Aesop's Fables: Wolves

The wolf is a dangerous character; in many ways, more dangerous than the lion. He shares the lion's tyrannical nature as you can see in The Wolf and the Lamb. The wolf has no sense of injustice, yet the point of these stories is not so much that the wolf is unjust but rather that it is foolish to expect otherwise from a wolf, as in the fable of The Wolf and the Crane.

The wolf has some positive qualities, too, though. Like the fox, the wolf can denounce hypocrisy when he sees it, even though the wolf himself can also be a hypocrite, wrapped up in sheep's clothing.

In the fable of The Dog and the Wolf, you can see how the wolf is a symbol of freedom and liberty as opposed to the enslavement of the domesticated dog.

Finally, the wolf can play the role of a fool as well, such as when he takes the nurse at her word.

Note the two-fable illustrations here; you will get the fable of The Cock and the Pearl and the fable of The Fisherman and the Fish later.

[Notes by LKG]

These fables are part of the Aesop's Fables (Jacobs) unit. Story sources: The prose fables are from The Fables of Aesop by Joseph Jacobs (1894) and the limericks and illustrations are from The Baby's Own Aesop by W. J. Linton and illustrated by Walter Crane (1887).


Jacobs 2. The Wolf and the Lamb (Perry 155)

Once upon a time a Wolf was lapping at a spring on a hillside, when, looking up, what should he see but a Lamb just beginning to drink a little lower down. "There's my supper," thought he, "if only I can find some excuse to seize it."

Then he called out to the Lamb, "How dare you muddle the water from which I am drinking?"

"Nay, master, nay," said Lambikin; "if the water be muddy up there, I cannot be the cause of it, for it runs down from you to me."

"Well, then," said the Wolf, "why did you call me bad names this time last year?"

"That cannot be," said the Lamb; "I am only six months old."

"I don't care," snarled the Wolf; "if it was not you it was your father." And with that he rushed upon the poor little Lamb and . . . WARRA WARRA WARRA WARRA WARRA . . . ate her all up.

But before she died she gasped out: "Any excuse will serve a tyrant."

Crane 3. The Wolf and The Lamb (Perry 155)

A Wolf, wanting lamb for his dinner,
Growled out, "Lamb, you wronged me, you sinner."
Bleated Lamb - "Nay, not true!"
Answered Wolf - "Then 't was Ewe -
Ewe or lamb, you will serve for my dinner."


~ ~ ~

Jacobs 5. The Wolf and the Crane (Perry 156)

A Wolf had been gorging on an animal he had killed, when suddenly a small bone in the meat stuck in his throat and he could not swallow it. He soon felt terrible pain in his throat, and ran up and down groaning and groaning and seeking for something to relieve the pain. He tried to induce every one he met to remove the bone. "I would give anything," said he, "if you would take it out."

At last the Crane agreed to try and told the Wolf to lie on his side and open his jaws as wide as he could. Then the Crane put its long neck down the Wolf's throat, and with its beak loosened the bone, till at last it got it out.

"Will you kindly give me the reward you promised?" said the Crane.

The Wolf grinned and showed his teeth and said: "Be content. You have put your head inside a Wolf's mouth and taken it out again in safety; that ought to be reward enough for you."

Crane 62. The Ungrateful Wolf (Perry 156)

To the Wolf, from whose throat the Crane
Drew the bone, his long bill made it plain
He expected his fee:
Snarled Wolf — "Fiddle de dee,
Be thankful your head's out again."


~ ~ ~

Jacobs 16. The Wolf and the Kid (Perry 98)

A Kid was perched up on the top of a house, and looking down saw a Wolf passing under him. Immediately he began to revile and attack his enemy. "Murderer and thief," he cried, "what do you here near honest folks' houses? How dare you make an appearance where your vile deeds are known?"

"Curse away, my young friend," said the Wolf: "It is easy to be brave from a safe distance."

~ ~ ~

Jacobs 28. The Dog and the Wolf (Perry 346)

A gaunt Wolf was almost dead with hunger when he happened to meet a House-dog who was passing by.

"Ah, Cousin," said the Dog, "I knew how it would be; your irregular life will soon be the ruin of you. Why do you not work steadily as I do, and get your food regularly given to you?"

"I would have no objection," said the Wolf, "if I could only get a place."

"I will easily arrange that for you," said the Dog; "come with me to my master and you shall share my work."

So the Wolf and the Dog went towards the town together. On the way there the Wolf noticed that the hair on a certain part of the Dog's neck was very much worn away, so he asked him how that had come about.

"Oh, it is nothing," said the Dog. "That is only the place where the collar is put on at night to keep me chained up; it chafes a bit, but one soon gets used to it."

"Is that all?" said the Wolf. "Then good-bye to you, Master Dog."

Better starve free than be a fat slave.

~ ~ ~

Jacobs 39. The Wolf in Sheep's Clothing (Perry 451)

A Wolf found great difficulty in getting at the sheep owing to the vigilance of the shepherd and his dogs. But one day it found the skin of a sheep that had been flayed and thrown aside, so it put it on over its own pelt and strolled down among the sheep.

The Lamb that belonged to the sheep, whose skin the Wolf was wearing, began to follow the Wolf in the Sheep's clothing; so, leading the Lamb a little apart, he soon made a meal off her, and for some time he succeeded in deceiving the sheep, and enjoying hearty meals.

Appearances are deceptive.

~ ~ ~

Jacobs 46. Nurse and the Wolf (Perry 158)

"Be quiet now," said an old Nurse to a child sitting on her lap. "If you make that noise again I will throw you to the Wolf."

Now it chanced that a Wolf was passing close under the window as this was said. So he crouched down by the side of the house and waited. "I am in good luck to-day," thought he. "It is sure to cry soon, and a daintier morsel I haven't had for many a long day."

So he waited, and he waited, and he waited, till at last the child began to cry, and the Wolf came forward before the window, and looked up to the Nurse, wagging his tail. But all the Nurse did was to shut down the window and call for help, and the dogs of the house came rushing out.

"Ah," said the Wolf as he galloped away: "enemies promises were made to be broken."

Next page: Dogs and Cats

(900 words)

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