Post-classical history

§ Lions have their Braves and Cowards too: Three Stalwart Specimens

[106] I have seen lions do things I never thought they could do. Yet I would never have believed that lions, like men, have among them the brave and the cowardly. Here is an example:

One day our horse-herdsman188 came to us at full gallop and said, ‘There are three lions in the thickets at Tall al-Tulul!’ So we mounted up and rode over there and what should we find but a lioness, with two lions behind it. As we reconnoitred that thicket, the lioness came out and attacked the men but then stopped. My brother Baha’ al-Dawla Munqidh (may God have mercy upon him) thrust at the lioness with his spear and killed her, snapping his spear in her body.

We returned to the thicket and one of the two lions came out at us and chased away the horses. My brother Baha’ al-Dawla and I stopped in its path as it returned from chasing off the horses. For whenever a lion leaves a place, it is sure to return to it, no doubt about it. We turned the rumps of our horses towards the lion and pointed our spears backwards in its direction, since we expected that it would make straight for us and we would then stick our spears in it and kill it. But all of a sudden it passed by us like the wind and made for one of our comrades called Sa’dallah al-Shaybani. The lion struck his horse and brought it down. I struck at it, thrusting my spear right in its middle, and it died on the spot.

We then turned back to the other lion, accompanied by about twenty men from our Armenian troops, the finest archers. Out came the other lion walking, the biggest of the lot. The Armenians kept it at bay with arrows, while I was positioned to one side of the Armenians expecting the lion to attack them and grab one of them, at which I would thrust my spear at it. But it kept walking forward. Every time an arrow would fall on it, it would roar and thrash its tail and I would say, ‘Now it’s going to attack!’ But then it would walk forward again. It carried on like this until it fell down dead.

So I observed in that lion something I would never have expected.

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