The Monkey, the Baboon and the Lion
Narrated by Abebe Kebede
Once upon a time there lived a lion, a baboon and a monkey in the same house. They lived happily together and they shared the work. The lion obviously was lord of the house. He was the master and he did the guarding of the house; he went out and he did the hunting and he took care of the general matters like a master of the house would. The baboon on the other hand was the housekeeper; he was responsible for cleaning the house and the like. The monkey however, was the gardener; he used to work outside the house and look after the crops and climb on trees and do all the errands outside the house.
So the lion and the baboon and the monkey had just one cow, and each one used to look after the cow. It was the monkey who was the shepherd of the cow and would take her out into the fields and make sure that she grazed well. It was the baboon who would look after the cow in the house and tie her up and the like, and it was the lion who used to milk the cow.
Now for meals, because the monkey was so agile and fast, the monkey used to serve the lion while he sat at the table.
Now one day the monkey went up to the lion and said, “Dear Sir, I am suspicious about something.”
“Well, what is it?” the lion said.
“You see, you milk the cow and when I serve the milk the next day, it seems to me that there is less milk than the amount that you milked.”
“Really,” said the lion. “Well what do you think is happening to the milk?”
“Well, you see, Sir,” the monkey said, “I think when you are out in the jungle hunting, and I am outside looking after the crops, I think that the baboon must be drinking up some of the milk.”
“That ugly baboon! I wouldn’t be surprised. I should punish him,” the lion roared.
And he called in the baboon. “Listen baboon, what do you have to say?"
“About what, Sir?” the baboon said.
“Well, I milk the cow in the evening, and in the day time when I look at the milk, it seems less than what I originally milked.”
“Well, I know nothing about it,” the baboon said. “But maybe, just maybe when I go to fetch water from the river for my cooking, then maybe the monkey comes in and drinks some.”
“You dirty ugly rascal!” the lion said. “You are drinking up the milk and you are blaming the poor monkey, so I am going to punish you. As lord and master of this house I should punish my servants.”
And he took the baboon outside and tied him to a tree trunk and said, “As a punishment, you will have to be tied to this tree trunk.”
So the poor baboon was tied to the tree and had to suffer the hot blistering sun, and he felt so hot and so miserable and so angry at the monkey, who he knew was behind this mischief. So the hot sun burned him, then when night came it started becoming cold, and he started shivering and shaking and the heat of the day and cold of the night was a real punishment for the baboon, and he was shivering and shivering in the dark night, when suddenly out of the dark night came a hyena.
“Hi baboon, what are you doing?”
“Oh I’ve been punished, it’s terrible!” said the baboon. “I’ve had to suffer the heat of the day, and now I’m shivering in the cold of the night.”
“Really, and what did you do wrong?” the hyena said.
“Well actually I didn’t do anything wrong.”
“Then your lord wouldn’t punish you if you hadn’t done anything wrong.” the hyena said.
“No I didn’t. You know our lord and master he is so kind and so generous he wanted me to eat a lot, but I couldn’t.”
“You are being punished because you couldn’t eat?” the hyena said.
“Yes, I couldn’t eat enough, my stomach is not big enough,” the baboon muttered.
“Why, how foolish, you should have eaten,” the hyena said.
“No, no I just can’t eat any more,” the baboon answered.
“Well,” said the hyena, “in that case, if you want I could take your place, and eat whatever you want for you.”
Because as everybody knows, the hyena is greedy.
So he freed the baboon and tied himself up over there. So when the morning came, the lion decided that the baboon had been punished enough and he came out to free him. But instead of the baboon, he saw the hyena.
“Well, what are you doing here?” he said.
“Well, I’ve come here to eat and drink,” the hyena responded.
“Well, the baboon said that he was being punished because he would not eat and drink so I’ve come to take his place.”
“And you took the baboon’s place?” the lion said.
“Yes,” replied the hyena.
“No, I don’t think that’s the truth. I think that you have come to eat and drink, yes. But you want to eat and drink my cow. How dare you!” the lion said and he killed the hyena.
So the baboon moved into the house and the baboon was very servile and he wanted to get back in his master’s good books. So he would take extra good care of him and be very responsible and do a lot of things, so that he would be back in his master’s good books.
So after some time the baboon wanted his revenge on the monkey. And he said, “Dear master, you are very, very handsome and very, very strong, and what I think you should do, is that you should have a pair of leather shoes.”
“Shoes for me?” said the lion.
“Yes, you are the greatest of lords. Therefore you should have a pair of shoes," the baboon said.
“Well that’s a very good idea. I’ll think about it,” said the lion.
And all this time, even though the monkey was out of the house, she knew exactly what the baboon was up to.
So when the lion went out to ask the monkey her opinion, she said, “My lord, I have been looking at that lion across the other side of the veld, and he’s a huge lion, and he had on beautiful shoes. Obviously he is not as strong or as big as you, but he had on beautiful shoes, which I think you should also get made.”
“Really,” said the lion. “What sort of shoes did he have on?”
She said, “Well the leather he had on was one of the best, and that’s made from the leather of the baboon.”
“Is that so?” he said.
“Yes it is. In fact I think I could sew up the shoes myself,” she said.
“Well in that case we have got our baboon over here and we could kill him and use his leather,” the lion said.
“That’s a good idea,” said the monkey.
So he went and he killed the baboon and the monkey skinned the baboon and he said, “OK, now come and make me shoes.”
But the monkey said, “Oh no, the leather has to be refined. I’ve got to first work it over, take it to the river, dip it in water, make it nice and soft, and only then can I make you a good pair of shoes.”
So the monkey took the baboon’s hide and went down to the river. At the river he found a very deep part of the river, and he threw the baboon’s leather down into that deep part. Then he went over to a more shallow part and he soaked himself completely, and he went running back to the lion, gasping and out of breath.
“Your Majesty, Your Majesty,” the monkey said.
“Yes, what is it?”
“It’s a disaster!”
“Well, what is it?” said the lion, “And you’ve become completely wet. What happened?”
“Well, I never thought, I never thought that there could be anybody bigger and stronger than you. There could be no lion bigger and stronger than you.”
“So, is there one?” said the lion.
“Yes, in fact he caught me at the river, and he took away the leather of the baboon.”
The lion was furious. He really didn’t know what to do. He decided to go and attack the lion and bring back the leather. So the lion rushed down to the river with the monkey but he couldn’t see any lion around. And he looked and he looked and the monkey went down and he looked at a dark, crystal clear pool, which had very clean water, and he said to the lion, “Look your majesty, there is the lion I was talking about.”
And the lion looked down to the clear pool of water and in it he saw a reflection of himself. He ruffled up his mane and jumped into the water, trying to attack the other lion, and the lion died.
So the monkey went back home, and started living in the house with the cow. This shows that smart people can survive, even though they are less strong than others.