The Crow and the Lion

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Fat CrowOnce upon a time, a crafty, old crow was sitting in his nest while his dole of pet doves brought him his breakfast. He happened to look down to the forest floor and saw a convocation of animals had been called. The animals gathered in front of their leader, a wise old lion.

I don’t like lions, said the crow to himself. They’re too full of themselves. The animals like them too much. The lion shouldn’t be king of the beasts. I should be.

So he called his doves to his side. “I am far more experienced, wiser, and smarter and better looking than any lion,” the crow told the doves. “You must confront the lion. You must tell the lion to step down so I can be king of beasts.”

“But how can we do that?” asked the leader of the doves. “The lion is big and strong and has many teeth that could bite us. The lion could eat us.”

“The lion won’t dare eat you in front of all the other animals,” said the crow. “The lion respects the rules.”

So the leader of the doves flew down to the forest floor and stood before the lion. “Old lion,” the dove said. “You must relinquish your crown. The crow wishes to be king of beasts.”

And the lion laughed. “Does he? Well, tell your master I was voted into this office by all the other animals in the forest. If he wishes to be king, he has to run in an election against me. Now fly away little one.”

And the dove flew back while the other animals chuckled at his presumption.

“Wah, wah, wah,” the dove cried to the crow. “The lion laughed at me. He hurt my feelings. He made me look silly in front of the other animals. Wah, wah, wah.”

“Now, now,” said the crow, patting the dove on his head. “You’re a big, strong dove and you don’t need to take such disrespect from the mean old lion. Nasty, nasty lion. Hurting my little dovie-wovie’s feelings.”

“What can we do?” asked the dove, wiping his tears with a wing.

“You must convince the other animals to depose the lion and make me king of beasts,” the crow told the dove. “If we can’t get rid of the lion now, you must convince them to vote for me at the next election. But you can’t tell the lion you’re doing this. You have to go behind his back. Work in the shadows. Talk to the other animals in secret. Gossip. Rumour. Spread lies. Make the other animals hate the lion.”

“But is that honourable?” asked the dove. “Isn’t that sneaky and underhanded? Is that proper procedure?”

“Tsk, tsk, my little dovie-poo,” said the crow. “You have not learned how to be a grown up yet, have you? This is how mature doves behave: they do what they are told by wise and experienced crows. They don’t worry about things like honesty or openness or procedure. Leave me to worry about it.”

So the dove flew down to the forest and started talking with the other animals, out of sight of the lion. It told them the lion was weak, was corrupt, was incompetent. It said the lion wore false teeth and had mange. It said the crow would be a much better ruler than the lion.

It made sure it told the rat and the weasel, too, because the dove knew they would spread the stories far and fast underground, and make up more to go along with it. Soon the animals were buzzing with the stories.

And the lion heard them too. It approached the dove and said, “Dove, you have been trying to undermine my rule behind my back. You have spread lies and rumours about me. You have made it difficult for me to rule the kingdom because some of the animals no longer trust me. That was not an honourable thing to do. It was not open and transparent like the animals expect us to behave. You did not show respect to the office.”

And the dove flew back to the crow. “Wah, wah, wah,” it cried. “The lion hurt my feelings again. It said I wasn’t honourable. The other animals smirked at me. Wah, wah, wah.”

“Well then,” said the crow, “you need to fly right down there and demand an apology.”

“But I’m so small. The lions could eat me.”

“Nonsense. The lion won’t eat you because it plays by the rules. The lion is a stickler for proper process and transparency. Just puff our your chest and fluff your feathers so you look bigger and more important than you really are.”

So the dove flew down to the forest floor again and it puffed out its chest and fluffed up its feathers and paraded in front of the lion.

“Lion'” it said, “I demand an apology. You have challenged my integrity. I demand you step down and leave the forest. There is no place in the parliament of animals for a mangy old lion that does not treat others with respect.”

And the dove turned to the little beaver who kept the records of the animals’ meeting. “Beaver, tell me, is it proper procedure for the lion to insult another animals?”

And the beaver meekly said no. So the dove turned back to the lion and cried, “See? the beaver agrees. I have been insulted. My feelings were hurt. My integrity was challenged. I demand an apology.”

And the lion, seeing the other animals had been turned against him, growled, but apologized to the dove and, accepting the precedence of rules, retired back into the forest.

Meanwhile, the puffed-up dove paraded up and down in front of the other animals, fluffing its feathers for all to see. “Look at me! Look at me!” he cooed. “Aren’t I good? Aren’t I good?”

And from that day forward, doves have cooed “good, gooooood” in echo of their leader’s words.

The old crow looked down from his nest and smiled. “That’s my boy,” he said. “Taught him everything he knows.”

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