the good shepherd shows how kindness can pay unexpected dividends. The shepherd, selflessly, helps the lion, but he is not motivated by personal gain. He simply helps - one being helping another. While the lion does pay back, acts of kindness are not Newton’s Third Law about reciprocating actions. A reciprocated kindness is nice, but it cannot be anticipated. Our helping a parent with a pram down a subway staircase likely has no reciprocal action beyond a heartfelt thank you. Helping a man on crutches in a drenching rain cross a busy intersection is kindness; the young woman I saw doing this did so because she felt something, she knew intuitively what to do – it is our innate Golden Rule, if we let it be.

Note: This story is also known as “Androcles and the Lion” and was made into a film starring the beefy Victor Mature based on the G.B. Shaw play of that name.

*Source: AESOP’S FABLES By Aesop Translated by George Fyler Townsend (probably from this edition): “Three hundred and fifty Aesop’s fables”. Chicago, Belford, Clarke & Co., 1886.
Available at the Gutenberg Project.

If I can’t be there, my book can be, virtually. Friday’s Leading from the Middle Library: Bermuda College Library. (To find the book click on the Catalogue.)

Copyright John Lubans 2015


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