A Tunisian fable or 'The Donkey that Terrified'

A Tunisian fable or 'The Donkey that Terrified'
Told in the style of Vishnu Sharma, how might the Tunisian revolution have been played out in the jungle? What role the regime, the spectre of democracy, the fear of change? And who wins in the end?
4 min read
18 Jan, 2015
The Tunisian Revolution began in December 2010 [Anadolu]
Once upon a time there was a forest, home to many different kinds of animals: lions, tigers, foxes, wolves, monkeys, gazelles, rabbits and sheep. Yet never had any of its inhabitants ever come across, or even heard of, the donkey species.

Then, one day, a new kind of animal appeared in the forest. When it passed by, the animals cautiously watched it, confused and bewildered. No one even knew if it ate flesh or plants.

The fox promptly informed the lion, who was king of the forest, of this new presence, saying: "Today a very strange animal strolled into our home. It's much bulkier than me, with very thick hair and long ears."

The traits that the fox was describing didn't seem to fit any animal that the lion knew of, but he kept quiet, not wishing to show his ignorance, and pretended to be deep in thought.

After some time, the lion king motioned to the monkey, saying: "You're the lightest and most nimble of all of us. Go to the animal and drop an apple on its head, so that we can establish whether this creature is strong and fearsome, or gentle and weak."

So the monkey jumped from tree to tree, until he reached where the donkey was standing. He got up close to the creature and then launched the apple at its head. The donkey was startled, and let out an almighty, unpleasant shriek which shook the entire forest and even travelled as far as the royal assembly.

All of the animals in the lion's presence trembled at the noise. "That's a powerful roar it has – it must be a predatory animal, no doubt about it," declared the tiger. The fox turned to the wolf and whispered in his ear: "That roar was far more terrifying than the lion's – the creature must be mightier than our king."

Once the fear had quickly spread amongst all the inhabitants of the forest, the tiger came forward and announced: "I will settle this matter once and for all. No creature can just come into our home and not obey our rules. Your Majesty, permit me to bring this animal before you." The lion king responded: "You may do so. Your actions will save the dignity of the forest, for which we will all be eternally grateful."

The tiger secretly made up his mind to catch the donkey unaware, and so he began to observe its movements. On seeing it eating grass, he muttered to himself: "Did this grass-eating creature really frighten the inhabitants of this luscious forest? I don’t believe for a minute that it's a savage beast – oh how silly and naive we’ve all been!"

The tiger softly and cautiously moved towards the donkey, creeping up from behind so that it would not notice him. Then, all of a sudden, the tiger pounced on the creature.

When the donkey felt the tiger jump on him, he swiftly lifted up his hind legs and gave the tiger an almighty kick. It just so happened that the blow landed right in the tiger's eye, and for a moment he staggered around, before collapsing, unconscious.

Meanwhile the monkey, who had observed the entire scene, darted from tree to tree, trying to reach the lion king as quickly as possible to inform him of what had happened.

A state of panic broke out in the forest, and none of the animals could hide their fear any longer. The lion king said: "This is exactly what we were afraid of. We must steer completely clear of this beast, so that it does not kill us all."

Seeing the king so scared and bewildered, the fox seized the opportunity and spoke up: "Surely, the beast will want to go to battle over kingship of the forest. I fear that he will fight Your Majesty as ferociously as he did the tiger."

The lion admitted: "This is exactly what I am scared of. What are you suggesting, Mr. Fox?" Without hesitation, the fox replied: "You must run away, Your Majesty."

This article is an edited translation from our Arabic edition.