***Note the parallels between this story and the Aesop fable "Androcles and the Lion".
Once upon a time an old woman and her son lived in a village in the mountains. Although the two worked very hard every day, they were extremely poor. One night the old woman fell seriously ill. The nearest doctor lived in a village on the other side of the mountain, and the path to his village traversed an area frequented by wolves. As a result, no one from either village dared to venture forth along this path after dark. However, the old woman's case was severe, so her son decided to summon the doctor. The boy left the village and hurried along the mountain path, all the while praying to the gods to protect him from wolves. But just as he'd feared, before long a wolf appeared. It was a huge wolf that approached him, and the boy mustered his courage and glared defiantly at the wolf. "Look here, Mr. Wolf!" he challenged. "You'll have to forget about eating me for dinner today. My mother is ill, and I'm on my way to fetch the doctor. You just let me walk on by, I say." But the animal continued to approach, and toward the end of this speech the boy's courage began to fail. "Please, Mr. Wolf. If you allow me to fetch the doctor and conduct him to my ailing mother, I'll return and you may eat me if you like", said the boy, now pleading with the wolf. The wolf paid the boy no heed, however, but inched even nearer. He could now feel the wolf's hot breath on his face, so close was the creature. The tearful boy resigned himself to his apparent fate, closing his eyes and preparing for the first snap of the wolf's sharp teeth. But nothing happened. "I wonder if the wolf isn't going to let me go after all?" said the boy to himself. After several fearful moments the boy slowly opened his eyes. The wolf was no more than a foot away. The boy immediately closed his eyes again. But the wolf remained, standing quietly by the boy's side. "This is strange," said the boy, beginning to feel that there was some hope after all. "It seems the wolf would like to tell me something." The wolf then opened its mouth wide and began wagging its head. "Perhaps the wolf has the toothache and wants my help," mused the boy. Peering into the animal's mouth, the boy noticed the glitter of some foreign object. "Aha! There's a bone stuck in the wolf's throat," he exclaimed. No longer afraid, he reached deep into the wolf's mouth and removed the bone. The wolf appeared grateful, bowing its head several times before vanishing into the forest. The boy then hurried on his way to the doctor's. He arrived safely, but the doctor refused to accompany the boy home, fearing the wolves he felt sure to encounter along the way. So the boy obtained some medicine for his mother and set out on his return journey. He hadn't gone far before he encountered a pack of some fifty wolves. Baring their fangs, the wolves approached the boy. "It's all over for me this time," he thought to himself; "Mother, I'm sorry," he sobbed. Resigning himself to his fate, the boy was preparing for the coming attack, when all of a sudden a great wolf leaped into the ring of encircling wolves, growling and driving them back as he went. Then, in one body, the wolves fled into the forest, leaving the boy alone with his protector. The boy looked at the animal closely, and what if it wasn't the very wolf he had helped earlier that evening! With the wolf at his side the boy arrived home safely.When the boy walked outside the next morning, he was met with a great surprise. A mountain of wild game was piled up before the door of the house! The boy took the carcasses to the town to sell, and in this way he realized a large sum of money. In time the boy's mother completely recovered from her illness, and the two lived very happily for many years.
Copyright 2009, Brian Southwick