The Man Who Loved a Lioness

The Chief of a town desired to marry a certain young woman, but she already had a lover and refused the Chief. She was driven away from the town.

The young woman lived in the forest, where she bore a baby boy and in a cave nearby a lioness bore a girl-cub. One day the boy and the lion-girl met in the forest and began playing. they met every day in the forest to play, and learned to love each other.

There came a time when the lion-girl said:

“Tell your mother not to go fishing tomorrow. My mother is going down to the river to hunt.”

The boy begged his mother not to go down to the river to fish, and said he had heard a lion growling there; but his mother did not believe him and she went down there to fish. The Lioness killed her, and carried her meat home to the lion-girl. The lion-girl said:

“You have killed the boy’s mother. I will not eat her meat.”

“The lion-girl went to her friend, the boy, and said:

“My mother has killed your mother.”

“Then I must kill your mother; and then we shall live together in the cave, you and I.”

The lad waited until the lioness slept, and plunged a spear into her heart. She died, and for some years the man-child and the lion-girl lived and hunted together. They learned to love each other very well. But the lad grew restless; as soon as he was a young man he went to his mother’s town and said to the Chief:

“I will be your hunter; I have lived with both feet in the forest and hunt well.”

The Chief agreed. The young lioness would kill deer and the hunter would take them to the Chief. He fell in love with the daughter of the Chief, but knew no way to win her. He told the lioness of this, and though she loved the young man herself she promised she would help.

Soon after, the Chief’s daughter came down to the river, with other maidens, to bathe. The lioness sprang amongst them, roaring, and carried off the daughter of the Chief and hid her in the forest far away. The Chief sent many famous hunters to kill the lioness and recover what might remain of the girl, but all failed.

The young man went to the Chief and declared he would hunt and hunt until he found the girl; He went to where the lioness was hiding her and pretended to attach the beast, which ran away. The girl, who was unharmed, fell in love with this brave young hunter, and the grateful Chief gladly gave her to him.

The young hunter lived inside the town, but often he would tell his wife to stay with her mother overnight, and she would go. There came a time when he told her to do this, and she answered:

“I will not go. You have a lover, and tonight I must find out who she is.”

He told her he had no lover, and ordered her to go. She went to her mother; but in the night she came back to the place where her husband slept, and looking through the door she saw her man in bed with the lioness. She ran to her mother, crying:

“Oh mother, I have married a Kaa-neni!”

She told what she had seen. Her mother went to look inside the hut, and reported this strange thing to the Chief. The Chief gathered hunters and warriors, and they waited outside the hut; at dawn the lioness came outside, and the men threw spears at it.

The lioness fell. The hunter came out of his hut and saw the lioness lying down.

I have died for love of you,” she said, and died.

“Then both of us must die,” the hunter cried in grief, and seizing his knife he plunged it to his heart. He also died. The Chief’s daughter took poison, and she died.

Their spirits wander in the forest still, the young woman, and the hunter and the lioness.