The Story of Lippy the Lion

By Joanne Green

            It was a warm summer day when, throughout the jungle, there was a gentle stir.  The wind whispered to the mountains, and the mountains nudged the trees. The trees bent to tell the rivers and the rivers carried the news throughout the land.  A NEW PRINCE IS BORN!   Lippy the Lion was born!

            Oh, how proud and happy his mommy and daddy were – the King and the Queen of the jungle.  And yet, with their happiness, there was some worry.  You see, handsome and strong as Lippy was, there was also something different.  And that something different worried Mommy and Daddy Lion very much.  Lippy’s mouth looked a bit unfinished.

Lippy had a “Cleft Lip”.  It didn’t close up right when he was being made inside Mommy Lion.  When he was born, his lip really looked like it was broken.  Mommy and Daddy Lion didn’t know what to think.  But when their baby lion looked up at them and grinned his big, wide grin, they knew that their baby was something wonderful and special.  If only they could help his lip to grow together like other lions’ lips! Mommy Lion held her son close to her heart. “Oh my darling baby,” she said, “I would do anything, ANYTHING at all, to take this away!”

Very soon, the Jungle Doctor came to Mommy and Daddy Lion with a plan.  “We can help Lippy,” he said.  “But it might take some time to get it all right again.”

Lippy’s mommy and daddy wanted to do whatever they could to make Lippy’s mouth work like every other lion’s mouth.  And so, they asked the Jungle Doctor to help Lippy.

First, Mommy Lion was given a special bottle so she could feed Lippy, and so that he could grow bigger and stronger right away.  The Jungle Doctor wanted to do an operation that would help Lippy’s lip to grow together and to look and work a lot more like other lions’ lips look and work. 

            Mommy Lion was afraid.  An operation is a scary thing when you are a Mommy Lion and the operation is for your baby!  She did not want Lippy to have to hurt, and she was afraid for him.  But she also wanted Lippy to be able to eat and talk like every other little Lion.  She wanted Lippy to make friends and she wanted all the other Lions in the jungle to see just how handsome Lippy was.  But she was afraid that the operation would hurt him. 

            Mommy Lion worried and fretted over the operation idea and she finally decided, “NO!  My baby does not have to go through an operation just to be loved!  I will have Daddy Lion proclaim throughout the jungle that everybody will accept Lippy like we do, even with his different lip.”    She went to Daddy Lion with the idea.

            Daddy Lion looked sad. “I love our beautiful son too, my Dear, JUST THE WAY HE IS, but you must understand.  I cannot proclaim for the whole jungle to love him as we do.  I cannot tell all the animals to look past what they do not understand.  I love his big wide smile, and I will miss it when it is gone, but I cannot order all the other animals in the kingdom to love it as well.” 

            Mommy Lion was not happy with her husband’s reply.  She spoke with the Jungle Doctor again. “My Lippy is just fine,” she said.  “It is the rest of the jungle that is wrong.  They will not accept my baby as he is because his lip is different, and I do not want to change his beautiful face!” 

            The Jungle doctor looked at Mommy Lion with concern in his eyes.  “So, you do not want to fix what does not work?” he asked.  “You do not want good health for your son?” 

            “Of course, I want him to be healthy,” said Mommy Lion.

            “Then he must have an operation to fix what does not work,” said the Jungle Doctor.  “Sure, the Hyenas might laugh and the monkeys might tease, and the animals of  the jungle could very well turn from him when they see him.  And perhaps you can pass a law that they will not be so mean.  But even if a law is passed to love your son as you do, his lip will still not work.  I do not know much about laws or about making other animals keep them, but I do know about lips.  I know that unless Lippy has an operation to fix his lip, he will have a very hard time eating.  And later, he will have a very hard time talking.  This is something that Lippy needs, and YOU, Mrs. Lion, need to let him have that operation.” 

            The Jungle doctor took Mommy Lion to the river where the water was calm and still.  “Look,” said the Jungle Doctor, “and try to remember when you first saw Lippy, that day in the mommy-hospital when Lippy was born.” 

            Mommy Lion looked into the water, and an image appeared.  In the image, she was lying on the birthing bed, just like she did on the day Lippy was born.  How odd that she would forget so much about that day so quickly!  There was a bustle all around her, and suddenly, all became quiet.  She heard the mewing of a newborn cub, but none of the birthing animals were saying anything at all.  “My baby,” gasped the image of Mommy Lion. “Is it a girl cub, or a boy cub?” 

            The birthing doctor looked up, and with a sad voice, he said, “It is a boy cub.  There is a problem.” 

            Fear raced through Mommy Lion’s mind.  “PROBLEM???  With MY baby?  What problem?” she asked.  Daddy Lion was by her side and she gripped his paw. 

            “His lip is different,” said Daddy Lion. 

            “It is a cleft,” the birthing doctor told her.  “It can be fixed.”

            When baby Lippy was laid on Mommy Lion’s tummy, she looked lovingly at him and stroked his soft baby fur.  She looked up at Daddy Lion.  “Oh my darling baby,” she said, “I would do anything, ANYTHING at all, to take this away!” and then she cried deeply from her heart while Daddy Lion cried with her and the cub mewed quietly in her arms.

            “Do you remember that moment?” asked the Jungle Doctor.

            “Yes, yes, I do,” cried Mommy Lion.  “I remember saying that I would do anything to take this away.”

            “Well,” the Jungle Doctor said kindly, “This operation is the ‘anything’ you can do.”

            Days later, Mommy Lion took her handsome son to the Jungle hospital and gave him tearfully over to the Operating Nurse.  As the big doors to the Jungle OR closed, Mommy Lion cried and cried.  Daddy Lion was there to comfort her, but the time seemed to stand still while Lippy stayed in the Operating room with the Jungle Doctor.

            Finally, the big doors opened again and the Jungle Doctor came out. “Lippy is fine,” he said.  “You can see him now.”

            Mommy Lion rushed in to see her cub.  She was amazed.  His lip was fixed and there was no more cleft.  He would no longer struggle to do the things that others did so easily, like talk and eat.  There would not have to be a proclamation made to order the other animals to like her son.  His lip had no cleft.  Now, he would have nothing more than a small scar.

            She held her little cub in her arms and very gently kissed the stitches over his operation.  Oh, how she missed his big, wide smile.  Oh, how she missed his first face!  And yet, something in her heart stirred and then roared. This new face was handsome too! 

             What she did for Lippy was right and good, and at last, Mommy Lion could see that.  As the sun went down in the jungle that night, Mommy and Daddy Lion held their handsome cub and felt thankful.  First, they were thankful for their wonderful cub.  And then, they were thankful for the wisdom and skill of the jungle doctor who could make Lippy’s lip whole. 

             On that day, the wind whispered to the mountains, and the mountains nudged the trees. The trees bent to tell the rivers and the rivers carried the news throughout the land.  Lippy the Lion is FINE!

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Copyright © 2002 Wide Smiles. All rights reserved.
Revised: March 25, 2005 .