Friday, February 20, 2009

Lafcadio: The Lion Who Shot Back

What is a lion to do, if a hunter insists on shooting him? Lafcadio tried to be civil:
"Hi hunter," he said.
"Good heavens," cried the hunter, "a ferocious lion, a dangerous lion, a roaring, bloodthirsty man-eating lion."

Lafcadio tried to reason with him but the hunter was simply not going to sway. The hunter exclaimed, "Lions eat hunters! So I must shoot you now and make you into a nice rug and put you in front of my fireplace and on cold winter evenings I will sit on you and toast marshmalows."
"Well, my goodness, you dont have to shoot me. I will be your rug and I will lie in front of your fireplace and I won't move a muscle and you can sit on me and toast all the marshmallows you want." The young lion was a polite as can be, if only perhaps a bit too curious about the ways of the hunters and the taste of marshmallows. When reasoning failed and the hunter attempted to load his gun to shoot the lion, Lafcadio had no option but to eat him up. Circumstances made out of Lafcadio exactly what the hunter had expected him to be, even though that was not what Lafcadio had started out as at all.

Well, time passed and Lafcadio became a great shot with the hunter's gun. After wave upon wave of hunters and other humans were shot by him, a man from the circus found Lafcadio and convinced him to become part of his business. Lafcadio accepted the offer, had his fill of marshmallows and was overall extremely successful in assimilating into the human world. However, at one point he seemed to have a mid-life crisis of sorts and his friends suggested going on a hunting trip to get his mind off of things. While at the hunt, he was recognized by one of the lions, and things came to a head when the hunters and lions forced him to choose a side.

"Poor, poor Lafcadio- what do you do when you don't want to be a hunter- and you don't want to be a lion?
"Look," he said, " I don't want to shoot any lions and I certainly don't want to eat up any of you hunters. I don't want to stay here in the jungle and eat raw rabbits and I certainly don't want to go back to the city and drink buttermilk. I don't want to chase my tail, but I don't want to play bridge either. I guess I don't belong in the hunter's world, and I guess I don't belong in the lion's world. I guess I don't belong anywhere.""

This feeling of having each foot in a different boat (or to stretch the metaphor, being an octupus with each tentacle anchored in a different culture, which are as differnt from each other as the worlds of lions and hunters) definitely resonated. "Is he a lion at all?" asks the voice in the blurb- and so perhaps the mixing of species in my metaphor is also strangely apt. Shel Silverstein's Lafcadio: The Lion Who Shot Back is a children's story in the form of a modern fable that is enjoyable and thought-provoking reading for adults too. From the creator of beloved childhood poems in "Where the Sidewalk Ends," this is a must-read. The illustrations are an added bonus.

1 comment:

Sin said...

i reached your blog thru abhishek majumdar's.

wow, i started off reading that assuming it was a joke or something, but that was actually pretty insightful. thanks for sharing that.