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Union is strength - Story of the lion and the three bulls | Aesops fables retold

Updated on May 31, 2013

Union is strength

The idiom 'union is strength' means that when we are united and join together we are stronger and more powerful than if we are by ourselves. There are many stories to demonstrate this idiomatic expression i.e., 'union is strength' or unity is strength'. One such story is that of the lion and the three bulls - a popular tale from Aesops fables. The Aesops fables were composed very, very long ago but have given reading pleasure and a lot of insights to people over the ages. The moral in many of these stories are very relevant even today and have been relevant through the years.

Livil Lion
Livil Lion

The lion and the three bulls

Livil Lion was a ferocious lion. He was very strong and a powerful hunter. He had no trouble hunting other animals for prey. In addition to his huge strength, Livil was also quite cunning.

Often Livil used to look at a nearby field where three bulls used to graze every day. The three bulls were fast friends and were always close to each other. Livil yearned to hunt down and eat up the bulls, but he realized that although among the most powerful of animals, even he was not the equal of three bulls - a lone bull he could manage, but not three together!

The lion plots

"Those three are always together. How to separate them." pondered Livil. And his native cunning came to the fore. Livil came up with a plan.

He kept a close watch over the three bulls. As soon as one of them moved slightly away while grazing, Livil came up close to him and said "Hello, friend. How nice to see you," in sweet tones (or so he thought). The bull was startled but not too alarmed since his two friends were nearby, and if the lion got up to any tricks, he was confident that the three of them could handle him.

So in order to be polite the bull also said, "Hello". Livil Lion almost sobbed, "Oh dear, you have such a nice voice, I wonder why those two say such nasty things about you all the time. They must just be jealous!"

The seeds of dissension are sown

The bull was naturally curious. But he said, "What do you mean? They are my best friends."

"So they pretend, so they pretend," cried Livil. "Do you know what they told me yesterday when you were grazing a little away for a minute? They said that you were such a blabber mouth; that you keep on talking; and you talk a whole lot of nonsense!"

"They said that!" queried the bull in disbelief.

"Yes, they did. And what is more they said that you were such a big bore that whenever you come by the animals cross the road to escape from your nonsense."

And the lion went on with more such talk until slowly the bull started believing him and started hating his friends.

"I always thought those two to be my best friends. How unfortunate that are speaking about me behind my back. I shall not come here from tomorrow. I already hate the sight of them." burst out the bull.

"Yes, it is best to avoid such friends," said Livil. "There is another great place you can graze on a few hundred metres to the north of here. Why don't you go there from tomorrow?"

"Yes, I will," agreed the bull

The lion continues his cunning game

The next day, the first bull went off to the other place to graze. The other two bulls were surprised to not see him. Once again Livil came by and found an opportunity to talk to one of them.

"Do you know where your friend is," he enquired of the bull.

"No, but he is usually here all day. Perhaps he is late today. But he will come any time now," said the bull.

"Oh dear, you are so trusting. What a pity your friend is not a bit like you. Do you know, he is at this moment going around telling all the animals about what a hog you are?"

"What," cried the bull. "I am a bull not a hog."

"You are so simple," smiled Livil. "Hog just means that you eat too much. Your friend is telling everyone that you are very greedy and you go on eating all day - I have never met anyone like that bull - he eats and eat and eats -It is a wonder he doesn't burst - his very words. He says you eat enough for three bulls, with you around the others don't get much of a chance to eat, you grab it all."

"What!" cried the bull unbelieving.

But Livil Lion went on in the same vein until the seeds of doubt were sown.

"If you don't believe me then go on to the field that is a few hundred metres south of here. Your friend is there right now. You will hear it with your own ears." advised Livil. And the bull set off south in fury.

The bulls are separated - The lion finishes them off

And thus the three bulls were separated. The third bull was surprised to be suddenly all alone there.

Livil Lion wasted no time in pouncing on the third bull and finishing him off. Then we went north and finished off the first bull; then south and finished off the second bull.

United we stand divided we fall

The moral of this story is - 'United we stand, divided we fall'. When the three bulls were together the lion had no chance against them and they were safe. Thus 'in union is strength' or 'in unity is strength' is a popular saying. The moment the lion was able to separate the three bulls it was able to overcome them one by one. So the moral of the story is to be united.

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