The Shepherd's Boy
Once upon a time, in a small cabin at the foot of a mountain, lived a Shepherd and his son. The Shepherd was preparing to go on a journey of several days. As it was late summer, he would need to go into the city to sell some of his stock, in order to have money for the needs of winter. Although the Shepherd and his son lived just up the slope from a village, the folks there preferred to trade; and the village, owing to the abundant pasture of the surrounding valley, had more sheep than it could ever want. Therefore, to get a better price, he had to travel a great distance.
The Shepherd's son was an impetuous and mischievous boy. He was self-centered and impatient, and prone to distraction, but having no choice, the Shepherd prepared to leave the house and the flock in the care of his young son.
“Son,” he told him as he prepared his horse and cart, “I worry about you sometimes. I want to trust you to be mature and responsible at all times, but you have failed me time and time again. Can you reassure me that things will be different this time?”
“Oh, don't worry, Papa,” the Boy replied, “I am older now. I will just tend the sheep, and mind my own business. Please don't be anxious.” And with that, the Shepherd was satisfied, and set off on his journey with no reservations.
The following day, the Boy slept in late, relishing the freedom from his father's watchful eye. However, he began to feel guilty about spending the day doing nothing, and so he begrudgingly set about to take the sheep out to graze. The sheep seemed restless as he guided them out to pasture, but he chalked that up to the fact that he was later than usual. The Boy sat upon a rock, and immediately found himself bored. “My God, this is tedious,” he thought to himself, “just sitting and watching these stupid sheep. I wish something exciting would happen.”
As the saying goes, ‘idle hands are the Devil's playthings,' and following a Law of Nature, the Boy's train of thought arrived at a fiendish conclusion. “I know how to stir up some excitement,” he said to himself, “and how to stop this endless boredom!”
With that, the Boy abandoned his sheep, and began running down toward the village, shouting “Wolf! Wolf!” at the top of his lungs. The whole village was roused into action. No Wolf had been seen in those parts for many years, and as the whole village depended on the trade, the villagers quickly armed themselves with axes and pitchforks and ran up the hill to meet him. There was much excitement, and quite a lot of commotion, some of the men set out to hunt for the Wolf, and others remained behind with the boy to guard the sheep. That evening, the Boy was quite satisfied; he regaled the remaining villagers with tales of the Wolf's sharp fangs, and wicked growls.
But like all things, the evening and the company soon came to an end. The next day was much the same: sleeping in, idling about the cottage, and eventually sitting on a stone, staring at stupid sheep. And the boredom was the same. Finally, near sunset, the Boy could no longer resist the impulse, and he again ran down the hill shouting “Wolf! Wolf!” at the top of his lungs.
And again, the villagers were stirred into action, but noticeably less this time. And again, a few of them remained, but the Boy's stories did not hold their interest like they had the previous evening. Finding no sign of a Wolf, the hunters returned disappointed, and the villagers dispersed to their homes. Still, the Boy was delighted with the attention, and after he eventually returned the sheep to their pen, he went to sleep happy.
On the third night, the Boy was bored again. He held his head in his hands, wishing he had some company, when he heard a twig snap. Looking up, he thought he saw something moving among the trees. Picking up his staff, he went to investigate. Peering in amid the darkened trees, his eyes were met by eyes cold and green. A Wolf! Frightened out of his mind, he ran pell-mell down the hill, crying “Wolf! Wolf!” but no one came to his aid, nobody met him, and nobody paid him any attention whatsoever. Meanwhile, up the hill, the Wolf was making a feast of the sheep. The next day, displaying the blood and bones and the remains of his father's sheep to the villagers as proof, and complaining of their callous disregard, the wise man of the village turned to him and told him:
“A LIAR WILL NOT BE BELIEVED, EVEN WHEN HE SPEAKS THE TRUTH.”