Post-classical history

§ A Cowardly Lion

I later witnessed something even more marvellous than that in another lion. In the city of Damascus, there was a lion cub that a lion-keeper raised until it became full-grown and began chasing [107] horses and thereby caused damage to some people. The amir Mu’in al-Din (may God have mercy upon him) was told while I was in his presence, ‘This lion has caused damage to people. The horses bolt away from it when it is in the road.’

The lion used to spend day and night on a bench near the residence of Mu’in al-Din. So Mu’in al-Din said, ‘Tell the lion-keeper to bring it here.’

He then said to the table-master,189 ‘Bring out a sheep from the animals to be slaughtered for the kitchen and leave it in the inner courtyard so we can see how the lion destroys it.’

And so he brought a sheep out to the courtyard. Then the lion-keeper entered with the lion accompanying him. The moment the sheep saw the lion – the lion-keeper having released it from the chain that was around its neck – it charged the lion and butted at it. The lion fled and took to circling the pool,190while the sheep was behind it chasing it and butting at it. We were overcome with laughter. The amir Mu’in al-Din said, ‘This is an ill-omened lion! Take it away, slaughter it, flay it and bring me its hide.’

And so they slew the lion and flayed it. As for the sheep, it was granted a full pardon191 from being slaughtered.

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