I wrote Littledon! during the process of preparing The Remaking for publication. It is a rewrite of the classic fable of the Boy Who Cried Wolf. Instead of catching on to the boy’s lies, the town always believes him, which makes the story more humorous than the original, and ultimately, more tragic. It is a novella, which means about a hundred paperback pages.
Littledon! will be serialized on my site as I work on the sequel to The Remaking. However, for those who do not want to wait for each chapter to be released, the whole story in its entirety is available on the Kindle. Within a few weeks, a paperback version should be released as well. Enjoy!
Littledon! takes off of the classic story of the Boy Who Cried Wolf. The fable originated in ancient Greece, yet did not become widely known in Europe until the late 15th century, due to lack of available translations.
It’s a very simple story, really. Simple and short. The boy plays tricks on the town, raising alarm of wolves attacking the sheep when there are none. He then laughs when the townsfolk are angry about the false alarm.
Repeating this prank several times, the boy destroys his reputation. Finally a real wolf comes to feed on the flocks. The boy calls frantically for help, but no one believes him, and the flock is eaten up.
The lesson, of course, is that one should not lie to others, since a shattered reputation is all but impossible to repair. Even for a prank, one must take care not to play the joke at the expense of others. They deserve better, and they will be reluctant to help someone who takes pleasure in making them look a fool.
Now, what if the town always believed the boy, no matter how many times he is shown to be utterly wrong?
This is a very small change, and yet it teaches another valuable lesson; that embracing a lie is as dangerous as telling one. A lie which is widely believed may destroy a great deal.
This rewritten fable can be applied as a lesson regarding any hyperbolic mob that is ginned up into a frenzy by a charlatan. Littledon! is not specifically about any particular lie, and many lies enjoy social proof by mere popularity. Therefore, I leave it to the reader to apply this story wherever he sees fit.
There was one particular lie that stuck in my craw and gave me a real itch to write Littledon! However, that issue is only marginally more applicable to the story than most others.
So feel free to interpret this story however you like! I welcome feedback on how the story is best applied from your view. Feel free to contact me through my website (jtoconnell.com), or even just leave your thoughts in a review at Amazon.com.
Readers may be better prepared by receiving one further note regarding this novella. I did not want this story to be bogged down with a particular time and place. Such geographical and historical concerns can be interesting, and yet would ultimately detract from the overall story.
After all, the Aesop original could apply to nearly any culture that herds sheep and has rambunctious boys. Timelessness is a product of tapping into the fundamentals and nuances of humanity.
For that reason, Littledon! uses a mixture of accents. I tried to make the blend consistent and yet imprecise in just who these people are. The prose is somewhat Victorian, though I could never be accused of expertise in that regard. So much the better, since the modern reader has different needs than those of a century and a half ago.
I wish you an enjoyable read.
Littledon was a sleepy town, a quiet haven nestled among the hills. It was peaceful and serene, which is just how the townsfolk liked it. There were quite enough rainy days to keep the crops watered, though not so many as to douse the spirits of the farmers.
Sometimes it was sunny and sometimes it was not. No one took enough notice to think it was too much of one or the other. The worst complaint Littledonians would waste on the weather was that this day could be less as it is, and more of what it is not.
With a town as small as Littledon, it was only natural that each person knew every other. What is more, most could not imagine a city so bustling with people that one could never know everyone else. It seemed a curious thing, this idea of living so near to others and knowing nothing about them. Surely, such an arrangement would come to fray, and even common courtesy would be abandoned to anonymity. Clearly, Littledonians were more courteous than city folk; this they knew instinctively.
Which is not to say they did not have squabbles. Hardly a man in Littledon got along with everyone, except for Mr. and Mrs. Goodwin, who were the two oldest residents, and were widely considered to be kindness itself. Yet, they were exceptional.
Of course, it should not therefore be assumed that Littledon was rife with argument. For the greater part, there was harmony in the town. What discord came about was seldom heated, and those who had disagreements could at least stand each other well enough.
And besides, there was one thing about which every single Littledonian agreed; their only trouble was wolves.
For Littledon was not just a town for tillers and croppers. At least half the folk owned sheep, and quite a few maintained substantial flocks. Scarce was the hill whose grass was not scarred by the teeth of the lamb, the ram, and the ewe. Wool was commonplace in keeping out the brisk chill of morning, and nary was there a sock of any other material.
Altogether, sheep were rightly the most important enterprise in Littledon, and not a man, woman, or child had any illusions otherwise. It may be reckoned therefore, that wolves were the sole and sovereign enemy of tranquility.
If wolves had been on the prowl, then for days following, talk of the town would dwell only upon what little truth was known and also a great deal of rumor that invariably arose in place of knowledge. People did not greet each other in the streets. Instead, they would cry out, “Say, did you hear about the wolves been at such-and-such farm?”
“Yes!” he would answer. “Ate up half a doz’n his flock, they say!”
And sure as ever you can be, the other would up the ante. “Half a doz’n? Why, I spoke with old Mr. so-and-so myself, and he told me straight, ’twas a full doz’n at that, if it were a single spotted lamb!”
The other would answer him, startled, “You don’t say?” And after receiving his confidence, the two would part. Thereafter, being reinforced in their knowledge of the crime, each would feel it their duty to perhaps stretch the truth just a little farther to the next person they discuss it with.
After all, concerning a threat so savage and despicable as wolves, one cannot do injustice by exaggeration. So a solitary snatched or slain lamb becomes two, and then becomes four ewes, and then ten ewes and two rams, and then half the flock!
Only once did this discourse go awry, when one boy, carried away in his relating the disaster, added that farmer Honeycutt had come to fight off the wolves and been veritably eaten up himself! Several of the townsfolk had gone to the aid of poor Mrs. Honeycutt, only to find Mr. Honeycutt very much alive, unharmed even, and annoyed at all the ballyhoo over a single sickly sheep gone missing.
For many years, though, the wolf attacks had nearly gone away. An entire generation had been spent fending off the great packs of old, the scourges of the hillsides. Those wolves had been daring and malevolent. They went after children and aged folk, and even stalked the streets of Littledon. The noise of claws on cobblestones was the greatest terror of town lore, and it was true, which was terrifying all the more.
Men had banded together, hearty men with sturdy backs and broad shoulders, men who could swing a club, and were sharp in a scrap. In groups they set out into the hillsides. Many packs were killed and many men met their end as well. At last, the remaining wolves were driven off and no more had been heard from them in a great deal of time.
Mr. Goodwin had been a mere child during the year of the last Great Hunt, and he liked little more than to tell stories of the valiant and courageous men that had done such great and lofty deeds. Some Littledonians told tales of the exploits of their ancestors, who invariably had led the last hunt, for no one knew with certainty who it had been, but all were confident their own lineage gave them such noble blood.
Of course, everyone knew that wolves were still out there, lurking somewhere in the hills far beyond. You could no more destroy every wolf than you could clean every spider out of a hay loft. You must look all at once in every tiny nook and narrow cranny. And as countrysides go, Littledon had numerous nooks and countless crannies.
However, for a full generation in Littledon, wolves had been naught but bedtime tales of terror and glory. They were near enough to ghosts for all the experience anyone had with them these days, so complete had been the victories of bygone decades.
So when two or three sheep vanish, one leaving behind a puff of bloodied wool, the townsfolk quickly slipped into a tizzy of terror. No one knew how many wolves there were, or if indeed wolves were the culprit in the first place. After all, not a hide had been seen, nor a print that could not have easily been a farmer’s hound. Wolves of those wizened tales simply must have much larger paws, mustn’t they?
And hearty as the men in Littledon were, they had grown accustomed to dealing with other matters, such as how to dig out stones and pull up stumps, so as to till more ground, and also where best to hide the spirits so the women of good sense could not keep the men from drinking their sense out of their heads!
Wolves, then? Honesty must show Littledon wholly unprepared for another hunt, and perhaps too fearful of the old legends to crack shutters open at the rick-tick-click of claws that may come down the cobblestones any night.
Thus, when Vincent Conn made report of seeing a wolf with his very own eyes! panic indeed was the quietest response.