Once upon a time there was a tremendous fuss and quarrel among all the animals. They were arguing hotly about who had the finest children! Everyone of them from the frogs and the caterpillars to the rabbits and the rats declared that no families had ever been born like their families and that it was a great pity their children and grandchildren and great grandchildren were not numerous enough to fill the whole world. Anyway, they said, they would go on doing their best. The caterpillars and frogs would lay eggs by the hundred. The rabbits would make new warrens and the rats would take possession of ever so many more drains. Then, surely, it would be agreed that a caterpillar, or a frog, a rat, or a rabbit, had the glory of giving to the world the finest children that had ever been born in it.
They all agreed about one thing, in spite of the arguing that they would wait just one year and then they would go to King Jupiter on his mountain and ask him to settle the matter for them. So, for a year, they laid their dispute aside. At the end of it, they sent a message to the king of the mountain saying that they would like to have the privilege of calling upon him and would bring all their families along with them.
King Jupiter sat on his shining throne and up the sides of the mountain came the long strings of animals. Mount Olympus had seen some strange sights, but perhaps this procession was the oddest of all. First came Father and Mother Hedgehog. Very squat they were – very brown and prickly. They were followed by seven little hedgehogs just as prickly just as brown and just as squat. When they saw King Jupiter, they were all so startled that they rolled themselves up into balls and lay quite still in front of him. But even in this rather ridiculous position. Mother Hedgehog might be heard murmuring from the middle of her stiffened spines, many things about the beauty and number of her children.
The hedgehogs had to make way, however, for a much larger party – a whole family of lizards. Together with Father Lizard and Mother Lizard, there were twelve little misses and masters of the same name. They were smooth yellowish little creatures with quick legs and tails that flicked about like whips. They darted all over the top of the mountain, catching flies and no doubt amused King Jupiter very much. But they, too, had to move aside to allow him to give an opinion upon a colony of frogs.
If numbers were to win the prize of excellence, surely the frogs had it! The Father and the Mother, solemn, goggle-eyed and fat, were followed by at least a hundred of the sizes of a thumb, just like themselves. They had all come straight out of a shallow pond in a heavy shower that very morning, scrambling through the wet grass and hopping along the turnpike road, such that the country folks thought they had fallen out of the clouds together with the rain. But they hadn’t done any such thing! They were only skipping along after their Father and Mother to hear what King Jupiter had to say about them.
So it went on all through that strange and wonderful day on Mount Olympus. The caterpillars came, the rats came…the rabbits came. And all of them brought a regular tribe of children, none of them a year old. Then up trotted the foxes and the badgers the weasels and the stoats each with four or five youngsters apiece. But at last, up the hill path, came a lioness, beautiful and strong. And she had only one child, a little creature with golden eyes and splendid limbs. She led him up to Jupiter and sitting on her haunches, surveyed her glorious child in silence. Then King Jupiter came down from his bright throne and holding up his mace gave his decision in a clear and ringing voice.
“Listen, you Fathers and Mothers of rabbits, hedgehogs and frogs! It is true that you have all produced a great many children in the past year and that the lioness has produced only one. But that one is a Lion! To the lioness, therefore, I give the prize. Her child shall, from now be called Royal. I name him, from today, the king of all the beasts.”
He touched the little lion’s head for a moment with his hand. Then the lioness turned away still in silence and led her son back to her cave at the foot of the mountain. She had taken no part in the boasting of the lesser animals, yet she had always known that her son was the finest creature ever given to the world. She had only one child – but as Jupiter had said, that only child was a Lion.
MORAL : It is not the quantity but the quality that matters.