“The wolves are coming!” 狼來了!

“So a long long time ago, there was a kid… he has to release the sheep at home.  So everyday he would run up the top of a mountain, watching the sheep eat grass and the like.  So everyday is like this and he thinks it’s really boring.  When he was bored, he would look everywhere and when he looked down he would see a lot of farmers, they’re there tilling the soil.  So the boy thinks, “Eeeh?  I’m this bored, why don’t I fool them first!”  So, really loudly… then… so he thinks, “how do I fool them?” And he loudly yells “Save me!  Wolves are coming!” So… the farmers at the foot of the mountain go, “Eh?  The kid on the mountain is yelling for help… he says there’s a wolf,” so they immediately put down all their work, run up the mountain to save the boy.  So the boy is watching the farmers, so he sees the farmers running up the mountain and thinks it’s really funny, and very entertaining, like watching them do a show or something, so he… then the farmers run up and are exhausted, panting, and when they reach the boy, the boy happily claps his hands “Yay, yay, I fooled you guys!  I fooled you guys, there wasn’t a wolf in the first place, seeing you all run up, so cute!”  So the farmers say “Huh, this kid, playing with us like this,”  so they unhappily descend the mountain.  So okay, an amount of time passes, the boy still has to go up the mountain every day to tend to the sheep, and he sits and thinks “Ughh, so boring… last time was pretty fun though!  Again!”  So for a second time… then… he tries it again, yelling “Save me, save me!  Wolves are coming, the wolves are coming and carrying all my sheep away!  Save me, you better come quickly and save me!”  Then the farmers, at first, see him yelling like that and have… have… hesit-hesitate, have some hesitation, thinking “Hm?  Is this kid… is it true this time?”  But the kid, seeing the farmers… he calls the farmer and sees they are ignoring them and continues, acting really afraid and yelling “Save me, save me!”  The farmers don’t want to risk having wolves eating the sheep, so at the end the farmers decide to run up the mountain and save the kid, and they run, run, run, run up the mountain and the kid, again, goes, “Yay, yay, you’re all dense, you’re all silly, hahaha!  You’re all really silly!”  So this time the farmers are really angry… “This kid really is naughty, so ill-disciplined, right?”  “He’s like this, tricking us, wanting us to abandon our work to run up and save him, he… it turns out he’s joking with us.”  Then, an amount of time passes, and the kid goes up the mountain to tend to the flock again, and this time he’s really unlucky, there really is a wolf coming.  When the wolf is actually coming, it carries away his sheep, bites his goat…his sheep.  This time he’s actually terrified and screams “Save me! Save me!  Farmers below, hurry up and save, there’s really a wolf!  Faster, save me!”  Then the farmers hear it this time and think  “This kid is fooling us again?  He’s already fooled us twice… let’s not go save him.”  This time the farmers decide to ignore the kid.  Unfortunately, this time, a wolf really does come down.  So the wolf ate… carried away all the sheep and wounded the kid as well.  This kid, at this time, is really regretful.  He thinks, “why did I have to lie in the past to trick people?  Now that I’ve tricked people, they no longer have trust, they don’t trust me, so this time when I really have hardship, no one is willing to help me.”  So this story teaches children to be honest, don’t lie; if you lie, no one will trust you, and if there’s really danger, no one will save you.”

My mother heard this story from her mother as a child.  Her mother would tell her this story, usually like a bedtime story, and teach her the lesson of not lying.  My mother and her sisters would often rely on their mother to tell stories like this to pass the time.

At first, I didn’t recognize the story because the title was “Wolf is coming!”  in Cantonese (狼來了!)  But when I heard the story I recognized it as a version of the folk story, “The Boy Who Cried Wolf.”  I think the difference in the titles comes down to the fact that “狼來了!” is catchier (long loi liu!) and that “The Boy Who Cried Wolf” does not have a particularly smooth Cantonese translation.

In this telling in particular, the “kid” is referred to in Cantonese as siu peng you (xiao peng you, 小朋友), which refers to kids in general but is also understood to refer to boys more often than girls.  Perhaps this is because most other versions of the story feature a boy.  I also found it interesting that the kid sees farmers, instead of being part of a village and yelling to the villagers for help.  The comments of the boy towards the farmers are likely different with each performance.  The “hahahas” were added as a sort of flavor by my mother in this particular performance of the piece.

In other versions I’ve heard, the resolution is adverse but not particularly violent; for example, the sheep would run away at the sight of the wolf.  I was surprised that this version, which my mother learned as a child, has the kid injured and the sheep eaten.  There is also no seen with the farmers teaching the kid a lesson – the lesson comes from the kid reflecting on his mistake.

A variation of this tale in literature can be found in B.G. Hennessy’s children’s book, The Boy Who Cried Wolf.  It seems that there’s yet another variation in this authored text;  at some point the boy’s friend gets involved.  The information of this book is below:

Hennessy, B. G., and Boris Kulikov. The Boy Who Cried Wolf. New York: Simon & Schuster for Young Readers, 2006. Print.