Aesop’s, The Wolf and the Lamb: Beware of Tyrants – Underlying Fable Message

In this particular fable, a lamb has wandered away from its fold. A wolf spies on him and notes that he will not simply attack him and devour him. He will need to find a reason to eat the young creature.

First, the wolf tells the lamb, “Last year you grossly insulted me.”

However, the lamb had not yet been born. When that does not work, the wolf accuses the lamb of eating from his pasture. However, the lamb also denies that charge. The wolf then blares that the lamb has drunk water from his private well.

But the noble lamb is adamant. He has not yet been weaned; his mother sustains him completely. At this point, the wolf becomes exasperated. It is not that the lamb is clever; he is merely forthright, speaking the truth of his brief life. The wolf declares that these reasons will not prevent the wolf from obtaining his supper. Thus he seizes the lamb and eats him.

The Innocent Lamb Is Collateral Damage

Humans have often identified themselves with animals, with aggressive people being “sharks,” “bears,” “tigers,” and of course, “wolves.” Lambs have been a timeless symbol of gentlefolk, who are often simple-hearted and unschooled. The wolf, in this fable, wants the lamb to admit to trespassing upon his land or honor. Clearly, he believes it will be easy to trick such a plain creature. And in this case, not only does the lamb lack guile, it is young and unaware of the ways of the world.

The underlying message of this fable is that lambs will exist for the gratification of wolves. In real life, wolves may be bullies, ordinary predators, or the heads of unfavorable governments. The lambs are vegetarians, and the wolves, meat-eaters. In this way, Aesop is showing us that there are members of society who live by doing no harm to others, while there exist other classes of people who profit only from using the flesh of others.


Does the Wolf Have a Conscience?

If the wolf has a conscience, it is a very weak one. He wants to feel justified in his eating the young lamb, so he looks for an excuse to do his deed. Yet, after a mere three attempts, the wolf gives up because the noble lamb has beaten him. It would be better for the wolf to simply portray his true nature, instead of disguising himself as one who has been harmed by invented intrigues of the lamb. He is going to get what he wants, no matter what; however, his digestion might be a bit better, if he extracts a confession from the young lamb.

The Noble Lamb Wins

The wolf slaughters the young lamb, and the tyrant has dined well again. The lamb dies, but is nevertheless heroic, in his death. If gentle creatures, such as lambs, are to have any chance at surviving the tyranny of creatures such as wolves, they will need to stick together, gathering strength in numbers, for clearly the tyrant is prone to frustration when confronted by nobility and truth.

Millennia after this tale was first told, we still see that the peaceful, only when united in numbers, can stand a chance of defeating totalitarianism.

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