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Why the Wolf Howls in Pain

Also known as The Wolf Who Cried Boy - The Real Story Behind "The Boy Who Cried Wolf" from Aesop's Fables.

By Paul StewartPublished 9 months ago Updated 9 months ago 5 min read
Why the Wolf Howls in Pain
Photo by Justinas Teselis on Unsplash

Most people will be aware of the story called The Boy Who Cried Wolf in one of its many forms. Used as a tale to teach children not to lie, it has been a staple of bedtime rituals for many decades. However, as is the way with so many stories based on real events, the truth is sidelined for the convenience of easier-to-sell villains, especially when the tale is passed from one generation of humans to another.

What if I told you The Boy Who Cried Wolf was not how things really happened at all, and the original story had a much more sinister origin and morale? What if I told you a more accurate name for the story would be The Wolf Who Cried Boy and a particular howl you may have heard if you have spent any time living or working close to wolves is not the majestic communicator we have been led to believe?

From Aesop's Fables, the Boy Who Cried Wolf, the story actually dates back to sometime between 620 and 560 B.C., when the Ancient Greek storyteller was active.

Before that story emerged, wolves were feared as they are now but also revered and given respect. There were no real cases of them attacking and killing humans. It was not in their nature. Wolves are smart creatures that know what's on their menu, and people are not. The number of wolf attacks at that time was very slim and usually resulted from foolish and even dangerous actions by the humans involved in the incidents.

This leads nicely onto the mistakes that have been made over the years with the telling of the tale of the Boy Who Cried Wolf. That is not what happened originally.

The Wolf Who Cried Boy

There was once a shepherd's son who spent much time, as was the custom, with his dad's sheep. That much of the story is true. The boy was also on a dangerous pathway to becoming a pathological liar.

Time, however, and man's attempt to cover up what really happened has meant much of the version you know is rubbish.

In following the original telling, after the first two times when the boy lied about there being a wolf, a wolf did turn up. However, it made no attempt to eat the boy - in fact, the boy was so angry his father and the villagers were no longer giving him attention he decided to take it out on the wolf.

Wolves were, back then, as they are now, not interested in interactions or even fights with humans. The wolf was quite happy to walk away from the boy and the sheep to return at a different time when they were unprotected. The stunning, ethereal creature started to turn away from the fields where the sheep played. If the boy had any sense of the beauty and majesty of the natural world, he would have stood there and marveled at the sight before him.

Wolves, have a certain aura to them, a countenance, general demeanor and energy that they emit.

Unfortunately, as he tried to make his getaway, the boy found a large rock and threw it at the wolf.


The wolf yelped and was stunned and lay there hoping for mercy. The boy stood over the wolf, hit it again with the same rock, and then started poking it with a stick. He was no longer simply a curious little boy. He had become something a bit different.

The wolf howled, but different from his usual beautiful moans to the moon, this was in desperation, and while it was hard to decipher the noise, there was definitely the sound of three letters "boy". As the wolf struggled to hold onto life, he howled in pain, anguish, and fear three times. If anyone else had been present, other than the boy, they would have sworn his bright and alluring pools of yellow filled with tears as he passed away.

Knowing his father would not have been happy about what he had done, the boy quickly devised a plan - he would make it look like the wolf had attacked him.

He got his arm shoved it roughly into the wolf's mouth, and scratched it against the huge and sharp blade-like teeth.

Pleased with himself, as he assessed his handiwork, he gave out the biggest and most desperate shriek, "Father...father...wolf...I'm hurt," and even feigned tears.

Being the dutiful father he was, the shepherd ran out and quickly took in the scene before him and immediately came to the conclusion his son hoped he would.

"My boy, your bravery knows no ends. I am sorry for being harsh on you when you lied. I will trust you from now on." the shepherd told his son, who was hiding a smirk beneath all those warm embraces from his father.

The boy, with the help of his father, looked to cover up what his son had done and changed the story of the wolf who cried boy, to the boy who cried wolf.

They left the body of the wolf to the elements, and its pack gathered around and saw their fallen brother. As the fur on their silky soft coats danced and swayed in the evening breeze, they wept a little and then turned their noses skyward and let out the howl we all know now. The howl of pain, grief, and fear.

The moral of the story is words passed down through the generations are like Chinese whispers. They change and alter to suit the desires of those recounting the tales.

So, next time you happen to hear or have the pleasure of seeing a wolf howling that particular lament, pause, reflect, and remember the poor wolf to whom they sound out their tributes.


Thanks for reading.

Author's Notes: If you have read my previous entry to the Mythmaker Challenge, you may have spotted a reference to this story.

You can read that story here:

The main goal of this story was to right the wrongs of the original The Boy Who Cried Wolf which paints wolves in a bad light, while also explaining the origin of a specific type of wolf howl.

You can find out more about the Mythmaker Challenge here:

You can also check out the rest of my work here.

CONTENT WARNINGShort StoryFableClassical

About the Creator

Paul Stewart

Scottish-Italian poet/writer from Glasgow.

Overflowing in English language torture and word abuse.

"Every man has a sane spot somewhere" R.L Stevenson

The Accidental Poet - Poetry Collection is now available!

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Comments (10)

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  • Dharrsheena Raja Segarran8 months ago

    Poor wolf 😭😭😭😭😭😭😭😭😭😭😭 I saw the content warning but I didn’t think the wolf would die! And his death was so sad, he didn't fight back at all. Paul why did you do this to me? 🥺 But, I won't deny that this was a well written retelling. I loved the way you showed how the original story was supposed to be and how it became the story that we know today. Excellent work! 🍩🥐

  • Donna Fox (HKB)9 months ago

    I like that you started with with a nod to Aesop’s “the boy who cried wolf” and then put you spin on it! Very clever! The part where the wolf died was really hard for me to read but lended some importance to the story. Overall it was well written and thought out! Great work Paul!

  • Susanna Kiernan9 months ago

    I love that you played with the concept of how oral tradition paves the way to unreliable narration. Like a game of Whispers. Nice (but sad) story!

  • Ruth Stewart9 months ago

    Good work. Interesting. Nice plot twist. 👍💙😊

  • Missclicked9 months ago

    I wasn't expecting this plot twist.....feels like i have been lied about many things during my childhood lol!. Also i think this is so true that people change the narratives of things as they desire and in their favor.

  • A more serious approach to "Hoodwinked", with a vastly spiritual meaning. We once say a silver wolf in the median of the highway driving back from Sedalia to Lincoln, MO one night after a concert. Incredibly beautiful, majestic, & even larger than I had imagined.

  • Gina C.9 months ago

    Whoa, this is awesome, Paul! I wasn't expected that twist and I really love the way you did this. I'm just going to call you "Mystic Paul" now 🤗

  • Naomi Gold9 months ago

    YES! Wolves are so beautiful, and they were revered. Not sure why we should believe a known liar about being attacked by one! Thank you for this, it made my day.🐺

  • Sid Aaron Hirji9 months ago

    Really good stuff here

  • Real Poetic9 months ago

    Very interesting twist here. I’m intrigued.

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