The Wolf and the Lamb, by Aesop

Study Aesop's Fable of the Wolf and the Lamb in the Classical Liberal Arts Academy.
The Wolf and the Lamb

In this lesson, we study Aesop’s Fable of “The Wolf and the Lamb”. To complete the objectives of this lesson, complete the following tasks:

  1. Study the fable for mastery, being careful to learn all of the details of the fable.
  2. Study the lesson exposition below.
  3. Complete the lesson assessment.


A hungry Wolf one day saw a Lamb drinking at a stream, and wished to frame some plausible excuse for making him his prey. “What do you mean by muddling the water I am going to drink?” fiercely said he to the Lamb. “Pray forgive me,” meekly answered the Lamb; “I should be sorry in any way to displease you, but as the stream runs from you towards me, you will see that such cannot be the case.” “That’s all very well,” said the Wolf; “but you know you spoke ill of me behind my back a year ago.” “Nay, believe me,” replied the Lamb, “I was not then born.” “It must have been your brother then,” growled the Wolf. “It cannot have been, for I never had any,” answered the Lamb. “I know it was one of your lot,” rejoined the Wolf, “so make no more such idle excuses.” He then seized the poor Lamb, carried him off to the woods, and ate him.


What is the moral of the fable of the Wolf and the Lamb?

Looking at the details of this fable, we find two animals, a wolf and a lamb, in a situation that cannot end well. Wolves are dangerous animals, but a hungry wolf is most dangerous. Aesop reveals to us the intention of the wolf, saying that he “wished to frame some plausible excuse for making him his prey”. In other words, the hungry wolf intended to kill and eat this innocent lamb, but wanted to pretend to have a reason for doing so.

First, he tried to blame the lamb for spoiling his water, but that was impossible because the lamb was further downstream than the wolf. Then, he falsely accused the lamb of doing evil before he was even born. Then, he tried to blame the evil on the lamb’s brother–but the lamb had no brother. Finally, the wolf gave up trying to cover up his intentions and at the innocent lamb.

As always, we can look at a number of different moral lessons in this fable. First, we can look at the danger of a hungry enemy and learn that while it’s one thing to beware of our enemies, it’s especially important to know when they are “hungry” and tempted to do us harm. Second, we can look at the wolf’s intention to kill and eat the lamb and see how evil people think and speak. The words people speak, their complaining and excuse-making, are often a cover for their plans to do evil. When we see men complaining and trying to accuse of evil things we have not done, we need to be especially careful because it is clear they that desire to do us harm. Third, we can look at the lamb and see that there is no wisdom in trying to reason with a dishonest person. Fourthly, we can think of the lamb and learn how important it is to beware of dangerous places. The lamb should not be alone when he knows that a wolf is nearby. Lastly, we can think of the parents or shepherd of this lamb and see that innocent little ones cannot be left unsupervised in the world because they are dangerous enemies who will do them harm.

We can learn many moral lessons in this fable if we meditate on it, but I believe it’s reasonable to say that the main moral lesson is that evil people will always find an excuse for their evil intentions.

“Behold I send you as lambs among wolves.”

Jesus Christ, Luke 10:3

Why has Aesop chosen these characters?

Wolves are ferocious predators, but they are also deceiving. On the outside, they look like dogs, but inside they are blood-thirsty killers. Lambs are baby sheep, who have no way to protect or defend themselves. They are soft and innocent and cannot possibly resist the attack of a wolf. The deceitfulness of evil men is shown well in the character of a wolf, and the helplessness of the innocent in the lamb.

How does this fable apply to your own life?

In this question, you should consider a specific situation where this fable might have helped you in the past, or may help you in the future. Do not simply re-state the fable, but think of a specific situation. This application of the moral lessons of the fables to our own lives is the purpose of studying Aesop’s Fables.

If you’d like to share an example, please do so in the comments below.

Source: Aesop’s Fables. (1878). Google Books.

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