The Train from Rhodesia Questions and Answers
by Nadine Gordimer

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What attracts the young woman at a remote railway station?

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A well-carved lion being sold by an old man at a remote railway station impresses the newly-wed young woman. She is drawn towards the wooden lion for it appears almost perfect to her. The lion has been described in minute details:

It was a lion, carved out of soft, dry wood that looked like spongecake; heraldic, black and white, with impressionistic detail burnt in.

... And round the neck of the thing, a piece of fur (rat? rabbit? meerkat?); a real mane, majestic, telling you somehow that the artist had delight in the lion.

She likes everything about that wooden lion – “the open jaws, the pointed teeth,” “the black tongue, rolling, like a wave,” “the wonderful ruff of fur,” “the carving and the sinews of the legs and the switch of the tail.”

The woman admires the consummate art thriving in such remote and neglected place. However, she finds the price of the lion at "three-and-six" to be “too expensive.”

Later, we learn that she had already bought several other wooden animals including “the wooden buck, the hippos, the elephants” from elsewhere. It could be that she had bought them at much lower price or that the couple hadn’t had much money left. So, she just shakes her head in refusal to the price offered by the old man and retreats to her seat.

A little later, when her husband comes to her holding the lion, and starts narrating triumphantly how he has bargained with the old vendor and managed to get it at only “one-and-six,” she is greatly upset. She is deeply dismayed at the way her husband had thrown money at the old man, and made him run to hand him the lion.

She is really hurt thinking about the artisan who must have carved the lion with much care and attention. Both his piece of work and the old man deserved much respect.

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