A Short Story from the July 1951 issue of the Socialist Standard
Many, many years ago. in a large field, there lived two flocks of sheep. These two flocks were separated by a ditch that ran the length of the field. In manners, customs and appearance the sheep of both these flocks were alike, but they had been separated by the ditch for so long that they each spoke a different language. When the sheep on one side of the ditch said “Bah," the sheep on the other side said, "Baw.“
With the passing of years, a mild enmity had grown up amongst these sheep. Each flock was certain that its portion of the field was better than the other flock’s part and that its language was more melodious, in fact, that any one of its members was worth a number of the others. Even so, it occasionally happened that a few young rams would leap across the ditch to nibble at the grass that looked so luscious and green on the other side, for distance always lends enchantment to the view, but no particular harm was done by these brief invasions and the young rams were usually butted back to their own territory.
One evil day there came into the meadow of the Bah sheep a big black shaggy wolf with long white fangs and a red tongue who told the Bah sheep not to be afraid as he was come to protect them from those rascally Baw sheep and the nasty grey wolf who was urging their rivals to attack them. The Bah sheep hired the black wolf to protect them, whilst the Baw sheep, having been told the same tale by the grey wolf, did likewise and hired him.
Time marched on and into the field on the Bah sheep came a sleek and elegant wolf with a well-oiled tongue that moved smoothly on its hinges. He soon disposed of Black Wolf and addressed the Bah sheep as follows:
"I am Golden Wolf. I will now be your protector against those Baw sheep. They am a backward race and must be prevented from invading your side of the field. Your meadow is much finer than theirs, your language is much smoother, your lambs are more frisky, your rams are bolder and your ewes more beautiful Yon most defend your heritage."
This, of course, was arrant nonsense for there was very little difference between the meadows or the sheep of either flock. But the sheep had thick rolls of wool over their eyes that it was easy to pull down. So Golden Wolf continued:
“Any one of you Bah sheep could lick ten of those Baw sheep and, with me to lead and protect you, you need have no fear of the Silver Wolf that is now in command over the Baw sheep. All I need in payment is the right to eat every fourth lamb born into your flock."
In the field of the Baw sheep a snarling, ferocious Silver Wolf had displaced the old grey one and had worked the same confidence trick and was receiving the same pay from those sheep.
From that day, the two wolves, when not eating the lambs of their own flock, started making raids across the ditch and littering the field with dead and dying sheep. Although they sometimes inflicted a few wounds on one another, the wolves always arranged that they should come home alive, for, if one had been killed, even the silly sheep might have realised that it is foolish to pay for protection when there is no enemy attack to fear.
After a time the wolves found it easier to teach all the sheep to do the fighting. They would line them in battle array and urge them on against one another with snarls and barks till the pastures ran red with blood and the stench of the corpses rose high. The wolves had the time of their lives. They stayed far behind the fighting line where it was comparatively safe and gave vent to a loud barking which could hardly be heard up at the front. They also gorged themselves freely on the tenderest lambs of their own flocks, for in the excitement of the battle the sheep neither knew nor cared what the wolves were doing at the rear.
At present, there is only a little fighting in the sheep meadows. The survivors of the last great battle are still weary and emaciated. The only activity to be noticed is the groups of lambs, many with a letter "Z" on their backs, being ordered about in preparation for the next Great War of the Sheep.