Once upon a time there was a boy.
He was a good boy who only wanted to make his family proud and serve the remote mountain village where he grew up.
When the time came to choose a career, the boy knew his family weren’t rich enough for him to become a merchant, and he didn’t really want to leave the village to become a soldier. So he approached the local shepherd and asked him if he could take training to be a shepherd.
The shepherd agreed and the boy turned out to be a conscientious student, quickly learning how to shear a sheep, give birth to a lamb, and spot threats to the flock that feeds and clothe the whole village. He was happy in his job and felt especially proud when he was tasked with spending the night in the shepherd’s hut above the village to guard the flock.
The first night was cold and dark, but the boy didn’t care – he knew he had an important job to do.
In the early hours, he heard a pack of wolves howling from the ridge just beyond the shepherd’s hut. He stopped to think. He couldn’t see the wolves and they could leave the village far away, as was the norm. But he knew it was the dead of winter and the packs that had been spotted on the snow-capped hills for the past few weeks looked lean and desperate. They could easily tear down the dilapidated fence protecting the herd and the villagers would be left without the meat, milk and wool they relied on to spend the winter.
He made his decision. He rang the bell hanging from the eaves of the hut as loud as he could and lit the lighthouse next to the sheepfold, as he had been taught.
A few minutes later, men from the village rushed up the hill towards the boy and his sheep. When they arrived, the boy explained that the wolves were nearby and seemed to be able to attack at any time. But the villagers watched the sheep in front of him safely in their enclosure.
“Why did you wake us up? They demanded.
“There are wolves nearby, they want to take the sheep,” the boy protested. As he spoke, a howl echoed in the darkness. “Can’t you hear them? He asked.
“It’s just the wind,” insisted the chief shepherd angrily. “And even if it’s wolves, we can just reinforce the fence tomorrow. We’ll go back to bed. Don’t bother us anymore.”
The boy was left with the flock, chastised and alone.
The next day, the other shepherds teased the boy mercilessly about the wolf attack which was not one. But no one thought about keeping their boss’s promise to tighten the fence.
That night the boy was again left alone in the moonless night to keep the sheep. Just after midnight the wolves started to howl again, but the boy did nothing. The howls grew louder and the boy could see the hungry pack moving through the shadows cast by the treeline just beyond the fence. He walked over to the bell, but still did nothing, fearing criticism if he woke the village unnecessarily.
Then suddenly a giant wolf – the biggest the boy had ever seen – jumped over the fence and grabbed one of the young sheep in its jaws. As the boy screamed and rang the bell, the wolf crashed through the fence and ran towards the trees, carrying the sheep in its jaws as if it weighed no more than a rabbit.
Five minutes later, a crowd wielding pitchforks and torches arrived at the hut.
“What happened?” asked the chief shepherd.
“A wolf,” the boy gasped, clearly frightened. “He took one of the sheep.
The villagers watched the herd.
“All the sheep are here,” said the chief shepherd, as a howl again knocked down the night air.
“But… but… they aren’t,” the boy cried. “Count them. They are short. Look, the fence is broken and there is blood on the grass,” he said, his voice rising in panic as he pointed to a patch of grass. bloodied.
“Hmm,” said the Shepherd, “take a count. The men got to work. There should have been 100 sheep in the herd and most of the crowd numbered 99. But two men counted 100 and a third swore blindly that he had counted 101 sheep. “The data is inconclusive,” the Chief Shepherd concluded. “Who can say what happened here, but it sounds like a hoax to me.”
“But what about the fence? The boy pleaded.
“It could have been the wind,” said the Shepherd. “We cannot rule this out.”
“What about the blood?
The shepherd shrugged his shoulders and yawned. “Even if it was a wolf, we can afford to lose a sheep,” he said. “A sheep costs less than building a better fence.”
He turned to leave, then looked over his shoulder to yell at the boy. “If it happens again, you are fired,” he said.
The next day the boy had never felt so lonely. None of the other shepherds wanted to talk to him. Every time he approached them all he could hear was mumbling hoaxes and how wolves would leave, if there were wolves, which most of the time wasn’t. way.
The boy went to work trying to fix the fence, but no one helped and by twilight it was still broken.
As his colleagues left him alone to face the night, he begged them to stay. “We are going to lose these sheep unless we take some precautions,” he warned. “The wolves are getting stronger and more dangerous. The threat is growing. We will have nothing left.”
“Everything will be fine,” replied the chief shepherd. “Stop exaggerating. There are no wolves. And don’t you dare wake us up tonight.”
Just after midnight the wolves returned. A swarm of teeth and claws unprecedented in size and ferocity overwhelmed the fence and began their slaughter of the sheep.
Even as he rang the bell, the terrified boy couldn’t be sure he was doing the right thing. But it didn’t matter, because none of the villagers came to his aid.
The next morning the shepherds inspected the carnage. All the sheep and the boy were gone. The ravenous pack had left only a handful of bones. A few of the men looked at the chief shepherd accusingly, but no one said anything.
Two weeks later, the villagers were starving to death. The pass leading to the next valley was blocked by snowdrifts and food supplies were running out. Maybe he felt some responsibility or maybe he was just hungry, but it was the Chief Shepherd who volunteered to try and make the treacherous journey to the next town to try to stock up. He endured two days of snowstorm and finally reached the tavern in the market square.
He walked over to the bar, looking thin and crazy eyes. “What happened to you?” asked the bartender.
“Let me tell you a story about the boy who cried wolf,” replied the shepherd.