King Lion’s Presents
King Lion invited all of the animals of the veld to a lavish party. It was to be a grand affair, with plenty of food and drink and singing.
Kudu’s wife, however, was not taken in by the invitation, saying that Lion dined too well on their family and that she did not wish to be served up for dinner at the event. The other bucks’ wives agreed and so they stayed home. Kudu and the rest of the male buck went along to the party as invited. Only Goat’s wife was curious enough to join her husband.
Leopard, Hare, Donkey, Hippo, Giraffe, Zebra, Horse and many more came to the grand event. They came from far and wide. From the bush and the open veld, to the riverways and mountains, animals from all walks were in attendance and they ate honey and drank milk and sang conversed with one another.
At the height of the festivities, Lion called all of the animals to attention.
“My animals,” the king announced, “I wish to give you all gifts, to show that I am indeed a just and good king.”
“Thank you! Oh, Thank you!” cried the animals as they all jostled forward, each hoping to get the best presents first.
“Calmly, please!” ordered Lion, “For those who grab shall get nothing at all and those who are greedy shall come last.”
The first gift to be handed out was horns. Kudu and the other male buck all agreed that they would be very handsome indeed if they were to have horns perched atop their heads, and Lion agreed. The buck were given their horns, powerful and beautiful, but their wives were to receive nothing, as they had not accepted the king’s invitation.
Elephant, jealous of the bucks’ beautiful new horns, rushed forward and grabbed, with his mouth, a pair of beautiful white horns from the pile of gifts. King Lion was not pleased and decreed that the greedy Elephant would keep the horns in his mouth.
“But I can’t breathe!” wailed Elephant.
And, with that, Lion tugged on Elephant’s nose, stretching out until it could scrape the ground and dismissed greedy Elephant.
But wait! Rhino was snuffling about in the pile of horns as well. His nose buried deep in the gifts.
“You stick your nose into everything, don’t you?” said Lion. And he set a pair of horns on Rhino’s nose.
Rhino, tempestuous as he was, looked about ready to charge King Lion with his new nose horns when Lion swiped at him, his sharp claws cutting through one of Rhino’s horns, resulting in one being shorter than the other.
“No go,” said Lion. And Rhino skulked away.
Ears were the next gift Lion had to offer. Long furry ears. None of the animals seemed to want them, so the king reach out and plopped them onto those animals who were closest to him. Hare and Donkey had no choice but to accept the gifts their king had given them, so they thanked Lion and shuffled off, their new ears sticking up from their heads.
The next gifts were beautiful patterned coats. Leopard was given a handsome spotted coat, while Zebra got stripes.
When it came to Horse and cow they had stories as to why they should have multiple coats. They worked for the farmer, you see, and should look their best at all times. So King Lion gave Horse and Cow lots of coats. Spotted, dappled, plain. They had coats for every occasion.
Giraffe was jealous and leaped forward shouting, “Hey! What about me? Cow and Horse can;t get all of the good coats.”
“How rude!” declared Lion, incensed at Giraffes audacity, “One should never assume it to be acceptable to shout at their king. You shan’t speak again.” And with that Giraffe lost his voice and never spoke again.
As a lesson to all to not test him, Lion turned back to Cow and gave her a pair of horns to match every one of her outfits.
As it was, Horse and Cow eventually grew tired of changing their coats for every occasion and instead gave the many patterns and horns to their children. That is why you see so many different coloured cows and horses.
Lion, on finishing with Cow and his lesson having been taught, turned back to Giraffe. He felt sorry for the poor beast, speechless as he now was and looking sad.
“Here,” said the King, as he passed Giraffe a handsome coat. “And here are some small horns to match. And finally, your neck will be long so that you can see your enemies from far and feed on the most delicious leaves. And long legs. Long legs so that you can run with speed and grace.”
With Giraffe done, Lion turned to the rest of the animals. There were so many of them, and things were starting to get a little chaotic that Lion stepped on the head of the Rock Lizard, turning it black and blue. And that is they way it would stay, proclaimed Lion.
Some animals were given gifts they did not want. Mole and Dassie buried the long tails they were given. As did Baboon.
Hippo got four long tusks in his mouth. Goat was given a beard, as was his wife! Anteater got his long tongue and Warthog his tusks and flicky tail.
Snake was given a pot of magical herbs that had been stolen from a witchdoctor. The greedy Snake gobbled up the whole pot in one go and became angry, his bite became poisonous and his legs were chopped off by the pther animals to stop him from pouncing on the other animals and biting them. It didn't matter. He learned to crawl on his belly and remains affected by the poison to this day. Angry and poisonous.
In the chaos, Mongoose stole Queen Lion’s pot of scented water and poured it all over himself. The smell was overpowering and the animals went wild, grabbing at whatever gifts they could get their paws, claws and hooves at.
When the hullabaloo had died down only Wolf and Jackal, of all the animals, remained. They were given the last two remaining gifts. Wolf got a laugh, while Jackal got a howl.
Poor tortoise was so slow getting to the party that it had broken up by the time he arrived. Crocodile, taking pity on the poor beast, made a shell out of slivers of horn that had been left behind in the chaos of the gift giving and tortoise wears it to this day.
Forg, poor Frog... he had gotten too hot in the midday sun and slipped away for a swim in the cool stream. He missed the whole ceremony too. To this day he prefers to only come out at night, to avoid ridicule for his nakedness. He and his brothers and sister still call for their gift. “Clothes! Clothes! Clothes!” they croak.