The Jackal and the Lion’s Share

The days were growing shorter, the weather cooler, and all the animals of the veldt knew they needed to begin to prepare for winter. One day the lion and the jackal happened to meet each other, and as they talked, they came to a conclusion: They would share the burden of hunting for winter.

The lion was stronger and faster, and a better hunter, but the jackal was a clever fellow, and so it was he who suggested the plan. "You do the hunting, lion," the jackal said, "and I shall transport the game to my den. I'll prepare the meat and divide the spoils."

The lion agreed to the plan. He set off to hunt, and each day for one long month he caught and killed several animals. When he had done his duty, he called to the jackal that came to carry the meat home to prepare.

The long month was a great success. At month's end the lion returned home to see his family. He looked forward to some restful time together, and he was confident his wife would be pleased with all his hard work.

To his dismay, when he reached home, he discovered his wife and his young cubs were nearly starving to death. "What happened?" he cried. "Didn't the jackal bring you my share of our hunt?"

The lion's wife shook her mangy head. "He brought us barely enough to keep us alive. He told us you had failed in your hunt."

The lion roared with fury, and he set off at once to find the jackal. When he reached the jackal's den, he found only the jackal's children sitting around a fire. They were sleek and fat and happy. Clearly they had eaten well.

"Where are you parents?" the lion roared.

"We do not know," the children trembled at the sound of that roar.

The lion was furious. He stared at the children. "I will find your father, and your mother, too. And they shall die! If you see them first, you may tell them so!"

"We shall," the jackal children whispered. "We promise we will give them the news, but please don't harm us."

The lion stormed out of the den, in search of the jackal.

The jackal had been ready for this. He and his wife had prepared by removing all their belongings and carrying them to the very top of the highest cliff they could find. The top of the cliff was reachable only by climbing a steep, difficult, twisting path. Only creatures as sure-footed and fast as the jackals could make their way along such a treacherous trail.

The lion, striding through the veldt, suddenly heard a shout, and when he looked up, he saw the jackal standing upon the krantz -- the cliff. "Well, Uncle, helloooooo," the jackal shouted. "How are you this fine morning?"

"How dare you call me Uncle!" the lion roared. "You are a thief and a liar and a cheat!" His voice thundered across the miles, echoing in the valleys. "You have nearly destroyed my family, and you will suffer!"

"Oh, Uncle, please, let me explain," the jackal howled. "It was my wife. She is a beast! It was she who stole your share of our game. I can promise you this, Uncle: She will pay dearly for this!"

With that he began to beat a stick upon a rock, and the echo sounded as if he were striking hide. As he hit the rock, his wife screamed to make it sound as if the stick struck her.

Well, the lion could not stand the awful sound and immediately cried, "Stop, stop it now!"

The jackal stopped pounding the rock. "Why don't you come up here and join me for a meal? You must be terribly hungry," the jackal cried. "All because of my wife's thieving ways!"

"I will indeed," said the lion. He began to climb towards the krantz, but the trail was too rough for him. After much effort, he called, "I cannot make it up this trail! You'll have to come down."

The jackal was always two steps ahead of the lion. He said, "I have a better idea. I'll lower a rope and carry you up here to join me in a feast. Everything is ready for you."

"Very well," said the lion.

The jackal lowered a rope, and the lion wrapped it tightly around his body. The jackal began to haul him up the side of the mountain, but the rope had a slash in its middle -- thanks to the jackal's plan -- and when he was halfway up, the rope broke. The lion crashed to the ground, landing with a thud.

After he recovered his senses, the jackal called out sympathetically, "You poor fellow. Again, this is my wife's fault." And once again he began to hit the rock, and his wife faked a long wail.

"Stop, don't hurt her!" the lion begged. "Surely there's some way I can eat some of your food and take some back to my family."

"There is, indeed!" said the jackal. "I shall drop a nice, fat eland haunch I have just cooked right into your mouth. And after that I shall drop more food for you to take home to your family."

"Marvelous," said the lion. "That is a perfect plan." He opened his mouth and tilted his head up toward the top of the krantz.

But the jackal had prepared a hot stone. He wrapped this inside a ball of fat and shouted, "Open wide," as he hurled it over the cliff.

Right into the lion's mouth that hot stone dropped. And when that hot stone reached the lion's stomach, he got a terrible tummy ache.

No one knows exactly what happened to him, but the jackal never saw him again. The lion and the jackal have been enemies ever since the day the jackal stole the lion's share.

Place of Origin: Southern Africa, Source: Retold by Amy Friedman and Meredith Johnson