Aesop’s Lost Fable: The Woman, The Thief & The Snake

Jean-Pierre Ady Fenyo

We all know …okay, I wouldn’t be surprised to find out that less people today know….the story of the boy who cried wolf. It’s one of Aesop’s famous fables. Basically, it goes like this:

A shepherd boy repeatedly tricks nearby villagers into thinking a wolf is attacking his town’s flock. He does so for quite some time. Then, when a wolf actually does appear, the boy again calls for help, but the villagers, having been fooled too often, think he’s up to his same old harmful behaviour, and instead of coming to the rescue, they believe that it is once more yet another false alarm. Except that because it was true this time; the sheep are eaten by the wolf. And in some versions: so is the boy who falsely cried wolf!

The moral of Aesop’s story is obvious; “this shows how liars get what they deserve: for even if they do finally tell the truth, no one believes them by then”. It echoes a statement attributed to Aristotle by Diogenes Laërtius in his The Lives and Opinions of Eminent Philosophers, in which the sage, Aristotle was asked what it was that those who tell lies have to gain by telling lies, and the answer he gave was this: “that because of so many liars telling lies to people, even those who do not tell lies, those who speak the truth, are not believed when it would be in the interest of people to know the truth.”.

But what about the opposite story?! What about the one where the person crying for help is not believed to begin with, and is later found out to have been telling the truth…but too late to save that person?

The Shepherd Boy & the Wolf

A Shepherd Boy tended his master’s Sheep near a dark forest not far from the village. Soon he found life in the pasture very dull. All he could do to amuse himself was to talk to his dog or play on his shepherd’s pipe.

One day as he sat watching the Sheep and the quiet forest, and thinking what he would do should he see a Wolf, he thought of a plan to amuse himself.

His Master had told him to call for help should a Wolf attack the flock, and the Villagers would drive it away. So now, though he had not seen anything that even looked like a Wolf, he ran toward the village shouting at the top of his voice, “Wolf! Wolf!”

As he expected, the Villagers who heard the cry dropped their work and ran in great excitement to the pasture. But when they got there they found the Boy doubled up with laughter at the trick he had played on them.

A few days later the Shepherd Boy again shouted, “Wolf! Wolf!” Again the Villagers ran to help him, only to be laughed at again.

Then one evening as the sun was setting behind the forest and the shadows were creeping out over the pasture, a Wolf really did spring from the underbrush and fall upon the Sheep.

In terror the Boy ran toward the village shouting “Wolf! Wolf!” But though the Villagers heard the cry, they did not run to help him as they had before. “He cannot fool us again,” they said.

The Wolf killed a great many of the Boy’s sheep and then slipped away into the forest.

Liars are not believed even when they speak the truth.

( courtesy United States Library of Congress )

Well, wouldn’t you know it, fantastical archaeologists are said to have found an ancient greek marble olive urn, and inside it was a parchment, on which they were amazed to discover that it was one of Aesop’s legendary lost fables!

The fable is presented here for the first in over 2,600 years!

The Woman, The Thief and The Snake ( ? Aesop )

A young woman lived alone in a small stone house near a small fishing village.

Whenever she would go into the village she would tell people the truth. She never lied!

She was so honest that everyone thought she must be stupid, and so they would smile at her as she spoke her mind, and wish her a good day as they returned to whatever it is they were busy doing.

She made her living collecting and selling berries, wild olives and herbs. And the villagers would exchange what she had for what she needed, such as honey, bread, butter, fish, and grapes.

A war came to and end and the few surviving men from the village returned, some more broken, injured and permanently disabled than others.

One day the young woman returned to her small stone house exhausted after a whole day picking and collecting berries, olives and herbs, but when she opened the door to her house she was greeted by a venomous hissing snake. So she left the door open and walked away for some time, hoping the snake would leave.

When she got back before it was too dark, the snake was gone. But so was all her food and all the things she had collected for three days. A thief had come in and stole it all. She went hungry that night and the next she went down to the village and told people what had happened. Some of them donated her some food.

But the same thing happened again! The snake was once more inside her house, and once more she left the door open for it to leave, and once more when she got back everything was stolen! And once more some of the villagers, after hearing the same story again, donated food to her. But this time she was warned not to expect the same again and again.

So she decided to pretend to walk away the next time it happened. And she saw that the thief was the one who had placed the snake inside her house!

He was one of the village men who had returned from fighting a war, with one lost eye and one lost arm. She knew who he was. He did not see her.

The next day, frightened and hungry, she went down to the village and told people the whole truth about the thief and his snake.

They smiled, gave a little food, and told her that she must have imagined it all in her dreams while sleeping. She told them that that was not so, but, as usual, they simply smiled and went back to what they had been doing.

And though they gave her a little food, it was less and less than she needed. And the thief continued to steal with the help of his venomous snake, which he handled carefully with a stick with which he would return the snake to the casket in which he carried it. She got so weak and so sick and was close to dying…

But the villagers told her that she was just a liar and who did not want to work for her own survival anymore. Some told her that she was insane.

Eventually she got so sick, and she died alone!

And the thief found another vulnerable person to steal from. But this time the thief was eventually caught, red-handed, with the casket holding the venomous snake.

And the villagers realised how wrong they had been, and they decided to erect a statue in her memory, to remind them never again to fail to give others the benefit of the doubt. The thief was punished by being sent away into the mountains…where they knew he would be at risk of being eaten by the wolves.

When people are dismissive and incredulous everyone loses while the thieves gain and cause so much harm.

In our times, with the Internet, Cyberspace and Digital Technology, ,more and more Victims of Cleverly Orchestrated Serious Crimes are Facing Incredulity and Disbelief from others, including actual friends, resulting in a further erosion of society, to the interim benefit of the thieves, the rogue landlords, the corrupt officials and the bosses who bully and exploit and seriously harm those who are most vulnerable!

Forgiving such thieves is not possible…and because people do not want to face the fact that the World can be so barbaric, cruel and dangerous, your life, the lives of all vulnerable persons suffer further harm and are eventually destroyed, because the harmers, the destroyers are still at it and society makes it too hard for the victims to get legal representation and justice. And some people are so insensitive and unfair that they even expect the victims to be forgiving towards the thieving criminals! Would anyone in their right mind forgive a group of people or an individual who was still actively, intentionally, maliciously, causing potentially lethal harm, such physical torture combined with efforts to orchestrate things, so as to prevent one from ever being able to get legal help, protection, and that was thus increasing their chances of dying at any time??? What don’t people understand?!?!?!

The stories of people like Malala Yousafzai, are horrific enough! But do you know that there are thousands of girls and young women of the same basic benevolent character in countries such as Pakistan, Afghanistan, certain Arab countries ( not all ), Iran, and others from countries like Burma, North Korea, etc., who are never heard about in the mass media, and who were or who currently still are tortured, forced every day to suffer horrible abuse, vulnerable people captured and held illegally, who are raped and are being inflicted such horrific pain, such horrible corporal torture, beatings, nails and teeth pulled out with pliers, electronic shocks, etc. way before being eventually murdered?!?

This is happening to girls, women, young boys, sometimes infants too, and to adult women, men, all over the World right this moment! These horrific monstrous acts of inhumanity are being perpetrated even as you read this throughout almost every place in the World…though rarely in Western nations…. So, think about it, would you ask such a person to forgive those who torture them at this moment or from whom they barely mange to escape but are left with lasting, sometimes permanent, often totally irreversible, physical, bodily damage, lost eyes, limbs, etc.?? Forgive??? Of course not!

But what about those who are victims of less obvious physical harm and deliberate deprivations, people who are cleverly targeted in ways that are difficult to prove, and who are almost constantly exposed to deliberately sound-torture and are unable to sleep, rest, relax, and maintain their health, while being further harmed by these ruthless, inhumanly cruel and barbarically brutal rogue landlords, workplace bullies, or family members???!!!

IF the resulting damage is just as life-threatening, health damaging, frightening forms of physical harassment…such as actual sound torture that prevents one from being able to sleep properly, that causes severe long-term and often permanent brain damage???!!! Would you ask those who were on the verge of being murdered by such cleverly indirect means; to forgive their evil rogue landlords???

Would you forgive someone who was seeking to destroy your life by deliberately causing you to become homeless, after years of abuse where, at the same time, the authorities, instead of doing what they are supposed to do by the writ of law, actually actively deny to you what society assumes is being provided at the very time you are being harmed, and in actual reality is not being provided?

Rogue police themselves actually making your already horrific situation even more horrific by deliberately failing what the law theoretically and legally require them to do??!! Would you forgive that???!!! Imagine you’re in such a horrific situation as described here, and you realise that society will actually have you harmed IF you defend yourself by whatever means…theoretically by what means you should legally have the right to defend yourself with when the police themselves … POINT IS, if the normal route is not possible…the one in which someone like you being harmed the way you are being would get immediate police assistance and protection… then is that not itself a most severe violation of your rights !?

Think about it! You are being harmed by criminals, who are causing you potentially lethal harm, who totally damage your ability physically to work and devastate your already way-too-limited finances…to the point of making you destitute…AND THEN WHEN…even armed with tons of solid, strong, irrefutable evidence…you turn to the very people, the only people the law authorises to take whatever legal steps necessary to stop the crimes, stop the criminals from perpetrating the crimes, to investigate the crimes…THEY…the police themselves turn out to also be an active party to these crimes: you ask for investigations from the government political authorities and/or agencies that are supposed to investigate abuse and/or denial of police protection: only to get nowhere!!! Would you forgive that???!!! There are famous movies, true-story-based dramatisations of actual accounts of such things: where the very people, the police are actually participating in the violations…and if you seek to get ombudsman help; they commit even more crimes in trying to cover-up their previous crimes!!! This sort of situation is faced by people all over the World, but you rarely hear about such things, because….¿WHY?…because too few ever survive to finally have their stories verified and reported!

THIS IS THE WORLD many of us are living in!

A World full of Bystanders listening to your pleas in disbelief, incredulous and dismissive, such that it would appear there will never be a proper, full investigation!

AND CAN YOU IMAGINE how it must feel for those RARE FEW who do finally get justice, who are finally vindicated and proven to have been telling the whole truth and nothing but…but who were disbelieved by their own friends?? I have heard of those rare outcomes too. In such rare outcomes the previously incredulous friends and/or relatives say things like: “I…I am so sorry I did not believe that what you were reporting about what was being done to you was really as horrific as you were saying! I feel devastated! And with your life now so damaged…it’s just terrible… I thought you were just over-sensitive, exaggerating, even inventing things! I am truly shocked now. I cannot begin to imagine how I would have felt had you been as dismissive, as incredulous as it now turns out I was!” Is the woman, man, child or entire family now ruined and down-and-out not entitled to have their story taken seriously and seriously investigated? Is being home-deprived and/or indigent as a result of criminals in a non-war-torn-country any less dangerous and harmful than being someone fleeing a war-torn country and seeking asylum?? How many more persons, couples, families are at this very time having their human rights seriously violated and their lives ruined, their health increasingly damaged, their chances of dying prematurely and in such a manner as to never have received justice! To be forgotten as people who somehow “fell through the cracks”…. how many?!?

Can you see how very hard it is to get people to truly understand this sort of compounded layers of actual hate, layers of crimes, including the most severe human rights violations, to INJUSTICE AND UNSTOPPED ENDANGERMENT???

It’s very much the same notion as when Martin Niemöller expressed in his famous speech:

First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out — because I was not a socialist.

Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out — because I was not a trade unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out — because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me — and there was no one left to speak for me.

The Cassandra Metaphor.

The Martha Mitchell Effect.

Argument from (born out of ) ignorance:

Normalcy Bias.

Belief Perseverance.


Confirmation Bias.

What a terrible thing! When no one believes the crime victim until it is too late!

And this is happening right now…more often than people think!

There is nothing worse than to be the victim of very clever criminals who exploit the tendency of society at large to disbelieve those victims of crimes who are victims of very cleverly devised crimes!

This is how Fascists also manage to gain power.



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