Once when a brahmin was passing through a forest, he saw a lion trapped in a cage. When the lion saw the brahmin, it said in a beseeching voice, ‘Please open the door and release me.’
The brahmin said, ‘What? Release you? I know what will happen if I do. You will kill and eat me!’
‘Do I look like I can pounce on you? I have grown so weak trapped in this cage all night and day. I heard brahmins were very kind. Please do me a kind turn, oh brahmin. I promise I will not hurt you.’
The brahmin was moved. He thought, ‘The lion does look weak. The poor thing must be hurt too.’ And he opened the door of the cage.
No sooner than he did this, the lion pounced on the brahmin.
He cried out, ‘You promised not to hurt me! How can you be so ungrateful?’
The lion laughed and said, ‘You are a foolish fellow. How can you expect a lion not to eat you?’
The brahmin, trying to escape, called out for help. He said to a huge tree nearby, ‘look how unjust the lion is. Please save me.’
The tree replied, ‘Do not talk about injustice. I provide shade and shelter to all humans who pass by. But what do they do? They cut my branches and take them for firewood.’
The brahmin spotted a buffalo in the bushes. He pleaded to it, ‘Please help me. The ungrateful lion is going to kill me.’
The buffalo replied, ‘I too help you humans all the time. I give you plenty of milk but all you do is feed me dry grass and make me work from morning till night in the fields.’
Suddenly a jackal came bounding up. The brahmin turned to it now for help.
The jackal asked, ‘How did you find the lion? I do not understand.’
When the brahmin explained he said, ‘How did you open the cage?’
Then he asked pretending to be stupefied, ‘I am confused. Did you say the cage was inside the lion or the lion was inside the cage? How could the lion be inside a cage?’
The lion who was growing increasingly impatient by all these questions said, ‘I’ll show you.’ And stepped into the cage.
In a flash, the jackal closed and bolted the cage door. The brahmin was saved by the jackal’s tact and wit!