The Boy Who Cried Wolf

More vocabulary. Woo! So many big words begin with the letter “i.”

There once was a gregarious shepherd boy sitting imperiously in a field. It could have been a lovely pastoral idyll, but the boy was lonely as he sat on a hallowed hillside watching the village sheep. Unfortunately, this boy had to watch the sheep because he was impecunious. He also had an idolatrous love of trickery. Instead of gamboling about the field, enjoying the halcyon hills, he took a great breath and sang out with guile, “Wolf! Wolf! The Wolf is chasing the sheep!” What a gauche thing to do. His outcry was not at all germane.

The villagers who came running up the hill to help the boy drive the wolf away were not imperturbable. They could not gainsay his call for help from the bottom of the hill. But when they arrived, they found no wolf. The boy, harrowed them, laughing in his hubris at the sight of their angry faces.

“This is ignominious. Don’t cry ‘wolf’, shepherd boy,” the villagers harangued him, “When there’s no wolf! It is heretical.” They went grumbling back down the hill. This upset them so much because it took them away from their hedonism for a moment.

Later, in an impetuous moment, the boy sang out again, “Wolf! Wolf! The wolf is chasing the sheep!” To his naughty delight, he watched the villagers run up the hill to help him drive the wolf away.

When the inert villagers, in their indefatigable patience, saw no wolf, they realized this was an incipient problem, and they sternly said, “Save your frightened song for when there is really something wrong! Stop being such an iconoclast. There is no wolf!” they importuned him.

But the boy just grinned impassively and watched the garrulous and indolent villagers go grumbling down the hill once more.

Later, he saw a real wolf prowling about his flock. Alarmed at this imbroglio, and aware of his ineptitude, he leaped to his feet and sang out as loudly as he could, “Wolf! Wolf!”

But by now they knew his gratuitous cries were glib, and so he could not garner any backup. Loss of the sheep was immanent.

At sunset, everyone wondered why the shepherd boy hadn’t returned to the village with their sheep. They went up the hill to find the inherently ingenuous boy. They found him weeping in iniquity at the infelicity of his final outcry. They graciously responded, granting him impunity in his inchoate maturity.

“There really was an inimical wolf here! The flock has scattered! I cried out, “Wolf!” Why didn’t you come?” The boy still didn’t realize his repetitive cries had been a harbinger for misfortune.

An indifferent old man, who’d had no sheep in the field, tried to comfort the boy as they walked back to the village.

“This isn’t completely implacable. We’ll help you look for the lost sheep in the morning,” he said, putting his arm around the youth for a very brief homily, speaking with grandiloquence, “It is an immutable reality: they’d have to be heterodox to believe a one who impugns himself—even when he is telling the truth! Language is not gossamer, my boy.”

Never again would he be so insular; he now thought his insipid jokes innocuous. Lying was insensible and could make honest words inscrutable. Unless is was an emergency he’d leave the people insouciant.

After that day, the intractable, intransigent villagers could exercise hegemony over the shepherd boy once again. To bad they couldn’t just hermetically seal the sheep, so the wolves couldn’t smell them.


About Jacquelyn Barnes

Former English Literature and Writing major at Whitworth University. Spanish Language minor. Browne's Addition Resident. Editorial Assistant at Gray Dog Press. Interested in postcolonial, multicultural, and feminist theories. Former ski racer. Longboarder. Runner. Member of Vintage Faith Community Church (we have no building). Painter. Morning person. View all posts by Jacquelyn Barnes

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