Friday Fable. La Fontaine's “THE LION GROWN OLD”*

Posted by jlubans on September 09, 2016

Caption: Illustration from 1900 by Benjamin Rabier (1864-1939).( As you may guess from the artistic style, Hergé, of Tintin fame, was greatly influenced by Rabier).

“A lion, mourning, in his age, the wane
Of might once dreaded through his wild domain,
Was mock'd, at last, upon his throne,
By subjects of his own,
Strong through his weakness grown.
The horse his head saluted with a kick;
The wolf snapp'd at his royal hide;
The ox, too, gored him in the side;
The unhappy lion, sad and sick,
Could hardly growl, he was so weak.
In uncomplaining, stoic pride,
He waited for the hour of fate,
Until the ass approach'd his gate;
Whereat, 'This is too much,' he saith;
'I willingly would yield my breath;
But, ah! thy kick is double death!'”

Ever the contrarian, for me this is more about feckless followers than about the last days of a tyrant. Should not followers challenge and question the boss when he or she pushes a bad idea, or insinuates an unethical course, or loses sight of what is best for the business, for the client and for the worker? Do not bad followers (uncritical and subservient) enable bad leaders?
Now, the lion is what the lion is, no changing that. But, on a rare occasion a good follower can save a bad leader from himself, can guide that person back to the high road. The risk is huge. (Take a peep into any dictatorships, old and new, to see how dissent is abruptly and brutally dealt with.) Yet, if the effective follower is to remain true to herself, she has only two options: speak up or leave.

*Source: THE FABLES OF LA FONTAINE Translated From The French by Elizur Wright. [original place and date: Boston, U.S.A., 1841.] A New Edition, with Notes by J. W. M. Gibbs,1882. Available at Gutenberg.

© Copyright John Lubans 2016

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