When the Lion Feeds
'When the Lion Feeds'
A Novel by Wilbur Smith
-----When the Lion Feeds is our introduction to one of the most
influential families in Wilbur Smith's novels of Africa, the Courtney's.
This novel focuses on the lives of Garrick and Sean Courtney and
their struggle with love and animosity for each other.
-----'Twins could scarcely have been less alike. Sean was already taking
on the shape of a man: his shoulders were thickening, and there was hard
muscle forming in his puppy fat. His colouring was vivid: black hair, skin brown
from the sun, lips and cheeks that glowed with the fresh young blood beneath
their surface, and blue eyes, the dark indigo-blue of cloud shadow on a mountain
-----'Garrick was slim, with the wrists and ankles of a girl. His hair was an
undecided brown that grew wispy down the back of his neck, his skin was freckled,
his nose and the rims of his pale blue eyes were pink with persistent hayfever."(pages 5-6)*
-----One Friday as thier Father, Waite Courtney, left for town the two
boys decided to snatch their father's shotgun and take a shot at an
old bushbuck they had spotted the previous day. Sean, being the
bigger brother, got to use the 'borrowed' gun while Garrick was told
to drive the buck towards Sean's hidden position.
-----'Sean waited with his forefinger on one trigger, staring down at the edge of
the bush. Garrick shouted again--and the bushbuck broke from cover."
-----'It came fast into the open with its nose up and its long horns held flat
against its back. Sean moved his body sideways swinging the gun with its run, riding
the pip of the foresight on its black shoulder. He fired the left barrel and the recoil threw
him off balance; his ears hummed with the shot and the burnt powder smoke blew back
into his face. He struggled to his feet still holding the gun. The buckbush was down in
the grass, bleating like a lamb and kicking as it died."
-----"I got him,"screamed Sean."I got him first shot! Garry, Garry! I got him, I got him!"
-----'Tinker came pelting out of the bush dragging Garry behind him by the chain and,
still screaming, Sean ran down to join them. A stone rolled under his foot and he fell. The
shot gun flew out of his hand and the second barrel fired. The sound of the explosion was
-----'When Sean scrambled to his feet again Garrick was sitting in the grass wimpering-
whimpering and staring at his leg. The blast of the shotgun had smashed and churned the flesh
below the knee into tatters-bursting it open so the bone chips showed white in the wound and the
blood pumped dark and strong and thick as custard."
-----"I didn't mean it.... Oh God, Garry, I didn't mean it. I slipped. Honest, I slipped." Sean
was staring at the leg also. There was no colour in his face, his eyes were big and dark
with horror. The blood pumped out on to the grass."
-----"Stop it bleeding! Sean, please stop it. Oh, It's sore! Oh! Sean, please stop it!"(page 11)*
-----'Although Sean loved, cared for, and genuinely felt sorry for his brother,
their differences made it tough to get along as well as they once had.
Garrick's thin frame and amputated leg left him leaps and bounds behind
Sean's steadily maturing young body and superior leadership abilities.
This is evident as Garrick starts back to school again months after the
-----'Waite stopped the buggy, climbed down and loosened the harness on his horses and
Sean jumped from the outside seat to the ground and ran to the nearest bunch of boys. Waite
walked across to the men; thier ranks opened for him, they smiled their welcomes and in
turn reached for his right hand. Garrick sat alone in the front seat of the buggy, his leg stuck
out stiffly in front of him and his shoulders hunched as though he were trying to hide.
-----After a while Waite glanced back over his shoulder. He saw Garrick sitting alone
and he made as if to go to him, but stopped immediately. His eyes quested among the swirl
of small bodies until he found Sean. "Sean."
-----'Sean paused in the middle of an animated discussion. "Yes, Pa."
-----"Give Garry a hand with his case."
-----"Aw, gee, Pa-I'm talking."
-----"Sean!"Waite scowled with both face and voice.
-----"All right, I'm going." Sean hesitated a moment longer and then went to the buggy.
-----"Come on, Garry. Pass the cases down."
-----'Garrick roused himself and climbed awkwardly over the back of the seat. He handed the
luggage down to Sean who stacked it beside the wheel, then turned to the group that had followed
-----"Karl, you carry that. Dennis, take the brown bag. Don't drop it man, it's got four bottles
of jam in it." Sean issued his instructions.
-----"Come on, Garry."
-----'They started off toward the hostel and Garrick climbed down from the buggy and
limped quickly after them.
-----...There were thirty beds arranged along the walls, each with a locker beside it.
The room was as neat and cheerless as a prison or a school. At the far end a group of five or six boys
sat talking. They looked up as Sean came in but no greetings were exchanged - they were the opposition.
-----Sean sat down on his bed and bounced experimentally, it was hard as a plank. Garrick's peg
thumped as he walked down the dormitory and Ronny Pye, the leader of the opposition,
whispered something to his friends and they all laughed, watching Garrick. Garrick blushed again and sat down quickly
on his bed to hide his leg."
-----..."What's the new teacher like?" (Sean) asked.
-----"He looks all right," one of the others answered. "Jimmy and I saw him at the station
-----"He's thin and got a moustache."
-----"He's doesn't smile much."
-----..."I hope he's not too keen on spelling and things," Sean declared. "I hope he
doesn't start all that decimal business again, like old Lizard did."
-----'There was a round of agreement and then Garrick made his first contribution. "Decimals are easy."
-----There was a silence while they looked at him. (pages 28-32)*
-----Eventually Garrick ends up with Seans girl and she leads to the destruction
of the twins relationship that does not heal until late in the next novel 'The Sound of Thunder.'
You will enjoy watching the boys change into men and discover what life has to offer.
-----Follow Sean as he sets out as a young man to discover his destiny. Make the
trip with Sean and lose a fortune that most men only dream of by taming Africa's seemingly
endless supply of gold bearing reef.
You'll have to read it to believe it!
*"When the Lion Feeds" Wilbur Smith. Published by Ballantine Books. Copyright 1964.