THE STORY OF THE STONE LION

Once upon a time there were two brothers whose father was dead, and who lived alone with their mother in a big house in a well-cultivated valley. Now the elder of these brothers was a smart, clever man, but was of a very selfish, cold-hearted disposition; and the younger brother was simple and kind, but rather dull. The consequence was that after the death of their father the elder brother conducted most of the business of the family himself, and entirely supported his brother and his mother; whilst the younger brother, although quite willing to do his best, was not clever enough to be of any assistance in the household. After a time the elder brother decided in his mind that he could no longer endure this state of affairs, so he one day called his young brother aside, and told him plainly that he would no longer continue to support such a lout, and that it would be better for him to go out into the world and seek his own fortune alone.

The poor boy was much grieved on hearing this decision from his brother; but he was quite unable to protest or dispute, so, having packed up his few belongings, he went to say good-bye to his mother, and told her what had occurred. The good woman was very angry when she heard the news, and she said to her son:

” Very well, if your hard-hearted brother insists on turning you out of the house, I will accompany you. I cannot consent to remain any longer with such an unnatural and cruel son.”

So next day the mother and her younger son left the house and set off together to seek some means of livelihood on their own account. After travelling for some -little distance they reached an empty hut situated at the foot of a large hill, not far from a populous town; and finding that the place was apparently deserted and that the owner, whoever he was, had left nothing to show that he proposed to return, they took possession of the hut, and slept there during the night. Next morning early the boy, taking an axe with him, went out on to the hillside and began chopping wood. By evening he had chopped a fine big bundle of wood, and taking it down into the town he sold it in the market for a good sum of money. Greatly elated at the success of his labours he returned to his mother in the hut, and showing her the money he had earned, he told her that she need no longer have any anxiety regarding the future, for he would now be able to support her without any difficulty. Next morning, shouldering his axe, he started off again, and as before, began to chop wood. He had done a good morning’s work, and was walking a little further up the hill in order to search for some better timber, when, in a sheltered part of the hill side he suddenly found himself face to face with a large life-sized Lion carved out of the stone.

” Now,” thought he to himself, on seeing the Lion, ” this, no doubt, is the guardian deity of this mountain, and to him must be due my good fortune in so easily obtaining a means of livelihood. I will certainly make him some offering to-morrow.”

So that evening, after selling his wood, he purchased two candles in the town, and on the following day he went straight to where the stone Lion stood, and lighting the candles, he placed one upon each side of the image, and prostrating himself humbly upon the ground before it, he prayed for renewed good fortune. Suddenly, to his surprise and alarm, the Lion opened its mouth, and asked him what he was doing there. The young man replied that having been driven from his home, by his proud and hard-hearted brother, he was now engaged in earning his livelihood by chopping wood upon that hill ; and that, thinking that the Lion must be the guardian deity of the mountain, he had considered it right to make him some sort of an offering, and to request his continued patronage and assistance.

” Very good,” replied the Lion in a guttural tone of voice, ” come again at this time to-morrow, and bring with you a large bucket, and I will furnish you at once with what wealth you require.”

The boy thanked the Lion for his kindness, and carrying his load of firewood down to the village he sold it for a good price, and with the proceeds he purchased himself a large wooden bucket. Next morning he went up onto the hill again, carrying his bucket, and arriving near the stone Lion, he again prostrated himself upon the ground and announced his presence.

“Very good,” replied the Lion, “you must now act as follows : hold the bucket under my mouth, and I will vomit gold into it. But as soon as the bucket is nearly full you must tell me, as on no account must a single morsel of gold fall to the ground.”

The young man proceeded to do as the Lion had instructed him. He held the bucket below the Lion’s mouth, and the Lion forthwith began to vomit into it a stream of gold pieces. When the bucket was nearly full the young man informed the Lion of the fact, and forthwith the stream of gold came to an end ; and the youth, having thanked the Lion most heartily for his munificent gift, carried off his bucket of gold in triumph to his mother. The poor woman was at first quite frightened at seeing so much wealth, but her son, having explained to her how he had come by it, she became greatly excited, and pleased. Next day the widow and her son set about placing themselves in more comfortable circumstances. They purchased a large farm-house in the neighbourhood, and a large stock of cattle and sheep, and settled down in their new abode, and henceforward they began to live in a very comfortable and prosperous manner.

The news of the changed condition of life of his mother and younger brother soon reached the ears of the eldest son, and overcome with curiosity as to how this result had been brought about, he decided to call upon them, and to ascertain the cause of their prosperity. So, accompanied by his wife, and carrying with him a very small piece of cloth as a present, he set out to pay them a visit. When he reached the house his younger brother was away engaged upon his farm business, but the mother received her elder son and his wife very kindly and made them as comfortable as she could. In the evening, when the younger brother returned, he greeted his brother heartily, and being of a most kind-hearted and forgiving disposition, he related to him fully the manner in which he had come by his wealth, and strongly recommended his brother to act in a similar way.

The elder brother and his wife, as they returned home together that evening, talked the matter over between them, and decided that so good an opportunity of making money so easily was not to be lost. So next day the husband proceeded to the town, and after a prolonged search purchased the largest bucket which was to be had in the whole place. Carrying this with him, and bringing also a couple of candles, he proceeded to the hillside, and following the directions he had received from his brother, he soon found himself face to face with the stone Lion. He at once lighted his candles and placed them one on each side of the Lion, while he prostrated himself upon the ground, and prayed to the Lion for good fortune.

” Who are you ? ” said the Lion in a gruff voice; ” and what do you want ?”

” I,” replied the elder brother, ” am the brother of the young man who was here the other day, and to whom you gave so much gold ; and, following his advice, I have now come to ask you for a similar benefit for myself.”

” Very well,” said the Lion, ” place your bucket under my mouth and I will vomit gold into it ; but as soon as the bucket is nearly full you must inform me of the fact, as on no account must a single piece of gold fall to the ground. If this should happen, you will meet with misfortune.”

So the elder brother, trembling with eagerness, held his bucket as directed, and forthwith a stream of gold pieces began to pour from the Lion’s mouth into the bucket. The covetous fellow shook the bucket slightly from time to time in order to make the gold lie well together and so to obtain a larger quantity ; and, overcome by greed, he could not bring himself to inform the Lion that the bucket was nearly full until it brimmed over and a piece of gold, slipping off the heap, fell to the ground. As it touched the ground the stream of gold suddenly ceased, and the Lion, in a hoarse voice, said :

” The largest piece of gold of all has stuck in my throat. Put your hand into my mouth and pull it out.”

The elder brother, on hearing this, immediately thrust his hand into the Lion’s mouth, hoping to secure a large lump of gold; and no sooner had he done so than the Lion, closing his jaws, held him fast. It was in vain that he struggled and wrenched his arm to and fro, endeavouring to release it ; the stone jaws of the Lion gripped him so tight that he was totally unable to effect his escape, and the Lion, deaf to all prayers and entreaties, had relapsed apparently into an insensible figure of stone. And worst of all, when he glanced at his bucket of gold he saw, to his horror, that instead of gold it held nothing but stones and earth. Towards evening the elder brother’s wife grew anxious concerning her husband’s absence, and knowing the direction in which he had gone, she set forth to the hillside to seek him. After hunting for some time she suddenly came across him, and asked him what he was doing and why he did not come home.

” Oh, wife,” said he, “a terrible thing has happened to me. I put my hand into the Lion’s mouth in order to extract a lump of gold which was stuck in his throat, when all of a sudden he closed his jaws, and gripped my arm, and now I am unable to effect my escape.”

The poor woman, on hearing this, wept and wailed, but all her entreaties to the Lion proved of no avail, and she went off to her home, and soon returned carrying her husband some food. Every day, for many days after, she returned to her husband, bringing him such provisions as he required to keep him alive ; but as she had now no one to work for her, and was obliged to support her husband and her child entirely by her own exertions, she became gradually poorer and poorer, and was soon obliged to sell her household goods to procure the necessary food.

Some months passed away and the poor woman, falling ill, was at length reduced to such complete destitution that she had not even a morsel of bread to bring to her husband, and one morning she came weeping up the hill, and addressed him as follows :

” I have sold everything in the house, and have now no money to buy any food. There is not a scrap left to eat anywhere, and now nothing remains but for us to starve to death.”

On hearing this the Lion was so tickled that he could not refrain from laughing.

” Ha, ha !” said he, and opened his great jaws.

As quickly as he could, and before the Lion had time to close his mouth again, the man withdrew his arm, and, finding himself free, he at once hastened down the hill with his wife. Then, taking their child with them, they proceeded straight to the house of the younger brother, and having related to him the whole of their story, begged some relief from their misery. The young man reproached his brother for his greedy conduct in trying to obtain an extra supply of gold from the Lion in spite of his warning ; but being of a very forgiving nature, he consented at last to supply his brother with a sum of money sufficient for him to take a small farm in the neighbourhood. Here the proud brother and his wife settled down in very humble circumstances, whilst the younger son lived for many years very happily with his mother and prospered exceedingly in all he undertook.

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