89. The Woodpecker and the Lion

The Buddha was once born as a woodpecker.
One day this woodpecker saw a lion, groaning in pain.
“Help me, woodpecker!" shouted the lion. "Extract the bone stuck in my throat, and I’ll give you a reward!”
The woodpecker agreed, but he was cautious.
First, he propped the lion’s mouth open with a stick, and only then did he extract the bone.
After emerging from the lion’s mouth, he knocked away the stick.
“What’s my reward?” the woodpecker asked.
“Escaping my teeth is reward enough!” the lion snarled.
Thus the Buddha knew he was wise not to trust the lion.

Inspired by: The Jataka, translated by H.T. Francis and R.A. Neil.
Notes: This is the Javasakuna Jataka. You can find other versions of the story here: The Wolf and the Crane. Here is an illustration by Ellsworth Young:

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