One of our readers, Walt, emailed me a link to a fable that is intriguing. It is entitled “The Wolf, The Goat, And The Kid,” and was originally penned by the popular 17th century French poet and fabulist Jean de la Fontaine.
THE WOLF, THE GOAT, AND THE KID
by Jean de la Fontaine
As went the goat her pendent dugs to fill,
And browse the herbage of a distant hill,
She latched her door, and bid,
With matron care, her kid; —
‘My daughter, as you live,
This portal don’t undo
To any creature who
This watchword does not give:
“Deuce take the wolf and all his race!”‘
The wolf was passing near the place
By chance, and heard the words with pleasure,
And laid them up as useful treasure;
And, hardly need we mention,
Escaped the goat’s attention.
No sooner did he see
The matron off, than he,
With hypocritic tone and face,
Cried out before the place,
‘Deuce take the wolf and all his race!’
Not doubting thus to gain admission.
The kid, not void of all suspicion,
Peer’d through a crack, and cried,
‘Show me white paw before
You ask me to undo the door.’
The wolf could not, if he had died,
For wolves have no connection
With paws of that complexion.
So, much surprised, our gormandizer
Retired to fast till he was wiser.
How would the kid have been undone
Had she but trusted to the word
The wolf by chance had overheard!
Two sureties better are than one;
And caution’s worth its cost,
Though sometimes seeming lost.1
- Jean de la Fontaine, translated by Elizur Wright, Jr., Fables of La Fontaine, University of California, 1860, link. The original French version, “Le Loup, La Chèvre et le Chevreau,” can be read here. [↩]