Like most of the world, I was horrified to read about the death of Cecil the Lion. Pictures of this magnificent animal filled my newsfeed amid status updates decrying the hunter, a dentist from Minnesota named Walter Palmer.
After shooting Cecil with an arrow, Palmer hunted the lion for another day or so, finally shooting him after 40 hours. But apparently, that wasn’t enough. Palmer also skinned the lion and decapitated him. I think there might have even been a selfie in there somewhere. #LookMa!
Call it sport, but somehow, I don’t see this one making an appearance in the Olympics anytime soon.
I couldn’t shake the image from my mind, and the only parallel that I had for it was when the White Witch kills Aslan on the Stone Table in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. I remember reading that as a child, and I remember how angry I was – not so much about the actual execution – but the way in which she does it. It wasn’t enough to kill him. She needed to humiliate him as well. So she ties him to the table and shaves off his beard while the children in the story watch on, helpless.
In the book, Aslan comes back (sorry for the spoiler). Cecil, though, will not. The anger on Twitter and Facebook is the anger of seeing Aslan on that table. It’s watching Mufassa getting run down in the stampede. This was the Lion King! The king of the jungle! Who does this guy think he is?
I don’t understand hunting as a sport. I also don’t understand curling, though apparently there’s a lot to that sport as well. But seeing the pictures of this regal creature and the pictures of Palmer with his previous kills, I can only think of the stories that I’ve read. I think of Aslan. And Simba. And Alex, from Madagasgar.
But there’s another story that comes to mind as well. A short story by Ray Bradbury called The Sound of Thunder about hunters who travel back in time to kill the ultimate prey – a dinosaur. So many precautions are taken to ensure that the dinosaur’s death does not alter history and so the time-traveling hunters are constantly warned not to take a step off the path that leads towards the kill. Stepping on a simple butterfly could alter the world as we know it, the consequences permeating in ways we cannot even fathom.
In the story, the hunters were going back for a thrill. To kill a huge beast! The magnitude of what they were doing was lost to the men who paid millions for the experience.
And back here in reality, for $50,000, someone wants to take out a lion. Kill a rhino. Slay a cheetah. To what end? What consequences will it bring? And how can they be so blatantly ignored?
For the world who suddenly was introduced to a lion named Cecil, the repercussions are there in the imaginings of the skinned beast. In the decapitated head. In the image of Aslan on the table. It’s a visceral repulsion toward meaningless violence on an animal that is the embodiment of regality and honor. That outrage and disgust will fade with time. Dr. Palmer will no doubt open his dental practice again and start earning the money needed for another international trip to kill the ultimate prey.
Aslan isn’t coming back to save Narnia. And Simba isn’t returning to Pride Rock. Palmer already stepped off the path and killed a butterfly, leaving us, after all the rage and yelling dies down, to just sit and wait for the eventual ramifications to unfold.
And that train is never late.