When the Lion fought the Rat!
Long ago in a human town, pit fights were held that pitted one animal against another animal. Everyone gathered to watch these matches, to cheer–and make money betting on–the winners. The losers were soon forgotten. Usually the matches were fair, such as a lion against a tiger or a wolf against a dog. But one night, someone made a mistake, and out came two unlikely contestants: a rat and a lion.
The audience grabbed their sides and laughed at the craziness of the pairing. Yet nobody moved to stop the battle. Once the animals were released, the fights did not end until one was dead. That was the rule. While the humans chortled, the lion smiled. “I thought I would have to fight tonight, but it seems I’ll just be getting a snack.” It flexed its powerful muscles and showed its great fangs. “Though I don’t usually eat rats. You creatures so often carry diseases.” The rat lifted his chin, whiskers bristling. “I am not diseased, but if you want to eat me, you must fight me first.” “Don’t be foolish. I’m bigger, stronger, faster, and my claws are as long as your whole body. What will you do? Bite my toe? Why don’t you just come over here and lie down. I’ll make your death swift.” “I will not give up that easily.” With that said, the rat charged.
The fight was predictable. The rat’s teeth could not even pierce the lion’s thick fur to reach flesh. The lion laughed and swatted the tiny creature. It flew several yards and hit the wall. The audience cheered and chanted: “Eat the rat, eat the rat!” Though obviously injured, the rat limped back and attacked anew. This time he got in and bit the soft skin between his opponent’s toes. The lion screeched, jerked back his paw, and struck. Again the rat flew far and landed hard. Yet again, he came back to the lion. The lion dropped a paw and pinned the rat to the ground. Still the rat struggled, thrashing and trying to escape. By now, the audience had stopped laughing and jeering. Everyone watched silently to see what would happen next. The rat tried to bite the lion again, but its small teeth did no damage.
The lion did not release his pinned opponent. He could easily eat the little creature now, but he hesitated. “Why will you not give up?” the lion asked as the rat continued to struggle. “Don’t you understand? You can never win.” “You don’t think I know that? Of course I can’t win.” The lion twitched a furry ear. “Then why fight? Why make it harder on yourself?” “To show everyone I am more than they think. When people see rats, they see vermin that sneak around and hide in the shadows. They think we carry disease. They go out of their way to put us down, to destroy us. But when they see you, it’s a different story. They respect your power. They think you’re noble. They call you the king of the jungle, for crying out loud!” That speech weakened the rat, and its struggles slowed down.
Blood seeped into the ground, draining from the rat’s body, and the lion realized his opponent’s wounds were mortal. “Some of us are born to better lots in life,” the lion said apologetically. “I’m sorry but that’s simply how it is.” “It’s worth fighting to change your lot,” the rat whispered. “To change the way people think about you.” The lion lifted his paw. It seemed a shame to eat this rat. It had put up such a good fight, and he’d even call it noble, though its beliefs were surely misguided. “Look, I’m not going to eat you, but you didn’t accomplish anything.”
The lion gazed up at all the people watching from above. “They’ll forget you by tomorrow. You’ll never change anybody’s mind about rats.” The rat wheezed and drew in its last breath.”I changed yours, didn’t I?”
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