Miles Kington: When the lion's on holiday, the tiger is king

The new ruler of the jungle made his intentions clear by eating some of his subjects
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The Independent Online

The Blackbird and the Worm

Once upon a time there was a blackbird who was about to gobble up a worm in a garden when the worm said: "Oh, please spare me! Do not eat me!"

The blackbird said: "Why should I not eat you? That's what blackbirds do!"

"Well, yes," said the worm. "That's what most blackbirds do. But you could rise above the pack mentality! You could aim higher! You could develop qualities like mercy and justice, and sympathy!"

"A fat lot of good that would do me," said the blackbird. "I would starve to death."

"All right," said the worm, desperately. "Put it another way. I am but a scrawny worm compared to the big fat worm over there."

"Over where?" said the blackbird.

"I will tell you where, if you will spare my life," said the worm.

The blackbird pondered on this, but just then a hungry sparrow hawk, raiding the garden, took the unheeding blackbird as its prey.

Moral: Don't argue at supper time. Especially not with the supper.

The Ant and the Tortoise

Once upon a time the ant and the tortoise agreed to have a race.

"You haven't got a hope in hell," boasted the tortoise. "I raced against the hare last year, and everyone knows how fast the hare is, and I still beat him to the line!"

"The hare was stupid and lazy," said the ant. "I am clever and industrious."

"Also very short-legged," said the tortoise. "No offence meant, but I thought I was slow till I saw you move."

"I am not afraid of being the underdog," said the ant. "It didn't hurt you last year, and it won't hurt me this year."

"Be it on your own head," said the tortoise, and so they both prepared for the race. On the great day the tortoise set off at a steady pace and though he looked round from time to time could see the ant nowhere behind him. The last time he stopped was just before the finishing line, where he paused for a moment of glory and to acknowledge the cheering crowds. As he did so, the ant jumped off the tortoise's head, where he had been for the whole race, and slipped across the line first.

"That was against the rules!" stormed the tortoise.

"Rules?" said the ant. "What rules? I don't remember you saying anything about rules."

Moral: Read the small print first. Better still, write the small print first.

The Lion's Holiday

One day the lion, the king of the jungle, said he was going on a well-earned holiday and vanished without telling anyone where he was going. In his absence the tiger proclaimed himself the new king of the jungle and made his intentions clear by immediately eating up some of his new subjects. The other beasts of the jungle were all for recalling the lion from his holiday at once, on the grounds that at least he had less of an appetite than the tiger, but nobody knew where he had gone.

When he finally returned, looking sleek and bronzed, he was met only by the elephant, who was afraid of neither lion nor tiger.

"Where is everyone else?" said the lion.

"They are in hiding," said the elephant. "They are afraid of the tiger, who has taken over as king of the jungle in your absence."

"Has he, indeed? " said the lion. "We'll see about that! Send him to me!"

But though they looked high and low, there was no sign of the tiger.

"I saw the tiger early this morning," reported the leopard. "He told me was going on holiday suddenly. He did not say where he was going."

"Then let us not bother about him," said the lion, who had, in any case, arranged the whole thing with the tiger in the first place, to keep everyone in order during his absence.

Moral: There is more than one way of delegating wisely.