The lion hunt

A Masai elder's coming-of-age tale. Sort of.

After two years of invitations, I finally made it to Africa to visit my friend Moses, a Masai elder, at his village in Kenya.

The Masai have a long history of being great warriors, and that first night while sitting around a fire, Moses offered to tell me about hunting lions. This was an honor, as his people also consider themselves to be great storytellers and do not often share such private tales with visitors.

A Masai boy is expected to hunt a lion with only a shield and spear before he is considered to be a man. While he does not have to kill the lion, he must participate in the hunt. Moses was about 13 when he faced this trial, which is an integral part of his culture.

Moses put on a grave face and began to tell about the lion dance that is performed the night before a hunt and how the warriors jump high into the air while moving in a circle to imitate what they will do in the morning. They begin the hunt by driving the lion into a thicket and surrounding it in a wide circle, then slowly advancing until the lion is so threatened that it attacks a warrior. That warrior then throws himself on the ground, covers up with his shield, and hopes his fellow hunters kill the lion with their spears before it kills him.

Moses stared into the fire a long time before continuing, and I thought perhaps he had awakened a bad memory.

Reaching down, he pulled up his bright red shuka (robe) and showed me a long jagged scar on his calf, saying he'd gotten it on his first lion hunt.

I was shocked. I said, "The lion did that to you?"

He leaned forward as if to impart a great secret and said, "No. I was so scared, I speared myself in the leg, and the lion got away!"

With that he threw his head back, giggling uncontrollably. I had received my introduction to Masai humor.

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to

QR Code to The lion hunt
Read this article in
QR Code to Subscription page
Start your subscription today