I haven't participated in Quotable Thursday before, but when I came across this passage in The Reptile Room, I just had to share it.
When you were very small, perhaps someone read to you the insipid story--the word "insipid" here means "not worth reading to someone"--of the Boy Who Cried Wolf. A very dull boy, you may remember, cried "Wolf!" when there was no wolf, and the gullible villagers ran to rescue him only to find the whole thing was a joke. Then he cried "Wolf!" when it wasn't a joke, and the villagers didn't come running, and the boy was eaten and the story, thank goodness, was over.
The story's moral, of course, ought to be "Never live somewhere where wolves are running around loose," but whoever read you the story probably told you that the moral was not to lie. This is an absurd moral, for you and I both know that sometimes not only is it good to lie, it is necessary to lie.
Why I Love This Quote
I know this is totally snark on Snicket's part, but I absolutely agree that the supposed moral of The Boy Who Cried Wolf is absolute bullshit. I've previously discussed my disdain for "never lie" morals, but I think this fable/folktale is among the worst.
As a kid, it was just a stupid story; reflecting on it now, though... it's kind of disturbing, honestly. A child plays a prank, gets killed because the adults in his life no longer trust him, and somehow the moral is supposed to be "don't cry wolf"!? Are you kidding me? How about "when a kid screams that they're in mortal peril, always go make sure they're not about to be killed, even if you're annoyed with them at the moment".
I mean, damn. The kid pulled some pranks, so he deserves to be eaten? That's harsh, bro. I totally get that it's a product of its time, and that when the Aesop's Fables first came about, it was perfectly reasonable to teach kids not to feign danger--and waste precious time and resources--for attention. But it's an ancient Greek story; it's so out-of-date that, when taken literally, it has no resemblance to modern life. No one fears that they're going to be eaten by a wolf. Their livestock, maybe. But not their children.
So look at it from a modern perspective; update that predator to one that's still a threat in 2014. Take the ever-popular (and yet utterly flawed) "stranger danger" concept as an example. Hypothetically, imagine that there's a child who, when s/he goes to the park, often reports being watched by a stranger... but the stranger always turns out to be some harmless parent. Do you stop listening to the kid after this happens a few times? Do you cease to so much as glance at the person he or she is talking about, just to make sure that nothing inappropriate is happening? I certainly hope not.
Cause, like... lives are on the line here, folks. Pay attention to your kids, and instead of trying to scare 'em straight with crap like The Boy Who Cried Wolf, maybe try, I don't know, addressing the kid's need for attention in a healthy way so that they don't feel the need to scream bloody murder for people to notice them? Maybe talk to them about why metaphorically shouting "Fire!" in a crowded theater can be dangerous and irresponsible?
At the very least, maybe try to scare them with something a little more relevant than wolves!?