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There was once a small lion cub, very young, who loved to explore. He would run everywhere, exploring grasslands, forests, ponds, everything. He would climb the trees, jumping from branch to branch, to lie on the topmost branch and observe the land rolled out beneath him like a map. He would run through the tall grass as fast as he could go, scaring dozens of small animals but enjoying it anyway. On his journeys and adventures he would meet many new animals, ones he knew of and ones he had never seen before. One day he came across a quite peculiar animal, it was almost like a giraffe, except with a shorter neck, a longer back, no horns, a wider nose, and black and white strips all over its body. Being a very curious lion, he walked up to the strange animal and asked its name and species. The strange little thing snorted in fear and tried to gallop away, though it tripped over its own long wobbly legs and landed sprawled in the dirt.
The lion cub laughed, and said, “You’re a silly creature! I just want to know your name and such; I’ve never seen one like you before!”
The animal slowly, tremblingly, stood up, and in a shaky voice said, “You promise you won’t eat me?”
The lion laughed again, “Eat you! Why would I do that? My mother always told me not to put strange things in my mouth!”
“Alright,” the creature said, not sounding entirely convinced but going on anyway, “I am a zebra. I was only born a few days ago, so I can’t run too wonderfully yet. And you would eat me because you are my natural predator.”
“A zebra, you say?” Said the lion thoughtfully, but his expression changed to horrified shock as the rest of what the zebra said processed in his mind. “Natural enemies? No! Why can’t we just be friends, like in those cliché children’s movies where the two most unlikely animals become the very best of friends? We could do that!”
“What’s a ‘movie’?” The zebra asked, but before either one could say anything else, a much bigger zebra came running towards them, the young zebra’s mother it seemed to be. She snorted and whinnied and made all sorts of fearful noises, and pulled her child away, not wanting him to perhaps be the young lion cub’s lunch. The little zebra gave the lion an apologetic look and galloped away with his mother. The lion, very confused, sat down in the dirt, wondering why the world was as it was, why a lion and a zebra couldn’t be friends.
As if guessing his question, a wise old bird sitting in a nearby tree sung out an answer in a croaky old voice, “You cannot be friends because most everyone judges everyone by appearance! You’re forever doomed to be perceived as a mindless meat-eating machine!”
The lion looked shocked at first, then, realizing the bird was right, began to cry, for the world truly was a horrible place, full of wrongful judging and stereotyping.