Deep in the forest was a pool where the animals came for water every evening. One day, a beautiful stag came to the pool for a drink of water. He was truly magnificent to look at.
As he lowered his head to have a drink, he saw his reflection in the pool. It showed him his silky hide and soft muzzle, his beautiful eyes and the splendid antlers growing on his head.
The stag looked at his reflection admiringly. “Ah,” said he, “where can you see such noble horns as these? What a fabulous creature I am! My antlers are fantastic! They are like a crown on my head!” He turned this way and that, looking at himself from all sides happily.
Then he saw his legs and his admiration changed to disgust. ‘My legs are so awful! Thin spindly legs!’ he thought, feeling miserable, ‘They are so terrible compared to my splendid antlers! What a shame! I wish I had legs more worthy to bear such a noble crown; it is a pity they are so slim and slight.’
While he was sulking about his legs, he failed to see that a lion had come out of the shadows and was crouched, ready to attack him. A faint rustling sound alerted him. He looked up, startled and saw the lion!
Frightened out of his wits, the stag ran into the forest. The lion followed him quickly. He was not going to lose such a big stag! The stag ran swiftly weaving in and out through the trees, the lion chasing him steadily. By the aid of his nimble legs, the stag was nearly out of the sight of the lion.
But not noticing where he was going, he passed under some trees with branches growing low down in which his antlers were caught. He struggled to release them, but they got more and more tangled. He could hear the lion coming closer and was frantic, but there was no way to escape!
As the lion charged out of the trees and attacked him, the poor stag thought, ‘I was so vain about my antlers and they have only got me killed! And I never realised my ugly legs were my real strength. They would have helped me escape!’ ‘What an unhappy fool I was, to take my friends for my enemies, and my enemies for my friends! I trusted my head, that has betrayed me, and I found fault with my legs, that would otherwise have brought me off.’ “Alas! Alas!” cried the stag, “We often despise what is most useful to us.”