“Dad, tell me a story.”
Not now, go to sleep.
“Just one little story, please.”
Okay, if you promise.
A herd of…
“Not like that. I want a real story.”
All right. Long, long ago in a faraway land, there lived a very large herd of cattle. Do you know how many animals there were in that herd?”
Millions. When they moved together it seemed like a cloud passing over the land. Their king was an enormous bull with sharp, curving horns he was very proud of. No tiger had ever been seen on that land but the king said he had gored many with his horns.
“Did he really do that, dad?”
The herd believed him, which is all that matters. Now, the land this herd lived on lay beside a very wide and deep river. The bank was always lush green with grass, but the ground away from the river was dry and scrubby. The animals who couldn’t find space to graze close to the river went hungry and became weak.
“Couldn’t the king do something about that?”
He did. One night he ordered all the grass on their land to be burnt.
“Huh, but why?”
Because he was a wise king. He said he wanted to teach the fat cattle a lesson. You know, don’t you, that grass grows best where cattle drop dung?
The king said the fat cattle in the herd had not been dropping their dung on the bank. The weak ones dropped all of theirs on the bank but the fat ones emptied their bowels where they liked. On the bank, they only blew farts. Poo!
The land glowed red that night from the burning grass and all the weak cows and bulls were very happy. They said the king had taught the fat cattle a lesson. They would never again forget their duty to manure the riverbank with dung.
Then there was no grass. Neither for the fat cattle nor for the scrawny ones.
“What did the king do?”
He told them to wait. Grass doesn’t grow back in a day. Every morning they came to see if it had grown back, but found only a few blades. But they were happy the fat cattle had been taught a lesson.
“When did the grass grow back?”
A week passed, then two, then three. Some of the kine starved to death but the others didn’t lose hope. They trusted their king. They believed grass would grow back, and there would be more of it for everyone than there was before.
“Did some of the fat cattle also die?”
No. They had been using their dung to grow fruit trees. Now they didn’t have grass but they got their monkey friends to pick fruit and leaves for them from those trees.
“Oh no! Did the king know about it?”
I don’t know.
“Poor king. To think he was starving himself for his people…”
Don’t be silly, kings always live in orchards of their own. And now you go to sleep.