Mary Medlicott, Storyteller and Author - Storyworks

Storytelling Starters ~ Haunted

There are many ways in which a person can be haunted. Last week’s ghost story brought a fascinating personal ghost  story from my friend Felice in New Zealand. If you look back to my Blog for last week, you’ll see it at the bottom as a Comment. This week it’s a very different kind of story that’s been haunting me.

Daniel pic

The Lion and the Man was contributed by storyteller Daniel Morden to a 1994 edition of Facts & Fiction, the storytelling magazine. I don’t remember noticing it at the time it was published. This week I came across it while sorting papers and magazines in my study. Why it’s struck me is probably because I’ve been thinking a great deal about war. The First World War, World War II, Iraq, Syria, Sudan, Crimea … war must be regarded as one of the biggest concerns of our time, one which is not to be avoided. The Lion and the Man feels like it symbolise some of the issues that lie behind it, including that very male compulsion to be seen as brave and strong and the ways in which across whole peoples old injuries and resentments can inspire new hatreds.

Here’s the story in a mixture of my own and Daniel’s words. 

The Lion and the Man

A man got lost in the jungle, became ill with fever and lay down feeling he was going to die. In his fever, he thought he saw a lion that came and looked at him and then was gone.

After a while, the lion reappeared and stood over the man. It opened its mouth and from its mouth came a trickle of water which dropped down into the mouth of the man.

The same thing happened every day after that. Soon, also, the lion began bringing fruit for the man to eat and in time, the man became strong. Eventually he found he could stand up and walk and he made his way back home to his village.

‘We thought you were dead,’ the villagers said. ‘What happened?’

The man replied that in the jungle he’d been attacked and wounded by a lion. He’d fought back and succeeded in killing the lion but it had taken him all this long time to recover.

Some months later, in the jungle, the man met the lion that had helped him. It stared at him and then told him to take his knife. ‘Now cut my head,’ said the lion. The man cut the lion’s head between its ears. Blood trickled down its forehead and dropped from its jaws. Then the lion turned and walked away.

After another few months, the lion came to the man again when he was out in the jungle. ‘What do you see?’ said the lion, telling the man to look at his head.

‘The wound on your head has healed,’ said the man. ‘Yes,’ said the lion. ‘But the wound inside will never heal.’

 Questions

The story leaves me with some questions. How did the lion know the man had lied to his fellow-villagers? Was it maybe because they’d now been out hunting lions in revenge for what the man claimed to have happened to him?

The story also leaves me with a great sense of sadness. It reflects the dread so many of us must now be feeling about the future for the Middle East as new enmities add to old ones and so many children’s lives are so horribly ruined.

What Virginia Woolf said:

A book I’d recommend on the subject of war is Three Guineas by Virginia Woolf. A late work, it was published in 1938 and I knew nothing at all about it until this week. It powerfully addresses the question, How can war be prevented? Her answer gives plenty to think about and still feels highly relevant. It is this:  ‘Educate women’.

 

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