The Lion & The Swallow
by Chris Hibbard
Published Sept, 18, 2015
The lion, King of Beasts, was admired by all the other animals because of his strength, speed, ferocity and courage.
The lion’s strength was legendary. His legs were as strong as steel springs and could propel him the length of an elephant in a single leap.
He could kill a man with the swipe of his gigantic paw.
His jaws were such that they could tear sinew and crush bone as easily as the elegant giraffe could daintily nibble the tenderest of leaves, those only on the highest branches.
His speed could only be matched by the swiftest zebras or gazelles.
The rest were helpless against his relentless stalking and pursuit and found themselves mourning deaths of friends and family members.
These had been chosen randomly, to sate the lion’s hunger if even temporarily.
The other animals marveled at his ferocity. He killed mercilessly, without malice or regret, and the greats beasts; the rhinos and hippopotami, were as much at risk of his fury as the muskrat or field mice that lived in the grasses of the plains.
However, the lion, despite all his attributes and his status in the hierarchy of the animal kingdom, admired the swallow.
When the hunting was done and the pride had been fed, he would lay in the sunshine near the tree that stood in the clearing and watch the swallows for hours as they went about their business.
He admired their sleekness and their beauty. His eyes were fascinated by their jet-black feathers which winked green-blue at him when the sun caught them just right.
He envied their grace, as they flitted from branch to branch and spread their wings to ride the currents of air, traveling effortlessly farther in one hour than he could in a day.
He wished to be as small and agile as they were. It seemed like no place was too high, too far, or too small to deny them entry.
He would look at his large, cumbersome paws as he fell dozing in the clearing, and each time he would dream that he became black and feathered, soaring among the clouds and traveling to faraway lands.
One day, as he was lying in his usual place watching the swallows, one – paying no mind, came close to him.
He lay very still and watched her, mesmerized by her delicate bone structure; appreciating it as only one who hunted and ate such things truly could.
He froze his muscles in place and made his breathing shallow enough that it did not disturb even the tiniest blades of grass, which rested against the massive snout; a method practiced by the lion to neither alarm nor disturb potential prey.
The ploy worked, because soon she was right next to the massive killer but was either unaware or unconcerned about the beast’s lethal instinct and terrifying reputation, because she obviously felt he meant her no harm.
He was warm. His coat was filled with seeds on which she could feed, and she felt safe and secure near his strength, in his shade.
Feeling warm and snug, she began to sing. When the lion heard the music, it touched his heart, and he too added his own bass, melodic and even purr to her song.
Harmonizing together, the notes of their sweet song grew closer, as did they, and they soon because fast friends.
After that, the lion visited the clearing every day, spending every available moment lying in the sunshine near the tree, close to his new friend.
He would revel in her company, her delicate closeness, the way she preened his coat and the music they would make together, joined voices in splendorous harmony.
Shortly thereafter, feeling very comfortable with his little friend, the lion made a terrible mistake.
Still fascinated by the swallow’s sleek black feathers, he reached out his paw, wanting only to touch her feathers and feel her softness.
Her shrill cry of pain shattered the serenity of the clearing and pierced the lion to his very soul as he surveyed in horror the damaged, disjointed broken wing that his selfishness had caused.
He realized immediately that the pain she felt and recoiled at the thought that he had left his dear friend not only wounded and insecure in a defenseless state, but now untrusting of his strength and loyalty.
Understanding the situation the way only a true predator could, he gently nuzzle and pushed the broken swallow’s body to the bush at the base of the tree, where she could feed on its shed berries and seeds and be protected from the elements by its leafy umbrella.
He refused to leave his friend’s side, and when the jackals and other scavengers came near at the scent of a handicapped and helpless bird, he would impose himself between them. Not even a jackal would choose to chance its life for the meager swallow a swallow would provide.
However, as the days passed, the lion began to grow weak because he refused to leave the clearing and his companion, even to hunt. Soon, even the mice in the field learned to avoid the clearing, for entering it would mean certain death for themselves and an appetizer in the jaws of a king.
Eventually, the brokenhearted lion grew so weak that it was impossible for him to hunt.
The swallow tries to raise his spirits by singing to him, and he would join his purr with hers, but that too had succumbed to the paralysis of his once magnificent, now undernourished body.
She even tried to tend to her faithful friend, but the berries and the seeds she provided him were not enough to sustain. Then, one day, lying in the midday winter’s sun, the lion ceased to exist.
The sky wept at his passing that night, as the swallows, grateful for his faithfulness, sang the song reserved for their comrades who would never again ride the wind on their ebony wings.
The swallow lived her life unharmed but lonely, on the lower branches of the bush, because even jackals and foxes, who prey greedily on the helpless, understood and respected the purpose of the lion’s acts of courage and faith.
You see, courage, by definition, is an act of the heart. The lion had demonstrated the true nature of a kingly heart by his actions towards his beautiful, but helpless friend.