Wolves in Aesop's Fables

edited by

D. L. Ashliman

© 2003

Return to D. L. Ashliman's folktexts, a library of folktales, folklore, fairy tales, and mythology.

  1. The Wolf and the Lamb
  2. A wolf came upon a lamb straying from the flock, and felt some compunction about taking the life of so helpless a creature without some plausible excuse. So he cast about for a grievance and said at last, "Last year, sirrah, you grossly insulted me." "That is impossible, sir," bleated the lamb, "for I wasn't born then." "Well," retorted the wolf, "you feed in my pastures." "That cannot be," replied the lamb, "for I have never yet tasted grass." "You drink from my spring, then," continued the wolf. "Indeed, sir," said the poor lamb, "I have never yet drunk anything but my mother's milk." "Well, anyhow," said the wolf, "I'm not going without my dinner." And he sprang upon the lamb and devoured it without more ado.

  3. The Wolf in Sheep's Clothing
  4. A wolf resolved to disguise himself in order that he might prey upon a flock of sheep without fear of detection. So he clothed himself in a sheepskin and slipped among the sheep when they were out at pasture. He completely deceived the shepherd, and when the flock was penned for the night he was shut in with the rest. But that very night, as it happened, the shepherd, requiring a supply of mutton for the table, laid hands on the wolf in mistake for a sheep, and killed him with his knife on the spot.

  5. The Blind Man and the Cub
  6. There was once a blind man who had so fine a sense of touch that when any animal was put into his hands he could tell what it was merely by the feel of it. One day the cub of a wolf was put into his hands, and he was asked what it was. He felt it for some time, and then said, "Indeed, I am not sure whether it is a wolf's cub or a fox's. But this I know: It would never do to trust it in a sheepfold."

    Evil tendencies are early shown.

  7. The Shepherd's Boy and the Wolf
  8. A shepherd's boy was tending his flock near a village, and thought it would be great fun to hoax the villagers by pretending that a wolf was attacking the sheep; so he shouted out, "Wolf! Wolf!" and when the people came running up he laughed at them for their pains. He did this more than once, and every time the villagers found they had been hoaxed, for there was no wolf at all. At last a wolf really did come, and the boy cried, "Wolf! Wolf!" as loud as he could. But the people were so used to hearing him call that they took no notice of his cries for help. And so the wolf had it all his own way, and killed off sheep after sheep at his leisure.

    You cannot believe a liar even when he tells the truth.

  9. The Kid on the Housetop
  10. A kid climbed up onto the roof of an outhouse, attracted by the grass and other things that grew in the thatch. And as he stood there browsing away he caught sight of a wolf passing below and jeered at him because he couldn't reach him. The wolf only looked up and said, "I hear you, my young friend. But it is not you who mock me, but the roof on which you are standing."

  11. The Wolf, the Mother, and Her Child
  12. A hungry wolf was prowling about in search of food. By and by, attracted by the cries of a child, he came to a cottage. As he crouched beneath the window, he heard the mother say to the child, "Stop crying, do, or I'll throw you to the wolf!" Thinking she really meant what she said, he waited there a long time in the expectation of satisfying his hunger. In the evening he heard the mother fondling her child and saying, "If the naughty wolf comes, he shan't get my little one. Daddy will kill him." The wolf got up in much disgust and walked away. "As for the people in that house," said he to himself, "you can't believe a word they say."

  13. The Wolf and the Lion
  14. A wolf stole a lamb from the flock, and was carrying it off to devour it at his leisure when he met a lion, who took his prey away from him and walked off with it. He dared not resist, but when the lion had gone some distance he said, "It is most unjust of you to take what is mine away from me like that." The lion laughed and called out in reply, "It was justly yours, no doubt! The gift of a friend, perhaps, eh?"

  15. The Sheep, the Wolf, and the Stag
  16. A stag once asked a sheep to lend him a measure of wheat, saying that his friend the wolf would be his surety. The sheep, however, was afraid that they meant to cheat her; so she excused herself, saying, "The wolf is in the habit of seizing what he wants and running off with it without paying, and you, too, can run much faster than I. So how shall I he able to come up with either of you when the debt falls due?"

    Two blacks do not make a white.

  17. The Wolf and the Crane
  18. A wolf once got a bone stuck in his throat. So he went to a crane and begged her to put her long bill down his throat and pull it out. "I'll make it worth your while," he added. The crane did as she was asked and got the bone out quite easily. The wolf thanked her warmly and was just turning away, when she cried, "What about that fee of mine?" "Well, what about it?" snapped the wolf, baring his teeth as he spoke. "You can go about boasting that you once put your head into a wolf's mouth and didn't get it bitten off. What more do you want?"

  19. The Wolf and the Sheep
  20. A wolf was worried and badly bitten by dogs, and lay a long time for dead. By and by he began to revive, and, feeling very hungry, called out to a passing sheep and said, "Would you kindly bring me some water from the stream close by? I can manage about meat, if only I could get something to drink." But this sheep was no fool. "I can quite understand," said he, "that if I brought you the water, you would have no difficulty about the meat. Good morning."

  21. The Wolf, the Fox, and the Ape
  22. A wolf charged a fox with theft, which he denied, and the case was brought before an ape to be tried. When he had heard the evidence on both sides, the ape gave judgment as follows: "I do not think," he said, "that you, O wolf, ever lost what you claim. But all the same I believe that you, fox, are guilty of the theft, in spite of all your denials."

  23. The Wolf and the Shepherd
  24. A wolf hung about near a flock of sheep for a long time, but made no attempt to molest them. The shepherd at first kept a sharp eye on him, for he naturally thought he meant mischief. But as time went by, and the wolf showed no inclination to meddle with the flock, he began to look upon him more as a protector than as an enemy; and when one day some errand took him to the city, he felt no uneasiness at leaving the wolf with the sheep. But as soon as his back was turned, the wolf attacked them and killed the greater number. When the shepherd returned and saw the havoc he had wrought, he cried, "It serves me right for trusting my flock to a wolf."

  25. The Ass and the Wolf
  26. An ass was feeding in a meadow, and, catching sight of his enemy the wolf in the distance, pretended to be very lame and hobbled painfully along. When the wolf came up he asked the ass how he came to be so lame, and the ass replied that in going through a hedge he had trodden on a thorn, and he begged the wolf to pull it out with his teeth, "In case," he said, '"when you eat me, it should stick in your throat and hurt you very much." The wolf said he would, and told the ass to lift up his foot, and gave his whole mind to getting out the thorn. But the ass suddenly let out with his heels and fetched the wolf a fearful kick in the mouth, breaking his teeth; and then he galloped off at full speed. As soon as he could speak the wolf growled to himself, "It serves me right. My father taught me to kill, and I ought to have stuck to that trade instead of attempting to cure."

  27. The Wolf and the Boy
  28. A wolf, who had just enjoyed a good meal and was in a playful mood, caught sight of a boy lying flat upon the ground, and, realizing that he was trying to hide, and that it was fear of himself that made him do this, he went up to him and said, "Aha, I've found you, you see; but if you can say three things to me, the truth of which cannot be disputed, I will spare your life." The boy plucked up courage and thought for a moment, and then he said, "First, it is a pity you saw me; secondly, I was a fool to let myself be seen; and thirdly, we all hate wolves because they are always making unprovoked attacks upon our flocks." The wolf replied, "Well, what you say is true enough from your point of view; so you may go."

  29. The Lamb Chased by a Wolf
  30. A wolf was chasing a lamb, which took refuge in a temple. The wolf urged it to come out of the precincts, and said, "If you don't, the priest is sure to catch you and offer you up in sacrifice on the altar." To which the lamb replied, "Thanks, I think I'll stay where I am. I'd rather be sacrificed any day than be eaten up by a wolf."

  31. The Wolf and the Goat
  32. A wolf caught sight of a goat browsing above him on the scanty herbage that grew on the top of a steep rock; and being unable to get at her, tried to induce her to come lower down. "You are risking your life up there, madam, indeed you are," he called out. "Pray take my advice and come down here, where you will find plenty of better food." The goat turned a knowing eye upon him. "It's little you care whether I get good grass or bad," said she. "What you want is to eat me."

  33. The Kingdom of the Lion
  34. When the lion reigned over the beasts of the earth he was never cruel or tyrannical, but as gentle and just as a king ought to be. During his reign he called a general assembly of the beasts and drew up a code of laws under which all were to live in perfect equality and harmony. The wolf and the lamb, the tiger and the stag, the leopard and the kid, the dog and the hare, all should dwell side by side in unbroken peace and friendship. The hare said, "Oh! How I have longed for this day when the weak take their place without fear by the side of the strong!"

  35. The Kid and the Wolf
  36. A kid strayed from the flock and was chased by a wolf. When he saw he must be caught he turned round and said to the wolf, "I know, sir, that I can't escape being eaten by you; and so, as my life is bound to be short, I pray you let it be as merry as may be. Will you not play me a tune to dance to before I die?" The wolf saw no objection to having some music before his dinner; so he took out his pipe and began to play, while the Kid danced before him. Before many minutes were passed the gods who guarded the flock heard the sound and came up to see what was going on. They no sooner clapped eyes on the wolf than they gave chase and drove him away. As he ran off, he turned and said to the Kid, "It's what I thoroughly deserve. My trade is the butcher's, and I had no business to turn piper to please you."

  37. The Thief and the Innkeeper
  38. A thief hired a room at an inn and stayed there some days on the lookout for something to steal. No opportunity, however, presented itself, till one day, when there was a festival to be celebrated, the innkeeper appeared in a fine new coat and sat down before the door of the inn for an airing. The thief no sooner set eyes upon the coat than he longed to get possession of it. There was no business doing, so he went and took a seat by the side of the innkeeper and began talking to him. They conversed together for some time, and then the thief suddenly yawned and howled like a wolf. The innkeeper asked him in some concern what ailed him. The thief replied, "I will tell you about myself, sir, but first I must beg you to take charge of my clothes for me, for I intend to leave them with you. Why I have these fits of yawning I cannot tell. Maybe they are sent as a punishment for my misdeeds; but, whatever the reason, the facts are that when I have yawned three times I become a ravening wolf and fly at men's throats." As he finished speaking he yawned a second time and howled again as before. The innkeeper, believing every word he said, and terrified at the prospect of being confronted with a wolf, got up hastily and started to run indoors; but the thief caught him by the coat and tried to stop him, crying, "Stay, sir, stay, and take charge of my clothes, or else I shall never see them again." As he spoke he opened his mouth and began to yawn for the third time. The innkeeper, mad with the fear of being eaten by a wolf, slipped out of his coat, which remained in the other's hands, and bolted into the inn and locked the door behind him; and the thief then quietly stole off with his spoil.

  39. The Shepherd and the Wolf
  40. A shepherd found a wolf's cub straying in the pastures, and took him home and reared him along with his dogs. When the cub grew to his full size, if ever a wolf stole a sheep from the flock, he used to join the dogs in hunting him down. It sometimes happened that the dogs failed to come up with the thief, and, abandoning the pursuit, returned home. The wolf would on such occasions continue the chase by himself, and when he overtook the culprit, would stop and share the feast with him, and then return to the shepherd. But if some time passed without a sheep being carried off by the wolves, he would steal one himself and share his plunder with the dogs. The shepherd's suspicions were aroused, and one day he caught him in the act; and, fastening a rope round his neck, hung him on the nearest tree.

    What's bred in the bone is sure to come out in the flesh.

  41. The Wolf and the Horse
  42. A wolf on his rambles came to a field of oats, but, not being able to eat them, he was passing on his way when a horse came along. "Look," said the wolf, "here's a fine field of oats. For your sake I have left it untouched, and I shall greatly enjoy the sound of your teeth munching the ripe grain." But the horse replied, "If wolves could eat oats, my fine friend, you would hardly have indulged your ears at the cost of your belly."

    There is no virtue in giving to others what is useless to oneself.

  43. The Dog and the Wolf
  44. A dog was lying in the sun before a farmyard gate when a wolf pounced upon him and was just going to eat him up. But he begged for his life and said, "You see how thin I am and what a wretched meal I should make you now. But if you will only wait a few days, my master is going to give a feast. All the rich scraps and pickings will fall to me, and I shall get nice and fat. Then will be the time for you to eat me." The wolf thought this was a very good plan and went away. Sometime afterwards he came to the farmyard again and found the dog lying out of reach on the stable roof. "Come down," he called, "and be eaten. You remember our agreement?" But the dog said coolly, "My friend, if ever, you catch me lying down by the gate there again, don't you wait for any feast."

    Once bitten, twice shy.

  45. The Wolf and His Shadow
  46. A wolf who was roaming about on the plain when the sun was getting low in the sky was much impressed by the size of his shadow, and said to himself, "I had no idea I was so big. Fancy my being afraid of a lion! Why, I, not he, ought to be king of the beasts." And, heedless of danger, he strutted about as if there could be no doubt at all about it. Just then a lion sprang upon him and began to devour him. "Alas," he cried, "had I not lost sight of the facts, I shouldn't have been ruined by my fancies."

  47. The Plowman and the Wolf
  48. A plowman loosed his oxen from the plow and led them away to the water to drink. While he was absent a half-starved wolf appeared on the scene, and went up to the plow and began chewing the leather straps attached to the yoke. As he gnawed away desperately in the hope of satisfying his craving for food, he somehow got entangled in the harness, and, taking fright, struggled to get free, tugging at the traces as if he would drag the plow along with him. Just then the plowman came back, and seeing what was happening, he cried, "Ah, you old rascal, I wish you would give up thieving for good and take to honest work instead."

  49. The Lion, the Wolf, and the Fox
  50. A lion, infirm with age, lay sick in his den, and all the beasts of the forest came to inquire after his health, with the exception of the fox. The wolf thought this was a good opportunity for paying off old scores against the fox, so he called the attention of the lion to his absence, and said, "You see, sire, that we have all come to see how you are, except the fox, who hasn't come near you, and doesn't care whether you are well or ill." Just then the fox came in and heard the last words of the wolf. The lion roared at him in deep displeasure, but he begged to be allowed to explain his absence and said, "Not one of them cares for you so much as I, sire, for all the time I have been going round to the doctors and trying to find a cure for your illness." "And may I ask if you have found one?" said the lion. "I have, sire," said the fox, "and it is this. You must flay a wolf and wrap yourself in his skin while it is still warm." The lion accordingly turned to the wolf and struck him dead with one blow of his paw, in order to try the fox's prescription; but the fox laughed and said to himself, "That's what comes of stirring up ill will."

  51. The Dog Chasing a Wolf
  52. A dog was chasing a wolf, and as he ran he thought what a fine fellow he was, and what strong legs he had, and how quickly they covered the ground. "Now, there's this wolf," he said to himself. "What a poor creature he is. He's no match for me, and he knows it and so he runs away." But the wolf looked round just then and said, "Don't you imagine I'm running away from you, my friend. It's your master I'm afraid of."

Revised March 22, 2003.