One day the Leopard decided that wasn’t enough. He wanted to be a king and rule the entire forest. Most of the animals were small, but some of the larger ones also wanted to be king. There was a lion, a gazelle, and a chimpanzee. All of them tried to get the small animals on their side. If they got enough, they could attack the other potential kings.
It was the Leopard, though, that killed his rivals one by one, simultaneously saying he would protect the really small animals from the not so small ones. With all rivals dispatched, he was accepted as king.
He was not well liked. The not so small animals, about half those in the forest, hated him. But the really small animals, the other half, thought he was wonderful. The few big animals were afraid of him, so they did whatever he asked. If they did not, he would kill and eat them.
One day the Leopard woke to find a few insects in his lair. They were insects like he’d never seen before. He watched them attack a worm wriggling across the floor. He laughed, even though the worm was one of the really small animals that adored him. The next day there were twice as many insects, and he observed with pleasure as they covered a squirrel, one of the not so small animals that were his bitter enemies. Soon the squirrel was dead from the insect bites.
The third day the insect count had doubled again, and again on the fourth and the fifth so there were 16 times the number as on the first day. They were attacking and killing larger and larger animals, but mainly ones the Leopard wasn’t concerned about.
By the tenth day there were 512 times as many of the insects as there were on the first day. More and more of the animals were being destroyed by them. The Leopard feared the really small and not so small animals could become so scared they would join forces to remove him from being king. He had to do something.
He devised a plan.
He brought all the animals that ate insects together and told them to go to work. Then he excused himself for a while to roll in the mud. When he returned, he said, “I’m going to inform the animals what I’ve done.”
He gathered all the animals of the forest. He told them he was so smart because he had instructed the insect eating animals to clear the menace that faced them all. He said everything would be all right. He asked the insect eating animals to reassure the others, but instead their leader said they weren’t sure they could eat all the insects. Then the Leopard said it really wasn’t as bad as the insect eater had indicated. So the really small and many of the not so small animals felt better.
They thought the Leopard was changed, that he would protect the not so small animals as well as the really small ones. They liked how he’d asked experts on eating insects to talk to them. They thought the emergency had turned him into a good leader.
One said, “Look, his spots are gone.”
It took a while, but eventually the insects disappeared. Not because the insect eating animals had exterminated them. Since so much time had elapsed before the Leopard acted, there were too many insects for that. They just left for no apparent reason. But the Leopard assured all it was because of him, and all the animals proclaimed him to be a wonderful king.
Then a funny thing happened. Once the insects were gone, the Leopard became even more ruthless than he’d been before, starting by devouring the insect eating animal that had not agreed with him when they gave talks.
The Leopard went for a swim, one he had avoided since the infestation had begun. He strolled to the river and immersed himself, making sure all the mud he’d laboriously applied so long ago was washed from his body.
As he emerged from the river, he was observed by a deer who took one look and raced away in fear.
Because the spots were back on the Leopard.
He hadn’t changed them at all.