Once upon a time there was a boy. He was a shepherd, as his family had been for many years. His parents and grandparents had fought hard against cruel kings for the right to tend the land, and against many wolves to protect the sheep they cared for. The boy loved to hear stories of his family and their courage, for they had all grown old and died, and there had been peace on the land for many years. The boy knew from the stories that wolves could descend very quickly, and though he had never seen a wolf in real life, he felt confident that he would know one if and when he saw it, and that he could call the townspeople to come and help defend the sheep.

One day, as the boy sat tending the flock, he saw a creature walking around the edge of his land. The creature had four legs and a tail, and it approached him. The creature expressed that while many people in the surrounding villages considered abortion to be a woman’s right, she was concerned by the practice, for she believed that it was ending a life.

Wolf! the boy cried. Oppression! Fascism!

And the townspeople, hearing his shouts, came to investigate. But when they arrived, they saw only an old house cat looking very confused at why the crowd was carrying pitchforks and spears, as though she was a threat to their safety. The old house cat went away, rather hurt by the boy’s assumptions. The townspeople too, went back to their homes, telling the boy that he had overreacted.

A few weeks afterward, another creature emerged from the tree line adjacent to the boy’s fields. It too had four legs and a tail. It expressed that while many people in the surrounding villages were becoming supportive of same-sex marriage, he personally believed (based on the wisdom of his ancestors) that marriage should be between a man and a woman.

Wolf! the boy cried. Intolerance! Bigotry!

Once again the townspeople came to investigate, though this time with some reluctance. When they arrived, they found to their annoyance that it was not in fact a wolf, but rather an old sheep dog with no desire to harm either the boy or the sheep. The townspeople grumbled and expressed their annoyance with the boy. Some of them understood his concern and knee-jerk reaction, while others began to think that the boy simply wanted to force his shepherding lifestyle on everyone else. The worst of the townspeople also began mocking the boy–“Snowflake” they called him, because they said he was too delicate and fearful to deal with the realities of his job.

Several more weeks went by, when the boy spotted something in the distance. The creature didn’t approach him directly, but from a few hundred yards away he could hear him shouting cruel things about certain of the sheep that looked or acted different from the rest. Seeing sharp teeth and a muscular body, the boy was sure that this time he saw a wolf, who would truly pose a threat to him and his sheep.

Wolf! he called out again. Bigotry! Fascism!

The townspeople once more came to the field, though many of them chose to stay home, deciding they were no longer interested in the boy’s problems, for they were quite safe and comfortable in their homes. And quite a few more townspeople came reluctantly, and many did not even bother to bring any tools to fend off a wolf, for they were now hesitant to believe that there was any true danger.  When they arrived, they saw not a wolf, but a lone coyote in the distance. Some of the townspeople affirmed the boy’s cause for concern, though told him that a single coyote a long way off did not pose much of a threat. But others ridiculed him, saying that coyotes can’t do any real harm, and that it had been many years since wolves had been in the area anyway. The townspeople went back to their town, a few of them concerned by the coyote, but many more thinking only of how very inconvenient it was to be drawn out of their comfortable homes for such a naive fear.

Not very many days after this, the boy was once again tending his field when he saw an enormous gray form emerge from the trees. Its teeth were covered in blood, and it showed no sign of fearing the boy. It growled and snarled and threatened the sheep, shouting that it would eat them because they were weak, and because the sheep and other animals like them were taking away the land on which he used to roam free.

Wolf! the boy yelled. Fascism! Hatred! Tyranny!

But this time only a dozen townspeople showed up. The other townspeople, who were ultimately rather self-concerned but had shown up to investigate previously out of a sense of duty, no longer came. They stayed at home and laughed at the boy instead, mocking the very idea that a wolf could be on his land. When the few concerned townspeople arrived, they confirmed that it was truly a wolf, and that the boy was right to call for help. Seeing the townspeople, the wolf retreated, but threatened to return with his pack. Unsure what to make of this, the townspeople returned and tried to tell all those who stayed home that the wolves were coming.

“Don’t be absurd,” the skeptical townspeople condescendingly responded. “There are no more wolves coming, and the one that came was probably not a real wolf anyway! You and that Snowflake take things way too seriously.”

The same night, the boy was in the field bringing the sheep in, when he spotted the glint of not one, but two, three, ten–twenty sets of red eyes staring from the trees.

Wolves! he cried desperately. Fascism! Tyranny! Hatred! War!

The same dozen townspeople, minus a few who had been convinced by the skeptical arguments of the others, came running quickly with pitchforks and torches and spears.

But it was too late. The wolves were too many, and the townspeople, who were by disposition quite self-interested and cared very little about the boy and his sheep, had all the excuses they needed to ignore the howls and screams and shouts.

And besides, they always rather admired wolves. They may be violent, but they sure know how to get things done.dr-seuss-foreign-children