Literary Lions

I wasn’t the only one whose first thought for this week’s ‘circus’ themed #SixWordStoryChallenge was LIONS. Big cats have inspired plenty of writers over the years. To name a few, there’s Aslan, Simba, the Cowardly Lion, Elsa (that’s the one in Born Free, not Frozen), Parsley – along with Tigger, Shere Khan, Hobbes, the Tiger who Came to Tea, Richard Parker and William Blake’s Tyger Burning Bright.

But the winner of this week’s Six Word Story : The Lion obeyed… until it didn’t by Endless Edits reminded me of another famous literary lion: Ponto. You know Ponto, right? Arch-nemesis of Hilaire Belloc’s Jim, who ran away from his nurse, and was eaten by a lion. It’s a great poem, and certainly good enough to reproduce here:

There was a Boy whose name was Jim;
His Friends were very good to him.
They gave him Tea, and Cakes, and Jam,
And slices of delicious Ham,
And Chocolate with pink inside,
And little Tricycles to ride,
Andread him Stories through and through,
And even took him to the Zoo—
But there it was the dreadful Fate
Befell him, which I now relate.

You know—at least you ought to know.
For I have often told you so—
That Children never are allowed
To leave their Nurses in a Crowd;

Now this was Jim’s especial Foible,
He ran away when he was able,
And on this inauspicious day
He slipped his hand and ran away!
He hadn’t gone a yard when—Bang!
With open Jaws, a Lion sprang,
And hungrily began to eat
The Boy: beginning at his feet.

Now just imagine how it feels
When first your toes and then your heels,
And then by gradual degrees,
Your shins and ankles, calves and knees,
Are slowly eaten, bit by bit.

No wonder Jim detested it!
No wonder that he shouted “Hi!”
The Honest Keeper heard his cry,
Though very fat he almost ran
To help the little gentleman.
“Ponto!” he ordered as he came
(For Ponto was the Lion’s name),
“Ponto!” he cried, with angry Frown.
“Let go, Sir! Down, Sir! Put it down!”

The Lion made a sudden Stop,
He let the Dainty Morsel drop,
And slunk reluctant to his Cage,
Snarling with Disappointed Rage
But when he bent him over Jim,
The Honest Keeper’s eyes were dim.
The Lion having reached his Head,
The Miserable Boy was dead!

When Nurse informed his Parents, they
Were more Concerned than I can say:—
His Mother, as She dried her eyes,
Said, “Well—it gives me no surprise,
He would not do as he was told!”
His Father, who was self-controlled,
Bade all the children round attend
To James’ miserable end,
And always keep a-hold of Nurse
For fear of finding something worse.

–Hillaire Belloc

It was published in 1907 as part of a collection called Cautionary Tales for Children, which according to Wikipedia features some intriguing sounding tales like: “Rebecca: Who Slammed Doors For Fun And Perished Miserably.” or “Godolphin Horne: Who was cursed with the Sin of Pride, and, Became a Boot-black.” Have a look at the Wikipedia entry if you want to have a chuckle over some the titles!

There’s a clear moral to the narrative of this book of poetry, as demonstrated by the final poem in the collection – simply entitled:    “Charles Augustus Fortescue: Who Always Did what was Right, and so Accumulated an Immense Fortune.”

I’m glad to see that the habit of making idle, exaggerated threats to try and get your children to behave is well over 100 years old!

4 thoughts on “Literary Lions

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