Tag Archives: moral story

The Boy Who Cried Wolf


“I think it was basically like, a boy would be outside playing, and he would always, you know, yell that a wolf was coming, or a wolf had done something bad, or he would do something bad and blame it on the wolf that was there. So he kept crying that there was a wolf, or yelling out that there was a wolf, and then people started- they’d always come running and there was no wolf, and he [the boy] thought that was really funny. And then eventually the wolf DID come, and when he cried that there was a wolf, nobody came to pay attention to him because he had lied so many times, and then the wolf ate him.”


J, my mother, currently lives in Seattle, Washington in the United States, but grew up in various towns in Ontario, Canada. She is the oldest of three siblings, and first heard this tale from her father when she was very young. When asked about the context in which she first heard the story, J provided the following: 

“I’m having a little bit of difficulty remembering the exact context, but Grandpa always was a big, like, moralistic storyteller, so he would use examples. So often when [her brother’s name] and I would fight, um, we would try to accuse each other of all kinds of outlandish crazy things. And, you know, sometimes I, as the older sibling, would try to work things to my advantage. And Grandpa would get frustrated with us because he knew that we were exaggerating or blaming each other for things. So he would basically talk to us about the story of the boy who cried wolf, because he was trying to enforce in us the idea that if we exaggerated or said things that weren’t true, that, you know, when something actually did happen we wouldn’t be believed.”


As J stated in her own interpretation of this story, The Boy Who Cried Wolf fits closely within the common notion of a tale: a story with a moral value or lesson that is told primarily to children. In this instance, the tale’s moral is cautionary, showing a young boy who transgresses numerous social boundaries and is punished (eaten by the wolf) as a result. In a slightly simplified application of Levi-Strauss’s paradigmatic theory of structuralism, this tale features a binary opposites pair of honesty and dishonesty that correlate to safety/community and danger/isolation respectively. When considering J’s observations about truth-telling, this tale ties into the trust involved in sharing knowledge within a group; the boy’s lies not only made him an unreliable source of information, but threatened the integrity of the information passed around the group as a whole, and as a result, the boy was cast out through a refusal to believe his cries for help. J’s statement that the boy found lying funny also suggests that finding humor in serious situations or not taking things seriously is frowned upon in her family and society.

UFO Over Bridge Sighting


“Alright, uh, so this was my middle school teacher in 7th grade, whatever, who was an English teacher. Um, and he was like an old man who would just tell random stories about his life. This one time, him and his girlfriend at the time were like, hanging out, I guess, just in- they were on like a bridge in a city on a date, you know, like a romantic date, looking at the stars on the bridge. 

They’re hanging out on this bridge, they’re sitting, they’re chatting, um, and they see in the sky this moving, like, thing. It looked sort of like- well, it looked like a spaceship, is what they said. It had- it was like, some kind of thing in the sky and had like, lights underneath it, and it was moving in sort of like a figure eight pattern in the sky, just like right above the bridge, uh, above the city. And they both saw it for a while, and they were watching it, and eventually it left. Um, and he- I remember my teacher followed the story up with like ‘kids these days- you guys wouldn’t have seen it because you would be on your cell phones!’” 


C is a University of Southern California student who went to middle school in Mercer Island, Washington in the United States. While unsure exactly when his teacher experienced these events, C guessed it happened about twenty to thirty years ago. He also guesses that his teacher has told this story to other classes of students. When asked about his and his classmates’ reactions, C said their reaction was skeptical but interested and polite.

He then followed up with an explanation of his teacher’s own stance on aliens: “Um, I don’t think he thinks it was aliens, necessarily? I think he believes- or, he told us he thinks it was a stealth plane, because they had like government stealth planes, and apparently he looked up what government stealth planes are like nowadays…and it apparently looked pretty similar to a stealth plane, so he thinks maybe it was that. Because it was kind of like black and V-shaped, I guess.” To explain the final part of his retelling, C also added that his teacher was very anti-cellphones.


Folklorists have discussed how alien beliefs are often indicative of the US’s societal predispositions towards the future, upwards direction, and technology, and this memorate has several elements that seem to support this notion. C’s teacher’s explanations for the ‘true’ identity of the UFO as a stealth plane seems to indicate an air of mystery, intrigue, and perhaps even fear surrounding unknown government practices and technology. In addition, the way that C’s teacher ended the story with a jab at the cellphone usage of today’s children showcases the fluidity of narratives and how the meaning behind a narrative comes from one’s mind. While C and his classmates see the memorate as an entertaining (if unlikely) legend, C’s teacher, with his anti-cellphone moral message and skepticism towards the truth of the event, seems to have refashioned his experience to somewhat resemble a tale.

Moral Lesson of a Stubborn Old Man

A rich man had many employees working for him at his ranch. One day, one of his cows died and the rich man asked his workers to remove its hide to make a leather coat. The workers refused saying that it was infected with disease and the workers feared contracting whatever killed the cow. The rich man decided to remove the hide on his own out of stubbornness.  He worked on removing the hide from night till dawn and by morning light, the man fell sick and died shortly thereafter. 

This story came from an uncle of my dad’s who told him this story in his youth. My dad’s uncle said it was a true story from a nearby rancher who did die in similar circumstances.

I guess this was a story to teach those who heard it not being so stubborn. I see this story in the same light as similar stories I’ve heard from my dad regarding people’s negative qualities leading them to their downfall.

Brer rabbit and tar baby

Text (folktale): 

“The story has three characters. The brer rabbit, brer fox, and tar baby. It tells the moral story of how resourcefulness can allow you to reach your goals.”


My informant heard this story growing up as a child in Louisiana. It is an African-American folktale related to and a variation of the “Tortoise and the Hare” tale.

A: “This is the story of a sly fox and clever rabbit. The sly fox makes a tar baby figure, lays it in the path of bre’r rabbit, and hides behind a nearby bush. When the rabbit comes walking down the trail it gets stuck to the tar and can’t get free. The bre’r fox walks from behind the bush to see the effect of the trap he set, taunt, and contemplate how he wanted to kill bre’r rabbit. Bre’r rabbit begs and pleads to brer fox to do anything but throw him in the nearby briar patch. Bre’r fox hears this and decides to do exactly that. What he doesn’t know is that rabbits are brought up in dense thickets so he is accustomed to it and shouts “I was bred in a briar patch”. Being thrown in the briar patch ultimately allows him to escape from bre’r fox who is shocked and can’t really believe what had just happened.”

Q: “What do the names bre’r and tar baby mean or come from?”

A: “Bre’r is used a lot in African-American Vernacular English (AAVE) as another way to say brother or like acquaintance. In its original context, tar baby just represented a sticky situation that was harder to get out of the more you struggled but in other contexts it was interpreted as having negative racial connotations. In this story though, it refers to a black doll made of tar with a straw hat.”

Q: “Where did you hear this story?”

A: “Well these characters were part of James Harris’ “Uncle Remus” stories from the late 80s and my grandpa would read the stories to me and my siblings growing up. They would try to get across lessons like the the importance of community and resourcefulness, and the dangers of pride.”


This text is a folk tale or fable in my interpretation, specifically, a trickster tale. It is a variation of the commonly know fable “The Tortoise and the Hare” where the hare is over confident in his speed and takes a nap during the race meanwhile the tortoise takes its time moving steadily and wins the race. The rabbit and tar baby variation is more commonly heard in African American communities and is representative of the African American experience during times of slavery. The tar baby is a metaphor for the exploitation of African Americans by slave owners and the institution of slavery as a whole. It is a mild retelling for children of the “sticky situation” showing how it can be overcome through resourcefulness and intelligence. The brer rabbit symbolizes that ingenuity and resourcefulness of enslaved people as they used their creativity and astuteness to withstand and survive their oppressors. The fable is a form of trickster tales as the brer rabbit takes the role of the trickster as well as the fox. As Carroll describes, the trickster term is illustrative of a clever hero in a tale who uses their cunning ability and wits to achieve their end goal. The brer fox, the trickster “villain” of the variations of the brer rabbit and tar baby tale, is representative of a trickster who uses their sly nature to deceive others for their own personal gain often resulting in his own loss. In the variation from “The Tortoise and the Hare” tale, the moral of the story also adapts and is reflective of the cultural context from which it may have originated. As bre’r is a term stemming from AAVE, it implies a sense of African-American brotherhood making it clear the context and origin of the characters and story.

Children’s tales – Bird who poops gold


Once upon a time there was a magical bird who lived in the mountains. Every time her droppings fell to the ground, they turned into gold. A hunter was passing by and he noticed these droppings, and he wanted the gold for himself so he could be rich. He set a trap for the bird in the tree. The bird did not notice the trap. She was caught and was upset with herself for being careless.

The hunter walked away with the bird, thinking he could sell the gold droppings and get rich. But the next day, he got scared. He thought that if he becomes rich so suddenly, people will get suspicious and accuse him of all kinds of things. So the hunter decided he would give the bird to the king as a gift. The hunter went to the palace and told the king how the bird pooped gold. The king’s ministers did not believe the hunter and made fun of him. The king punished the hunter for lying and ordered the bird to be set free. The bird flew away and sat on the gates of the palace. That’s when the ministers saw the bird’s gold droppings. They realized the hunter was telling the truth. The ministers sent many hunters all over the kingdom to capture this bird. No one was successful. The magical bird had learnt her lesson and was always careful.


JG is 59 years old and my mother. She grew up in India with a very religious Hindu family, before immigrating to the USA. She passed down this story to me when I was a child. She had heard it from her parents as well. Though not a religious folktale, the story of the bird is often told to children in India, to reinforce morals at an early age.


This story somewhat echoes ancient Indian history – putting a heavy emphasis on hunting in the mountains and the woods, as well as featuring an interaction between a civilian and royals. It shows how India’s days as a monarchy affect its culture today. Furthermore, it instills morals important to Indian culture in young children, teaching audiences not to steal or be greedy. It teaches children that if you take what does not belong to you, it will never stay with you. Plus, through the bird’s perspective, a second moral of the story is to think through things and be aware of your surroundings. These universal themes make the story resonate. The fact that this fable is on the lengthier side, yet its plot is compelling and keeps you wondering what’s happening next, makes it a great one to pass down from generation to generation.