In this version of the classic tale, Androcles seems much more saintly. His run-in with the lion is not just a random occurrence, but seems just in keeping with his view of nature. In an image which reminds me of Saint Francis, Stevens draws the young lad sitting cross-legged - albeit shackled - while a bevy of cats and kittens and a few dogs flock about him, crawling on him, licking him.
"Androcles was gentle and kindhearted," she writes. "After his hard work was done and his cruel master was fast asleep, the stray animals of the city came to visit."
Even after the young slave has escaped and fled to the woods, we find him again kneeling in the grass, surrounded by a bear, a ram, a porcupine, some rabbits and... one ferocious man-eating lion who is roaring so loudly that the rest of the animals run and scatter!!! The ostrich especially looks like its about to die of a heart attack.
But does Androcles run?
"Easy boy. There's a big, nasty thorn stuck in your paw. Will you let me pull it out? Now be still and don't bite me."
And thus the friendship is struck. However, it is not much later that the Roman soldiers surprise and capture Androcles, whilst at the same time a different group of soldiers capture the lion.
Androcles is then sent to the Colosseum - there to be devoured in front of cheering attenders - whooping and hollering and whistling. But it is the very same lion released onto the Colosseum grounds! And instead of attacking, it becomes a docile pussy cat! The cheering attenders now find themselves whooping and hollering and whistling. Is there any result which would have not made their day?
Regardless, "Androcles had learned an important lesson," Steven tells us. "A noble soul never forgets a kindness.
And while Androcles was off learning that important lesson, another less fortunate chap was presumably fed to a different, less sensitive lion, and the Colosseum crowd again cheered, whooped and hollered.
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