The Boy Who Cried Wolf

Francis Barlow's illustration of the fable, 1687

The Boy Who Cried Wolf is one of Aesop's Fables, [1] numbered 210 in the Perry Index. From it is derived the English idiom "to cry wolf", defined as "to give a false alarm" in Brewer's Dictionary of Phrase and Fable[2] and glossed by the Oxford English Dictionary as meaning to make false claims, with the result that subsequent true claims are disbelieved.[3]


  • The fable 1
  • Fable's history 2
  • See also 3
  • References 4
  • External links 5

The fable

The tale concerns a shepherd boy who repeatedly tricks nearby villagers into thinking a wolf is attacking his flock. When one actually does appear and the boy again calls for help, the villagers believe that it is another false alarm and the sheep are eaten by the wolf. [4][5]

The moral stated at the end of the Greek version is, "this shows how liars are rewarded: even if they tell the truth, no one believes them". It echoes a statement attributed to Aristotle by Diogenes Laërtius in his The Lives and Opinions of Eminent Philosophers, where the sage was asked what those who tell lies gain by it and he answered "that when they speak truth they are not believed".[6] William Caxton similarly closes his version with the remark that "men bileve not lyghtly hym whiche is knowen for a lyer".[7]

Fable's history

The story dates from

Teachers have used the fable as a cautionary tale about telling the truth but a recent educational experiment suggested that reading "The Boy Who Cried Wolf" increased children's likelihood of lying. On the other hand, reading a book on

  • Laura Gibbs' gallery of 15th–20th century book illustrations of the fable

Works related to The Boy Who Cried Wolf at Wikisource

External links

  1. ^ The Boy Who Cried Wolf.  
  2. ^ The Concise Dictionary...(Cassel Publications 1992)
  3. ^ "wolf". Compact  
  4. ^ The Moral Class-book. 1839. 
  5. ^ Original version from mythfolklore
  6. ^ Translated by C. D. Yonge: Section XI (apophthegms) of the life of Aristotle
  7. ^ "Of the child whiche kepte the sheep" at
  8. ^ Po Bronson and Ashley Merriman, New York 2009. Nurture Shock – New Thinking about Children. pp. 83–84.  
  9. ^ The Fables of Aesop, Fable CLV; available on Google Books, p. 263


See also

[9], "when we are alarmed with imaginary dangers in respect of the public, till the cry grows quite stale and threadbare, how can it be expected we should know when to guard ourselves against real ones?"alarmism asks, referencing political Samuel Croxall The suggestibility and favourable outcome of the behaviour described, therefore, seems the key to moral instruction of the young. However, when dealing with the moral behaviour of adults, [8]

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