The Wolf and the Lamb

Retold by Bruce Holland Rogers

A wolf stopped to drink at a stream and spied a young lamb resting in the shade nearby. "You there!" the wolf said.

"Me, sir?" said the lamb, getting to his feet and bowing.

"Yes, you. You've been drinking in the stream, and you stirred up the mud so the water was foul when I came to drink. It would be a matter of justice if I ate you."

The lamb trembled. "Please, sir. I wasn't drinking at all. And in any case, I am downstream from you. Any mud would have gone the other way."

"True, true," said the wolf, approaching. "But I remember you now. We met here on this very spot a year ago, and you insulted me. For such a gross insult, you owe me your life."

"Sir," said the lamb, "I am sorry that anyone gave you offense. However, I could not have been the one who insulted you last year, for I was born only four months ago."

"Hm," said the wolf, who now towered over the lamb. "I see." The wolf narrowed his eyes. "But look at the destruction of this meadow. Grass once grew up to my shoulders here. But you, you greedy criminal, have cropped it down to the earth!"

"I do not wish to seem disrespectful," said the lamb, "but I could not have eaten the grass as you say. To this day, I have tasted only my mother's milk. I am innocent of every charge."

"Indeed, indeed," said the wolf. "I cannot eat you for fouling the stream, for insulting me last year, or for eating all the grass. I must say that your wit and your politeness impress me. You have met every accusation with a fine argument."

"Thank you," said the lamb.

"Nevertheless," said the wolf, "arguments, no matter how polite, tend to disturb the general peace. Therefore, it is my duty to eat you."

And he did.


Moral: A tyrant will find his excuse.

Click here for The Bullfrog and His Shadows

Stories by Bruce Holland Rogers have won a Pushcart Prize, the World Fantasy Award, and two Nebula Awards, among other honors. He teaches fiction writing for the Whidbey Writers low-residency MFA, and also teaches writing seminars in Greece and Italy ( Subscribers from all over the world receive his newest stories by e-mail. See Rogers lives in Eugene, Oregon.

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