‘The Boy that Cried Wolf’ is among the most famous fables attributed to the timeless writer Aesop: it gave us the renowned idiom to cry wolf, meaning to progressive a false alarm. But although the moral definition of the fable is reasonably clear, the story’s efficiency as a ethical fable is much less obvious, together we will check out below. But prior to we offer an analysis of ‘The Boy who Cried Wolf’, this is a quick reminder that the fable.

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The Boy who Cried Wolf: summary


A shepherd-boy looks after ~ his master’s lamb in the meadow, not much from the village where the lived. A woodland was nearby. The occupational was easy. The was, however, also really dull, and also the boy had nothing to perform as he tended the flock every day.

Then, ~ above a an especially boring day together he satellite watching the sheep, as he satellite watching the sheep and the surrounding forest, the boy wondered what the would execute if a wolf suddenly showed up out of the forest. Would certainly he cry because that help?


And then, he had actually an idea – an idea for exactly how to amuse himself throughout those dull days spent watching the sheep.

The boy recalled the his master, the shepherd, had instructed him come cry for help if a wolf ever turned up and attacked the sheep. The villagers would certainly come as soon as they heard him crying because that help, and they would chase the wolf away.


The young grinned and also suddenly gained up and also ran in the direction of the village, crying, ‘Wolf! A wolf!’

Sure enough, the villagers who had heard him crying ‘wolf!’ ran from the village and out into the meadow. But when they reached him, they found the young sitting there and also laughing, and they realised that the boy had actually tricked them.


The young was so pleased the his trick had worked that, a few days later, he did the again, crying, ‘Wolf! Wolf!’ once again, the villagers ran indigenous the village to help him against the wolf, just to uncover there to be no wolf and also he’d duped castle again. Angrily, they went back to the village.

One night a quick while later, together evening arrived and also the sun began to set, the young was the town hall the sheep when – come his fear – a wolf really did show up from the forest and attacked the sheep.


Terrified, the boy ran towards the town shouting, ‘Wolf! Wolf!’ to try to get help.

The villagers heard his cry, however as they’d to be fooled twice by a false alarm, none ran to assist him, believing he to be trying to trick them again.


The wolf killed a good many the the sheep prior to slinking back into the forest.

The Boy who Cried Wolf: analysis


The ethical of ‘The Boy that Cried Wolf’ is commonly summarised in one sentence: Liars are not believed – also when castle speak the truth.

Fables are quick stories designed come teach morals, yet the curious and surprising thing about ‘The Boy who Cried Wolf’ is the it has actually been presented to have the opposite effect: children actually lying more when they had actually been said the story than before. In their publication Nurtureshock: brand-new Thinking about Children, Po

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Bronson and also Ashley Merriman analyse why this might be. They mention a research which showed that the well known story the George Washington telling the fact to his dad (over chopping down the family’s cherry tree) – a story i beg your pardon is together grounded in truth as ‘The Boy that Cried Wolf’ likely ever before was – was considerably an ext effective in convincing kids that it was a poor idea come lie.


The George Washington story, follow to this study, lessened lying by 75% in boys and also 50% in girls. The researcher who lugged out the experiment also anonymised the main figure, in situation the call of George Washington was a contributing factor, however even once the boy was made just an simple child quite than the future president of the unified States, the story to be still an ext effective in discouraging lie in children. Indeed, ‘The Boy that Cried Wolf’ also encouraged lying in that respondents. Why is this?

After all, the boy in Aesop’s fable ill a destructive punishment: in the most excessive versions the the story that is consumed by the wolf himself, for this reason his lies expense him his life, yet even in the an ext mainstream version cited above, he still ends up in severe trouble v his master, because his actions cause the wolf acquiring away with attacking the flock.


But together Bronson and Merriman observe, the truth that liars get punished once their lies are found out is not news come children. For this reason the ethical weight of ‘The Boy that Cried Wolf’ tote no shock value and also imparts no brand-new warning to them. For little children, the main worry with informing a lied is not shedding people’s trust (although of course this is a element in Aesop’s story) but in acquiring punished for her lies. Yet the story of George Washington and the cherry tree is an ext effective in encouraging ethical behaviour amongst children because the young George receives positive praise and respect for telling the truth. In various other words, the study says that what kids require is not a reminder that the risk of penalty for telling lies, yet affirmation that telling the fact carries the promise of reward. That is not enough to teach kids that lying is wrong, and also this is wherein the restrictions of ‘The Boy who Cried Wolf’ display themselves. Teachers and also parents have to teach children that honesty is valued.

About Aesop

Aesop wasn’t the very first person come write pet fables. Numerous centuries earlier, Hesiod – who is now best-known for his 2 poems, Theogony and Works and Days (a fascinating poem which we have analysed here) – had written one about a hawk and a nightingale, while a poet called Archilochus penned several, including one about an eagle and also a vixen, and one about a fox and a monkey.

But Aesop would rotate the fable right into a renowned form. Wilhelm Caxton published the very first English translate into of the Fables in 1484, enabling such phrases together ‘sour grapes’ and also ‘to cry wolf’ to enter the language.

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As through Homer, us can’t be certain an ‘Aesop’ ever before actually existed. If he did, that was probably in approximately the sixth century BCE, number of centuries ~ Homer, if Homer himself ever existed. Aesop’s Fables may have actually been the job-related of numerous hands, component of one oral heritage that gradually accumulated. Nevertheless, legends prospered up roughly the storyteller. One commentator asserted that Aesop battled at the battle of Thermopylae in 480 BCE, but since by climate he had actually been dead for nearly a century one can not imagine that was lot help.