A touching and adventurous story about how Prince Bertie had a lion as a pet when he was still a boy prince. With a nod of acknowledgment to Christian the Lion (YouTube).
Read by Natasha. Proofread by Claire Deakin. Duration 19.57
I was walking along by the palace pond when I heard Tim the Tadpole’s squeaky voice saying, “Bertie can I have a puppy? Oh please Bertie. I would so love to have a pet to play with.”
Bertie was looking a bit stumped for a reply, because he doesn’t like to say, “no,” but he can’t always do what Tim wants. Even though he used to be a prince, he can’t do everything. In fact, now that he’s a frog, most things are more difficult than ever: Except for hopping, and catching flies with his tongue.
Before Bertie could explain to Tim why it’s tricky for a tadpole to keep a puppy, Colin the Carp butted in, “Oh dear. Is there no end to the silly questions of little tadpoles? You can’t have a pet that’s bigger than yourself. If you had a puppy, you would be the puppy’s pet – or his breakfast.”
“Oh yes you can have a pet that’s bigger than yourself,” said Bertie. “The queen once had a camel and that was even bigger than her majesty.”
“Well you can’t have a pet that’s big enough to eat you,” said Colin. “And Tim wouldn’t even make a light snack for a puppy. He would be like a little morsel on the end of his tongue.”
“Oh yes you can have a pet that’s big enough to eat you,” said Bertie. “When I was a prince, I had a lion for a pet.”
‘Rubbish!” Said Colin. “You’re just making up stories again.”
“Well I’m allowed to make up stories,” said Bertie, “Because that’s what I’m best at. But this one happens to be true.”
Then Bertie told all the pond life the story of how he had a lion as a pet. I stopped to listen because it sounded jolly interesting.
One time when Bertie was still a small princeling, he went with his mother to the pet shop. This all happened in the good old days before the wicked queen took over and turned Bertie into a frog. Bertie’s mother was much nicer, although a little bit eccentric, which meant that her ideas were sometimes out of the ordinary. She wanted to buy a camel because she thought it would look interesting roaming around the palace grounds. The shopkeeper considered himself to be a bit of a whit, so he said to the queen,“Ah yes Ma’am, a camel. Will that be one hump or two?”
The queen gave the shopkeeper one of her stares, as if she meant his head to be chopped off. So he stuttered, “Of course Ma’am. I do so apologise. Right now we are out of camels. But we do have all sorts of interesting animals fresh in from Africa. For instance, we have handsome lion cub. A lion is rather more royal than a camel if you don’t mind me saying so.”
The queen was about to say, “You silly little man! Lions are for statues, not pets,” but Prince Bertie had already run over to the cub’s corner of the shop. He was so small, fluffy and cute, and he also looked just a bit sad to be living in a box. He gave Berte a tiny little roar.
So Bertie said, “Mummy, Mummy. Do let’s have a lion cub. I promise I’ll look after him all by myself. Honest I will. I’ll keep him with me always and we’ll be bestest friends.”
Bertie’s mother sometimes seemed a bit fierce, but she was a big softie really, and she thought that the lion cub looked very cute and harmless too. So she gave the shopkeeper a gold coin and they took the cub home to the palace.
Bertie called him Tiddles because he thought that was a funny name for a lion. The queen said that it was alright for friends to call him Tiddles, but that he would have to have an official name too for special occasions. So she said that his proper name would be Leopold the First.
Leopold the First, or Tiddles as everybody called him, loved living in the palace. At night he slept in Bertie’s bed where he looked just like a fluffy toy lion. During the day he liked sitting on the roof and watching everyone come and go. Up there, he looked just like a statue of a lion, until he started to move and prowl along the battlements – which gave anyone who noticed a big surprise. At other times he went for walks around the palace grounds, and everyone agreed that he was far more interesting and royal than a camel would ever have been.
For breakfast, Tiddles ate raw steak. For lunch he ate raw steak… And for supper he ate raw steak.
Tiddles grew, and he grew – and he became quite big.
But however big he became, he still loved Bertie. When he saw Bertie coming home from School, he would leap off the roof of the palace into the branches of a big oak tree, then he would climb down and bound up the drive to greet Bertie. He would jump up and hug him with his paws and lick his face. Then they would run into the grounds and play soccer together. Tiddles was great at dribbling the ball with his nose. Though one day when he was hungry he ate Bertie’s best football boots, but Bertie didn’t mind because he loved Tiddles so very much.
Anther game they liked playing was frightening the royal nanny. Tiddles and Bertie would both hide behind the curtains, and when they heard her coming along calling, “Bertie. It’s way past your bedtime young prince!”
The would both leap out and roar like this… “RAAWWWWWWWWR!”
She would be so frightened that she would run off to her room – and Bertie and Tiddles could say up for another half an hour and play.
But one day the king said to Bertie over breakfast, “That cub of yours has become quite a lion. He’s already growing a mane. It’s time he went to the zoo.”
“The zoo!” Said Bertie. “You can’t put Tiddles behind bars! And besides, I love him ! You should think of my feelings too Daddy!”
Of course the king didn’t want to make Bertie sad, so he agreed that Tiddles could live in the palace a little longer. But then one day Tiddles did something that made the king cross. Very cross indeed.
He had just appointed a new prime minister. The prime minister and all the grandest and most important people in the land came to see the king in the palace… Tiddles was waiting for them.
By now Tiddles wasn’t quite a grown up lion but he was no longer a cub. By the standards of cats he was big. Well actually, he was huge. If you didn’t know him, you would be quite scared to meet him. In fact, you would be terrified.
A big velvet curtain hung behind the throne, and sometimes Tiddles liked to sleep behind it. It was his hideaway place.
When the new ministers trooped into the throne room to meet the king, three musicians sounded their trumpets.
The sound woke up Tiddles and he thought that there would be a party with lots of music and games. So he strolled out from behind the curtains, stretched out his body, and then turned around to lick his bottom. In actual fact, he didn’t do anything very frightening at all – but the ministers were frightened.
The Minister of War climbed out of the window and jumped into a rose bush where he tore his trousers on the thorns. The prime minister had more mettle than that, and he picked up a chair and held it out in front of himself like a lion tamer. Tiddles yawned and showed all his teeth. That was too much. The whole government including the Prime Minister leaped out of the widows.
The king was furious because they trampled all over his roses. He decided that he didn’t like the government after all, so he sacked the lot of them and appointed some new ministers.
The next day the newspapers ran headlines like: “King throws ministers to the lions.”
“Lion-Taming Prime Minister Gets Sack.”
The king was furious when he read the papers, and he resolved that Tiddles must go, immediately. The new prime minister, who had replaced the old one who had run away from Tiddles, said he thought that the best place for a lion would be Africa. In fact, everyone in the palace who loved Tiddles – and that was everyone except the royal nanny – all agreed that it would be a wonderful thing to set him free in the wild, where he could live the life of a real lion.
So that’s what happened. The Minister for Nature put Tiddles on a flight to Africa. Before the plane left the tarmac, Prince Bertie came on board to give his pet a special goodbye hug. Then the plane flew Tiddles to Tanzania in East Africa . First he lived in a special sanctuary for lions. Then they released him into the wild. Bertie knew that things had turned out how they should, though he was very sad that he would never see his best friend again.
Three years later, the royal family chose a very special holiday. They went on safari in East Africa. They travelled across the open bush in four-wheel drive cars and saw all the wild animals. They had guides who carried guns just in case any creatures tried to attack them. At night they slept in tents under the stars.
One night they camped on the edge of the Ngorongoro Crater. The king and queen decided to rest for the next day before continuing their safari.
Bertie had become friendly with the chief guide whose name was Joshua. He asked Joshua if had ever heard of a lion who had lived in a palace and been released into the wild. To Bertie’s surprise, Joshua said that of course everyone who worked in the game reserve had heard the story of the royal lion called Tiddles.
Now he was a big strong grown up lion, and was the leader of his pride (which is like a group of lions).
He agreed to take Bertie the next morning to see Tiddles come down to his favorite watering hole. He made Bertie promise to stay in the car, because Tiddles was a wild lion now and might be dangerous.
So Bertie got up at 5AM. Rosy red clouds still veiled the fierce African sun so that the air was still lovely and fresh. The great Ngorongoro Crater was filled with mists so it looked like a witch’s cauldron. Then the treetops started to emerge from the swirling brew. They got into the car and slowly drove down the winding route into the base of the crater. By now the sunlight was starting to play on the bark of the acacia trees. Zebra and deer were grazing in the long grass, always watching with their big glassy eyes for any suspicious movement that could be a big cat hunting for its breakfast.
Eventually they came to the watering hole where Joshua said that Tiddles like to come and drink sometimes. He didn’t come here every day, so they would need to be lucky, and so they waited.
Bertie saw lots of beautiful pink flamingos. He saw a hippo give the biggest yawn he had ever seen, and eventually the grass began to move and a big lion followed by three lionesses began to gamble down to the water. Although he was much bigger than when he had last seen him, Bertie knew right away that it was Tiddles. Tiddles took no notice of the car. He was used to tourists and didn’t think to see who was inside. Instead he led his pride down to drink. Bertie wound down the window and called out, “Tiddles,” but still Tiddles didn’t hear him. So then Bertie did something very silly indeed. He forgot about Joshua’s warning, and he opened the door of the car and jumped out onto the ground. He started to walk towards Tiddles. Joshua immediately leaped out of the driver’s seat and trained his gun on Tiddles.
“Your Royal Highness,” he said. “You had better get back into the car. Just come back slowly. Don’t run. If you run they will attack you.”
But Bertie carried on walking towards the lions and called out, “Tiddles, Tiddles, don’t you remember me? I’m Bertie. Your best friend.”
Tiddles took his mouth up from the water and looked around at Bertie. He stared at him for about half a minute, and then he started to bound towards him, with a great cat like spring in his step. Joshua squeezed his trigger but his gun didn’t fire. Dust had blown up from the wheels of the car had got into the gun and jammed it. It all happened so fast. Bertie didn’t have time to be afraid or to regret not taking Joshua’s advice.
Tiddles feet took off from the ground. He flew towards Bertie, wrapped his paws around him, and licked his face. Then Bertie and Tiddles did a kind of dance under the acacia trees. The friends were united and overjoyed to see each other once again.
And that’s the story of how Bertie had a pet lion, set him free in the wild African bush, and then went out to meet him again. Bertie says that if you are ever near a wild animal you must be ever so careful and follow all the instructions that you are given. Wild animals are very beautiful but very dangerous.
And don’t forget, there are loads more stories at Storynory.com. We have stories about Bertie, both when he was a prince and now that he’s a frog. We have other original stories about Theo the Monkey, Katie the Witch, and Gladys the songwriter. And we have loads and loads of traditional fairy tales, myths and legends. So drop by soon and listen to another one soon. For now, from me, Natasha, Bye Bye!