A children’s story from one of our favourite English magazines; Storytime.
In Ancient Rome there was once a young slave called Androcles who served a cruel master. His master was so unkind to him that Androcles decided to escape.
At that time, masters owned their slaves, so running away was a serious crime – there were even slave-catchers who hunted runaway slaves. The poor slave was so miserable he thought, “I’d rather take my chances in the forest than be bullied and beaten here.”
One morning, when his master had left their villa, Androcles fled to the forest where he hid in dense undergrowth and slept huddled against fallen tree trunks. It felt good to be free, but Androcles soon became hungry. He didn’t know which berries and mushrooms were safe to eat and he felt himself growing weak. One cold evening, famished and exhausted, he crawled inside a cave to sleep.
In the middle of the night, a thunderous roar disturbed his dreams. Androcles was startled to find a great hulking lion stalking towards him. he had fallen asleep in a lion’s den! He leapt to his feet to look for a weapon, but the lion surprised him by slumping to the ground. It let out an agonised growl and licked its paw.
Androcles spotted a large thorn sticking out of the soft flesh below the lion’s claws. The lion whined and looked at Androcles sorrowfully.
“You’re in pain, poor lion. If I help you now, perhaps you will spare my life.”
Androcles carefully ventured towards the lion. As he knelt by the lion’s paw, his hands began to tremble. He steadied himself and tugged the thorn hard. The lion groaned, but in one swift move, the thorn came out.
Androcles tore off the end of his tunic and made a bandage around the lion’s paw. The lion purred softly, then Androcles and the lion fell asleep side by side.
That was the beginning of an unusual but wonderful friendship. From that day,
the loyal lion didn’t leave Androcles’ side. It even shared its food with Androcles.
Meanwhile, Androcles nursed the lion’s paw back to full health.
One day, while the lion was hunting, Androcles went to fetch some water.
Suddenly, slave-catchers crashed through the bushes and arrested him. They dragged him to Rome, where his master decreed that Androcles should face the most frightening punishment of all – fighting a wild animal in an arena, just like the gladiators did.
Androcles was imprisoned for several weeks until, one morning, the guards came for him. “I hope you’re feeling brave today, slave,” said one. “I hear the beast you’re about to fight hasn’t eaten for some time. The emperor is looking forward to his entertainment.”
Androcles felt weak at the knees. He knew he was about to face his doom. As he stepped into the huge arena, the crowd roared with excitement, but the noise was nothing compared to the deafening roars of the beast he
was about to face.
The guards opened a cage on the far side of the arena and a majestic lion leapt out, snarling with rage. It raced towards Androcles, who readied his sword but as the lion got closer, he realised this was no enemy at all. “It’s you, my old friend!” he cried.
The lion stopped in its tracks, then it nuzzled Androcles playfully and licked him. Androcles threw his arms around the lion’s mane. “I’m so glad to see you again,” he said joyfully.
The crowd sat in stunned silence – they had never seen a man tame a lion before. “Free the slave!” cried someone, and the emperor was so intrigued, he asked Androcles to come forward and speak.
“Why didn’t this lion attack you?”
asked the puzzled emperor.
“Because we know each other,” said Androcles, and he explained how he had helped the lion when it had been injured.
The emperor was so impressed, he decided to pardon Androcles for running away from his master and he set him free, along with the lion.
Afterwards, Androcles and the friendly lion were often seen walking through the streets of Rome – and wherever they went, they were showered with money, food and gifts.