Myths and Narratives- the Origin of the Humanities

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The Boy who Cried Wolf

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Date: 26 October 2012

The boy who cried Wolf

Stories are often a staple in every child’s bedtime routine. It is a tradition around the world, for parents, to read to their children, before heading for the bedtime lamp.

In most cases, such stories serve a purpose to amuse a child and even to widen a child’s imagination.

In others, stories can also provide a lesson on morality. These stories are better known as fables. Amongst all fables, Aesop’s fables are perhaps the most renowned.

For this essay, I would be sharing a popular story, titled: The Boy Who Cried Wolf. This story has been retold countless times, and imparts the lesson of the effects of lying.

This story involves a boy, who has a job of guarding a flock of sheep against wolves (Fables, 2012). Whenever he spots a wolf, he would have to ring a bell and cry out ‘Wolf!’. This is to alert the villagers who would come rushing out, armed and ready to tackle the wolf. (Fables, 2012)

After days without any sight of wolf, the boy grows bored. To provide some form of entertainment, the boy decides to pretend that a wolf is attacking. The villagers, alerted to the boy’s cries, arrived without any sight of wolf. The villagers believing that the wolf had escaped, praises the boy for his effort. (Fables, 2012)

The boy laps up all the attention and repeats the same trick, only this time; the villagers ignored him after realizing they have been fooled (Fables, 2012).

Eventually, a wolf attacks the flock of sheep. Despite the repeated cries for help, the villagers did not appear. Ultimately, the wolf took one of the fattest sheep (Fables, 2012).

The moral of the story, as told by the shepherd, is ‘Nobody believes a liar, even when he’s speaking the truth.’

From this story, the reader/listener can derive an advisory on what befalls someone who is branded a liar. When one has lost his credibility as an honest person, his words are often disregarded. This happens even if he is genuinely telling the truth.

From this narrative, the reader/listener learns, through the experiences of the boy, the consequences of lying. Eventually, his words are brushed off as mere lies. The result of his actions ends in him suffering the humiliation of losing his credibility as well as making a blunder of his job I.e. protecting the sheep.

This lesson deals with the issue of lying. It is normal for young kids to test the boundaries while growing up. This certainly involves lying, as most of us have definitely done so before. (Thomas G. Bowie, 2009)

While this story seems to promote the idea of not lying, or maybe even to not tell the same lie twice, it would be perhaps more pragmatic to view the story as a cautionary approach to being branded as a liar. This perspective allows one to understand the consequence of giving others the impression of being a liar.

This lesson is effective in guiding an individual’s actions or beliefs. This is through the significance that you lose something when your words are disregarded as lies, be it material or immaterial.

When you have gained a reputation of being a liar, societal norms tend to ‘punish’ the liar, either through tools, i.e. the law, or interpersonal methods such as ostracism. People do not like to be around people they mistrust.

The values of narratives or stories provide a value, which cannot be taught in school subjects. It teaches us ethics and morals, that have to be shaped through the experiences of oneself and others and imparts the knowledge and lessons that are learnt through the mistakes.

Joan Didion asserts that, ‘We tell ourselves stories in order to live’ (Thomas G. Bowie, 2009). This highlights in importance of stories in knowing how to live, and not just to follow the rat race in order to survive. Stories help to guide one away from the pitfalls of immorality and instead help to develop and...
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