The Boy Who Denied Wolf
A Parable for the Age of Global Warming
Once there was a village surrounded by farms and a deep forest. The farmers would clear the forest-land to plant crops and tend their sheep - pushing back the edge of the mysterious forest further and further. One day the farmers thought they heard the inhuman and plaintive sound of howling wolves. It was a very faint sound, and they were not sure; then most all the villagers started to hear them too.
They were pretty sure the sounds were nearing, louder and louder.
The villagers began to fear they were being slowly encircled by packs of wolves. Almost every night, the villagers could hear the howling, and sometimes in the daytime - far off in the hills surrounding the village.
Wolves are very dangerous and if ignored could destroy flocks and farms and even kill people. To defend themselves and their farms, the villagers needed to know whether wolves were nearby.
...in the wind, in every shadow, and in every moving blade of grass...
One young man spoke up and boldly said, "There are no wolves, I have lived here for years and I have never seen even one wolf." Most of the villagers had never seen wolves either, but they did hear them, and knew that wolves could kill. So surely they should keep watch for such a danger. Still the boy said, "There is no danger, because there are no wolves here."
The village elders felt they knew better, but were not sure whether the young man was wrong about this. Surely they did not want to worry about wolf attacks or be awakened from sleep by false alarms about wolves. They did not want someone who feared wolves to stand guard and start imagining that behind every sound in the forest danger lay. Such a worried watchman would see wolves everywhere - in the wind, in every shadow and in every moving blade of grass. So they chose the young man to be the lookout for wolves. Since he did not believe in wolves, they were sure the young man would never give a false alarm. They were certain he would not imagine something that was not there.
So that night, just before darkness closed and the howling began, the young man carried the alarm bell and took watch. Darkness fell, and closer and closer the howls and shapes moved in the shadows, the wolves came and devoured a nearby farmer and his animals...leaving no trace.
The next day, when the villagers saw the farmer and his sheep were gone, they questioned the young man about wolves.
"Did you not see them?" "Why did you not sound the alarm?"
The young man denied there were any wolves. "None were there," he said. "The farmer and his animals must have walked away. There were no wolves. I know that it is a natural cycle; on a full moon animals and farmers will just walk away." Some villagers thought it possible, but some thought otherwise.
Did you not see? Did you not sound the alarm?
A few days later the wolves began to howl again. And the young man volunteered to keep watch over the people. He demanded that he be the only one to watch and to ring the alarm bell.
Wolves came and attacked another farm. The farmer and his livestock disappeared. The wolves were never seen.
The villagers said, "There were wolves here! Did you not see them? "
"I did not. They were not here. There are no wolves. Look around, do you see any wolves here?" he asked. Of course there were none to see in the daylight.
"But there are wolf footprints on the ground" said the village elders.
"Well you must look in the darkness... Since there are no wolves in the daylight, these tracks cannot be real - since we are in the daylight. You must look for footprints in the dark." said the young watchman.
"Just in case, I will stand guard tonight again and tell you what I see." added the boy. "There are no wolves, but if I see a wolf I will ring the alarm bell. But I have never seen a wolf yet. There may not even be wolf sounds. The howling you hear may be sick pigs or wind. As for the missing farmers and sheep - I have read accounts of farmers and animals that walk away sometimes.... a natural departure. Wolves had nothing to do with it."
For the third night -- when darkness came and the low howling started -- the villagers worried that someone needed to take watch. Again the boy demanded that he be the only one to stand watch at the edge of town - because he thought only he could see the truth. He assured them that only he could see wolf danger. He promised to ring the alarm bell if ever a wolf should appear.
Night came. The villagers slept, the sheep slept, the birds slept. But the boy was very awake, to lookout for wolves.
And it was not very surprising that the wolves soon came. They circled the boy. He heard their footsteps and smelled them, but he thought these were just foxes. The wolves sniffed his legs, he felt their hot breathing and tough tongues licking his hands; since the boy was certain these were not wolves - he did not sound the alarm. He did not see them, he was sure they were not there, he was sure they would never come to his village; it had to be something else. Then the wolves nipped his hands and feet, and he felt the pain, but he did not actually see the wolves because it was dark. The pain had to be just natural foot pain, he thought. The wolves settled in, as did the increasing pain. Just before it was too late, the boy allowed that it may, indeed, be possible that wolves were real and attacking him now. But he had no free hands to sound the bell.
The villagers, hearing cries and howls in the night, could not tell if the cries of pain were human cries or wolf cries. They did not hear the alarm bell ring.
Villager, farmer, watchman, or sheep, in the end, the wolves found every prey died just as quickly. So that night the wolves again had a full meal. They went back into the deep forest to their growing pack.
Come morning, the villagers were now very sure the wolves were attacking. Now they built tall walls, sturdy doors and sought out another watchman. They found a man who could listen in the darkness, see the sounds, and feel the changes of the night. Someone who could warn them in time of approaching danger and save the village.
Sometimes when we deny, but eventually realize the truth, we learn it too late to say. We will deny once, deny twice -- but then perish when we deny our own plight.