There was once a very great artist. His fame had spread far and wide. Everybody admired him. He was by far the best artist in the country. Now, a circus happened to visit his town, and a few people told the owner of the circus all about the great artist. They said that this artist could paint a lion that would be exactly like a living lion. Unsuspecting people would get frightened when they saw the painted lion because it would be so lifelike.
The circus owner liked this suggestion very much. So he went to the artist and said, “Can you paint a living lion for me?”
The artist said, “Yes, I can, but I warn you that people will take my lion very seriously. Children will get frightened when they see it.”
The circus owner was so delighted and excited. He said, “Oh! That is wonderful! How much will you charge?”
The artist said, “I will charge 2,000 rupees. But first I must ask, do you want the lion with a chain?”
The circus owner replied, “Yes, a chain will look nice. How much will you charge for the chain? Is it extra?”
The artist said, “With a chain it will be 4,000 rupees.”
The circus owner said, “Without a chain, 2,000 rupees and with a chain it will be 4,000? For a chain it will be 2,000 extra?”
The artist said, “Yes. It is very complicated to explain. The whole body takes a short time to paint, but when it comes to the chain, it takes a very long time. There is so much detail in the chain. But if you are ready to give 2,000 rupees more, I will do it.”
The circus owner asked, “If there is no chain, will it still look like a real lion?”
The artist said, “Certainly it will look like a lion! Who will care whether or not it has a chain if the body looks like a living lion?”
The circus owner said, “Then I am ready to give you 2,000 rupees for a lion without a chain.”
So the artist painted the picture. The result was extraordinary. It was absolutely like a living lion. Everyone who saw it was deeply impressed. The only problem was that, although most of the grown-ups were very happy to see the painting at the entrance to the circus, some of the children became frightened when they saw the lion and they did not want to go inside. At a distance the lion seemed so living. These little children would see it and beg their parents to take them home again. So sometimes more people attended the circus because at the entrance there was a living lion, but sometimes the circus lost business because children were afraid and did not want to go inside.
One night there was a severe storm. It rained very, very heavily. Some of the circus tents were badly damaged while others developed leaks. Alas, the rain destroyed the painting completely. Only a few lines of the original painting were visible. The lion was no longer recognisable. So the circus owner became furious. He went to the artist and said, “You gave me a living lion and now the lion has completely disappeared!”
The artist said, “The lion has disappeared? What can I do? You wanted it and I painted it. I am not responsible for what happened afterwards.”
The circus owner said, “No, I will not accept your excuses. You have to paint me another one.”
“The same thing will happen,” said the artist.
“Can you not paint one that will never disappear, even if it rains?” asked the circus owner.
Then the artist said, “It is your own fault! I told you, you need a chain for the lion, to tie it. You said, ‘No, I do not need a chain, since the chain costs 2,000 rupees more.’ It is your own fault because you did not want me to paint a chain. If I had painted the chain along with the lion, then the lion could not have disappeared. It would have remained.”
The circus owner said, “All right. I am ready to pay you extra for the chain. Please paint another lion.”
“Then you have to give me 4,000 rupees,” said the artist.
The circus owner said, “I am ready to give the money if I can keep the lion.”
The artist felt sad that he had fooled this gullible fellow. The first time the artist had used water colours. This time he used oil paints. He painted another lion, and this one was even more powerful and ferocious than the first one. Plus it had a very strong chain around its neck. So the circus owner was very pleased with his chained lion and the artist received the full amount. And, since it was an oil painting, the lion remained permanently at the entrance to the circus.