A young shepherd stumbled down the hillside and ran into his village, crying, “WOLF!!” WOLF!!”
No one believed him. Why would they? This was the third time in as many days.
The first time they believed him.
Why would they not?
Their flocks had been growing as the price of wool sailed through the roof and luck like that can never to be trusted. Things had been going too well for too long. They were due for a change and a wolf was just the kind of bad luck one could expect.
So when the boy cried wolf, they timidly took up pikes and pitchforks and set off trembling into the dark forest to confront the onset of their ill fortune – but they found no trace – not a shadow among the pines, not a paw-print in the mud.
The next time the lad came stumbling down the hillside, they believed him once more and set out again with pikes and pitchforks.
This time no one was fooled and only the shepherd’s father came out to greet him, slapping his thick leather belt against the palm of his hand.
“But I did see a wolf,” the boy cried.
His father motioned him to come closer.
The boy gauged the distance to his father, anticipating that in the next step or the one after that he would feel the belt.
Instead, the growl of a rough, unfamiliar voice intervened on his behalf.
“What did the wolf look like?” it asked.
The boy looked up into a face as weathered as an old stump. It’s nose was long and hooked, better suited to a hawk than a man – but the eyes were as bright as the blade of a sharp knife.
The boy inched closer to his father. Better to be beaten by someone you know than be caught in a lie by someone you do not.
“Go ahead, boy, tell the hunter what you saw,” his father said.
“It was big, sir.”
“Of course it was big – but tell me about its color. Was it gray?”
“Gray as twilight, sir.”
“And did he wear a patch of white on his neck and chest?”
“He did, sir, like a bib.”
The hunter turned to the gathering crowd of villagers. “I know this wolf.” he said. “and he does not travel alone.”
“But we found no trace of wolf.” the villagers said.
“You wouldn’t,” the hunter said, “his pack drifts among the pines like smoke on a breeze, but like smoke, you know it by its scent – and I smell wolves.”
“Are we safe in the village?” a young mother asked.
“For a time,” the hunter said. “but once the pack finishes the sheep on the hill, it will come for the lambs in the village.”
The mother gasped and tightened her hold on her children.
“Bar the gate,” a village elder cried out, “and man the watch.”
The hunter shook his head, “That will only buy you time. The wolves will wait you out and as you venture beyond your stockade for food or water, they will pick you off.”
“What can we do?” the villagers cried.
“That is entirely up to you,” the hunter said, “either abandon your homes or kill the wolves before they kill you.”
“But we are shepherds,” a village elder said. “not wolf killers.”
“I am truly sorry for you then,” the hunter said, picking up his pack to leave.
“Won’t you help us?” the villagers wailed.
“I’d be a fool to confront that pack alone and I refuse to hunt with the likes of you,” he said.
“Are we then to abandon our homes?” the villagers asked.
“Yes,” said the hunter, “unless you can hire enough of my kind to save you.”
“And what would the cost of that be?” the village elder asked.
“We can speak of that later,” the hunter said, “first you need to bring your sheep back into the village.”
Later that afternoon, the hunter found the shepherd boy searching for strays in a remote ravine.
“Only two people know you lied about the wolf, you and me,” he said.
“No, I really did see…” the boy stammered.
“There may not be a wolf but there is money,” the hunter said – and reaching toward his scabbard, he glared at the boy with eyes like steel
“But first we need a victim to raise the price.”
Moral: Crying wolf, attracts wolves.
42 thoughts on “The Boy Who Cried Wolf – A Re-telling of an Old Tale”
An interesting change of pace, and very well done. Personally, I’m not one who seeks out horror in literature or film, but it certainly has a role to play in illuminating other, equally threatening horrors that are lurking at the edge of our collective consciousness.
True, it amazing how gruesome folk tales can be.
Love the ending. Bet Stan couldn’t have told it better.:)
Stan would have found a way to write a talking diesel engine saw into it.
Great story. Dark and lovely… like good coffee. Thanks, now I can’t sleep and don’t want to go outside!
Mark, you are a great writer.
The story was stark, but also very believable and it’s point is very relevant. We do tend to attract exactly what we expect and talk about.
Unfortunately that does not work for money.
Sometimes it does. Money tends to follow those who obsess over it.
Hasn’t worked for moi.
Like most nights after my eyes tire of reading, I found myself flipping through the channels looking for a movie to watch. Most of what I found were slasher flicks. Why would a people who have achieved almost absolute security, seek out terror?
Is it that a world threatened by wolves is a more interesting place?
Wow. This is a new style for you. Beautifully disturbing and unfortunately, all too true.
Now that is something to aim for.
Intriguing story. Love your use of dialogue and your stray from humor. I want to try some horror but the right story has not come to me yet.
I like to mix it up whenever I feel that I am getting into a rut. I have had a lot of fun with the MyStuff series but lately it seems like it is getting repetitious.
I think you’ve hit upon a new direction here.
I haven’t read a lot of it, since I’ve just discovered your blog, so it’s all fresh to me. I like to try different things, too. Isn’t writing the best?
And who are the wolves? Take your pick there, too.
The wolves are always the other guys, never us.
That’s an awesome story… I was glued till the end… And the ending took me by surprise totally. But sadly it is True 😯😯. You write beautifully 👍👍👍Cheers, Charu
Thanks for the three thumbs up, Charu. 🙂
I wanted to give more but thought it might look awkward!! Thanks for the follow..
Excellent story, Greg.
I have tried re-writing a number of fables with mixed success.
This was excellent. That is a great idea though.
Brilliant. I loved it
Damn – now I’m jealous! Great story – and held me from go to woe.
This story did flow well. I am working on that. 🙂
Did you get bitten by a magic elf? Not your usual voice and topic, but this is an amazing re-telling!
He really did see the wolf, the stranger strolling among the villagers, didn’t he?
There are always wolves lurking about – and they trot along the scent-trail of fear.
Spoken like a true former government worker…
Great twist on the original parable, and unfortunately too true a commentary on the day.
The wolves lay in the weeds listening to the murmur of fear and loathing.
“It’s the left,” some people cry. “No, it’s the right,” say others. “It’s corporations.” “It’s socialism.”
“So what’s on the menu today?” one wolf says to another.
“Take your pick, it’s a smorgasbord.”
I figured that was the gist behind the tale. It’s like the Golden Rule doesn’t matter anymore and no one cares.
Yikes – that’s a switch. Great story and, sadly, perhaps more true than I’d like it to be.
Humor and horror are handmaidens. You can’t do one well without knowing the other.
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