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Encyclopedia > The Wolf in Sheep's Clothing

The Wolf in Sheep's Clothing is a fable ascribed to Aesop. For a comparison of fable with other kinds of stories, see Myth, legend, fairy tale, and fable. ... Aesop, as depicted in the Nuremberg Chronicle by Hartmann Schedel in 1493. ...


Fable

According to the fable, a hungry wolf came upon a sheep's fleece lying on the ground in a field. The wolf realized that if it wore the fleece, it would look like a sheep from a distance. That would enable the wolf to sneak up on a flock of sheep and steal a lamb for its supper, before the shepherd noticed his presence.


The wolf put on the fleece, and went off in search of a flock of sheep. It spied a flock of sheep just as the sun was setting, and approached the flock. Just as it was about to pounce on a lamb, a shepherd came by, looking for a sheep to slaughter for supper. Thinking the disguised wolf was a sheep, the shepherd quickly grabbed and killed the wolf.


The intended lesson was, "Frauds and liars are always discovered, eventually, and pay for their actions accordingly."


Usage

In English, "a wolf in sheep's clothing" has become a common metaphor for any hidden danger, or for any enemy putting on a false display of friendship. As a result, the phrase "a sheep in wolf's clothing" has also become used, ironically, for something or someone harmless who blusters or tries to appear menacing.


Winston Churchill once described a political opponent (either Clement Atlee or Ramsay MacDonald depending upon sources) as a sheep in sheep's clothing. [1] Sir Winston Leonard Spencer-Churchill, KG, OM, CH, TD, FRS, PC (Can) (30 November 1874 – 24 January 1965) was a British politician who served as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1940 to 1945 and again from 1951 to 1955. ... Clement Richard Attlee, 1st Earl Attlee, KG, OM, CH, FRS (January 3, 1883 - October 8, 1967) was Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1945 to 1951. ... James Ramsay MacDonald (12 October 1866 – 9 November 1937) was a British politician and three times Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. ...


The image of a wolf in sheep's clothing is echoed in Matthew 7:15, which states, "Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves." (KJV).


See also

Wikisource has original text related to this article:
The Wolf in Sheep's Clothing

 
 

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