“BUT we already know that story,” the children protested as I told them the title of the tale I would tell for bedtime. My seven-year-old daughter Skye in particular has a keen memory for stories I have already told, and when challenged she is always able to recount the details as evidence that I’ve already told it.

She seems to be collecting them in her mind and wants to add to the collection. I had predicted this protest but explained my reasons.

“It’s a really ancient tale, made by someone called Aesop, who made lots of stories we know. They are fables, which means they are short tales with a moral, and so many of them have become famous with different versions and...”

Skye interrupted my flow: “I know, dad, like the lion and the mouse story.”

“Yes, well remembered.”

“And the hare and the tortoise,” she added with a grin.

“Yes, well there are lots of them, all with their different morals.

“Anyway, as I was about to say, we don’t really know much about who Aesop really was, but it is said he was a slave in ancient Greece two-and-a-half-thousand years ago, and he won his freedom because of his cleverness, but we’ll never know for sure. There are remarkable stories about his life, who knows if these are true.”

“Can you tell one of those stories then, dad?” said Skye, not missing a trick.

“Oh, er, well I will, but not tonight, because tonight I am retelling one of his famous tales in a different way, to show that stories can be told from different points of view, and then the moral we take from them may be a different one.”

The tale for this evening was the boy who cried wolf, a very well-known Aesop fable which has evolved and changed over the centuries, but the essentials have remained.

“What’s the moral in this story?” I asked the kids.

“If you keep telling lies then people will stop believing you, even when you tell the truth,” said my 11-year-old Manja.

“Yes, and that’s a good moral. But now I want to tell the same story in a different way, and let’s see if you find any different morals in it,”

“OK, as long as you tell us the stories about Aesop tomorrow,” bargained Skye.

“Agreed,” I said and the kids settled for the tale.

‘Once there was a lad called Peter, who because he was 10 years old was given the responsibility of looking after the sheep on the hill above the village.

He was told by his father: “If a wolf comes, blow this horn as loud as you can and we will come running to help you.”

He was proud to be given the responsibility and sat by the fire keeping warm, feeling very grown up. But as it got dark the moon came out and Peter saw strange shapes on the hillside. They were moving slightly and he couldn’t decide what they were. It seemed they were crawling towards him. It wasn’t a wolf but he became very scared.

So he blew the horn as hard as he could. He heard the sound of shouting and running feet as his father and other villagers came running up the hill.

“Where’s the wolf?” asked Peter’s father.

“I don’t think they are wolves but there’s something scary over there,” he replied. His father looked and shook his head.

“They are just bushes and trees, swaying in the breeze,” explained his father angrily. “You have called us up here for nothing. I’m angry and disappointed in you. Do not do that again.”

He left with the villagers and reminded Peter: “Blow that horn only when there is a wolf.”

Peter felt angry and disappointed with himself. But now he understood that it was just the outline of the trees and bushes in the moonlight, so he wasn’t scared of the shapes anymore.

He sat by the fire eating his supper. It was a warm, cosy fire and it made him miss home and his family. His father had always told him that the warmth of a fire was for sharing, but he had no one to share his with. His head began to fill with stories and riddles, but there was no one to share these with either.

He wasn’t scared anymore but Peter began to feel lonely. He had the sheep but they couldn’t solve riddles or listen to stories like his younger siblings, or sit with him by the fire and share its warmth. The fireside was always a place where his father told stories and his mother sang. Now he was alone and sadness overcame him. He’d never felt lonely like this.

So he picked up the horn and blew it as loud as he could. Once again, the sound of shouting and running feet was heard as Peter’s father and his neighbours came running up the hill.

“Where’s the wolf?” asked his father.

Peter looked down at the ground: “Well, there’s is no wolf, father, it’s just I was so lonely by the fire all by myself and...”

But he didn’t get the chance to explain. “There is no wolf?” said his father angrily. “I can hardly believe you have called us up here once again for nothing!”

Peter looked down at the ground and apologised, and promised he wouldn’t call them for nothing again. His father and the neighbours returned to the village in an unhappy mood.

Peter settled down by the fire once again but this time he heard growling and when he looked up there really was a wolf. So he blew the horn as hard as he could. But there was no sound of shouting and running feet. So he blew again. Still nothing.

So he shouted “wolf, wolf!” in between blowing the horn, but his cry of wolf was ignored, because his father and the villagers didn’t believe him.

The wolf seemed to understand the opportunity and so ate or killed all the sheep.’

So the story ended. I sat back and looked at the kids for their reaction.

“Well, that’s a different way to tell the story; are there different morals in it?” I asked.

“Well, Peter did blow the horn when there wasn’t a wolf, just like in the story in the book, but it wasn’t really for nothing was it? It was because he was scared, and then lonely and sad. It is the same story, but then again isn’t,” reflected Manja.

“It’s from a different point of view,” added Skye.

“And what morals or lessons do you see in this version?” I asked.

Well we had quite a discussion and I think an important one for the children at this time. I’ll leave you to have your thoughts on it.

Except to say that we are all Peter sometimes, and whatever reason we feel the need to call for help – and there will be many different ones for different people in different circumstances – they are all legitimate, even if there is no ‘wolf’.