There once was a shepherd boy who sat on the hillside watching the village sheep. One day he saw an animal approaching. He wasn’t quite sure what it was, but it looked like a wolf. So he took a great breath and sang out, “Wolf! Wolf! A Wolf is coming for the sheep!”
Some of the villagers came running up the hill to help the boy drive away the wolf. When they got to the top of the hill, they too saw an animal that looked like a wolf. These villagers joined the boy and continued to yell.
But most of the villagers remained at the bottom of the hill. “That’s no wolf,” said the villagers who remained. “That’s just a kind old dog. He’s not going to hurt anything.”
The villagers at the top of the hill were unable to drive the animal away—whatever it was. Perhaps the other villagers were right. After all, most of the sheep were unharmed by the animal. Only a few were eaten.
Meanwhile, the villagers at the bottom of the hill laughed with each other about the boy and the other villagers who went to help him. “What idiots!” they exclaimed. “And that ridiculous boy!” Everyone had a good time laughing at the boy’s expense.
A few days later, the boy saw another animal. He sang out again, “Wolf! Wolf! A wolf is coming to eat the sheep!” This time, more villagers came running up the hill. The ones who helped the first time helped again. They were joined by additional villagers who had previously stayed behind, but whose sheep had been eaten by the first animal. With the help of the additional villagers, they scared the animal off.
Yet many villagers once again remained at the bottom of the hill. “That’s just another dog!” they exclaimed. “The silly boy has everyone fooled again. That dog wouldn’t have hurt any sheep! You’re all idiots!” After the animal was chased away, these villagers continued to laugh at the boy and the villagers who helped him. “What morons!” they shouted. Many of the villagers taunted and mocked the boy for years to come.
A few days later, back at the top of the hill, the boy saw a wolf. Alarmed, he leaped to his feet and sang out as loudly as he could, “Wolf! Wolf!”
All the villagers could all see the animal—its fangs, its eyes, its claws. This was no dog. Many of the villagers ran up the hill to help the boy. But many others remained at the bottom. They thought about all the jokes and laughs they’d had at the boy’s expense, about how they’d mocked the villagers who previously ran up the hill. “Running up the hill is silly,” they said. “It’s just not what we do. You all look ridiculous!”
The other villagers implored them, “But can’t you see? It’s a wolf this time! It’s not a dog!”
“We don’t disagree,” they explained.
“Then why don’t you do something?” the boy asked.
But the villagers didn’t respond. They just continued talking amongst themselves, laughing at the others running up the hill. “Look at them go!” they chuckled. “What fools!”