Definitions

cried wolf

The Boy Who Cried Wolf

The Boy Who Cried Wolf, also known as The Shepherd Boy and the Wolf, is a fable attributed to Aesop (210 in Perry's numbering system), and written in 1673. The protagonist of the fable is a bored shepherd boy who entertained himself by calling out "wolf". Nearby villagers who came to his rescue found that the alarms were false and that they had wasted their time. When the boy was actually confronted by a wolf, the villagers did not believe his cries for help and the wolf ate the flock. In some fairy-tale versions, when the villagers ignore him the wolf eats him, and in other versions he simply mocks the boy, saying now no one will help him, and that it serves him right for playing tricks. The moral is stated at the end of the fable as:

Even when liars tell the truth, they are never believed. The liar will lie once, twice, and then perish when he tells the truth.

In reference to this tale, the phrase to "cry wolf" has long been a common idiom in English, described in Brewer's Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, and modern English dictionaries. The phrase "boy who cried wolf" has also become somewhat of a figure of speech, meaning that one is calling for help when he or she does not really need it. Also in common English there goes the saying: "Never cry wolf" to say that you never should lie, as is the above phrases.

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