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Once there was a young lion and his name was -- well, I don't really know what his name was because he lived in the jungle with a lot of other lions and if he did have a name it certainly wasn't a name like Joe or Ernie or anything like that. No, it was more of a lion name like, oh, maybe Grograph or Ruggrrg or Grmmff or Grrrrr.
Well, anyway, he had a name like that and he lived in the jungle with the other lions and he did the usual lion things like jumping and playing in the grass and swimming in the, river and eating rabbits and chasing other lions and sleeping in the sun, and he was very happy.
Well, then, one day -- I believe it was a Thursday -- after all the lions had eaten a good lunch and were sleeping in the sun, snoring lions' snores, and the sky was blue and the birds were going kaw kaw and the grass was blowing in the breeze and it was quiet and wonderful, suddenly . . .
There was such a loud sound, all the lions woke up fast and jumped straight up in the air. And they started to run. Lickety-split, lickety-clipt or clippety-clop, clippety-clop, or is that the way horses run? Well, they ran whatever way lions run. I don't know, maybe even pippety-pat. Anyway, they all ran away--
Well, almost all.
There was one lion that did not run, and that is the one I am going to tell you the story about. This one lion, he just sat up and blinked and winked in the sun and stretched his arms -- well, maybe he stretched his paws-- and he rubbed the sleep out of his eyes and he said, "Hey, why is everybody running?"
Andan old lion who was running by said, "Run, kid, run, run, run, run, run, the hunters are coming."
"Hunters? Hunters? What are hunters?" said the young lion, still blinking in the sun.
"Look," said the old lion, 44 you'd better stop asking so many questions and just run if you know what's good for you."
So the young lion got up and stretched and began to run with the other lions. Pippity-pat, or was it clippety-clop? I think we have gone through all of this before.
And after he had run for a while, he stopped and looked back.
"Hunters," he said to himself, "I wonder what hunters are?"
And he said the name hunters over and over to himself: "Hunters, hunters." And you know, he liked the sound of the name hunters -- you know, the way some people like the sound of the words Tuscaloosa or tapioca or Carioca or gumbo, he liked the sound of the word hunters.
So he let all the other lions run ahead and he stopped and he hid in the tall grass, and soon he could see the hunters coming and they all stood on their hind feet and they all wore nice little red caps and they all carried funny sticks that made loud noises.
And the young lion liked their looks.
Yes he just liked their looks. So when a nice hunter with green eyes and one tooth missing in the front passed by the tall grass with his funny red cap (that had some egg salad on it, by the way) the young lion stood up.
"Hi, hunter," he said.
"Good heavens," cried the hunter, "a ferocious lion, a dangerous lion, a roaring, bloodthirsty man-eating lion."
"I am not a man-eating lion," said the young lion. "I eat rabbits and blackberries."
"No excuses," said the hunter. "I am going to shoot
"But I give up," said the young lion, and he put up his paws in the air.
"Don't be silly," said the hunter. "Who ever heard of a lion giving up. Lions don't give up, lions fight to the en& Lions eat up hunters! So I must shoot you now and make you into a nice rug and put you in front of my fireplace and on cold winter evenings I will sit on you and toast marshmallows."
"Well, my goodness, you don't have to shoot me," said the young lion. "I will be your rug and I will lie in front of your fireplace and I won't move a muscle and you can sit on me and toast all the marshmallows you want. I love marshmallows," said the young lion.
"You what?" said the hunter.
"Well," said the young lion, "to be absolutely honest with you, I don't know if I really love marshmallows or not because I have never tasted one, but I love most things and 1 love the sound of the word marshmallow and if they taste like they sound -- mmmmmmmmmmmmm! -- I just know I will love them."
"That Is ridiculous," said the hunter. "I have never heard of a lion giving up. I have never heard of a lion eating marshmallows. I am going to shoot you now and that is that." And he put his funny stick up to his shoulder.
"But why?" said the young lion.
"Because I am, that is why," said the hunter, and he pulled the trigger. And the stick went click.
"What was that click?" said the young lion. "Am I shot?"
Well, as you can imagine, the hunter was very embarrassed about this and his face turned as red as his cap.
"I'm afraid I forgot to load my gun," he said. "I guess the joke is on me -- ha ha -- but if you will just excuse me for a moment, I will put a bullet in and we will go on from there."
"No," said the young lion, "I don't think I will. I don't think I will let you put a bullet in. I don't think I will let you shoot me.Lafcadio, the Lion Who Shot Back. Copyright © by Shel Silverstein. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.