There was a shepherd who had a faithful dog. The dog was called Sultan and he was very old, and had lost all his teeth. The shepherd needed a dog that could protect his flock. He needed a dog that could bite.
“He’s no use to us anymore,” he said to his wife one day, “Tomorrow, I will shoot Old Sultan.”
“Shoot him?” replied the wife, “But he is part of the family and has served us well all these years as a faithful guard dog and friend!”
But the shepherd paid no attention; he needed a dog that thieves would be afraid of, not a faithful friend!
Poor Old Sultan! He was curled up next to the fire (his eyes shut and his breath heavy), but he was not sleeping. He had heard everything his master and the wife had said and he was afraid. His heart ached that he was of no use to the family he loved. He closed his eyes even tighter and tried not to cry.
Late that night, Old Sultan crept silently out of the house and went to see his good friend, the wolf. The Wolf lived a little way into the forest and Old Sultan told him about the conversation he had heard and that he was afraid.
“No use? We’ll show him how useful a faithful friend can be! Here is what we will do. Every morning, your master and his wife go out into the field to collect food. And every morning, they take their baby girl along in a basket and they leave the basket by a tree. Tomorrow morning, you must go with them and pretend to be protecting the baby. I will sneak in, grab the basket and run off with her! You must then chase me as fast as you can. When we are out of sight, I will give you the baby to carry safely home to your master. They will be so thankful to you for saving her, that they will keep you and love you forever!”
Old Sultan thought this was a brilliant plan and so they spent most of the night practising together.
In the morning, Old Sultan followed his master over to the fields and sat guarding the baby girl in her basket under the tree. He tried to look natural, but he was secretly looking for his friend. Just as they planned, the wolf snuck up to the tree, snatched the basket and sprinted into the shadows of the forest. Sultan jumped up and barked loudly. The master and his wife turned to see their darling baby being carried off by a large wolf!
The wife screamed and the shepherd starting running after the animal. But Old Sultan was already on the move and he was much faster than his master. He sprinted as fast as his old legs would carry him towards the arranged spot. Sure enough, there was the wolf, out of breath, with the little baby in her basket. Sultan barked a “thank you” as he carried the baby back towards the fields.
The master and his wife were so relieved to see their daughter alive and well . And they both hugged Old Sultan and cried. The shepherd patted his dog on his head and said, “Old Sultan has saved our family from the jaws of a wolf. He will remain with us and be well looked after for the rest of his life!” The wife was thrilled and she set off back home to prepare a lovely dinner for her brave dog.
Old Sultan was the happiest dog in the world! He was appreciated and loved. He was well fed and watered. He had a home and a family. In fact Old Sultan had everything he had ever wanted!
The family lived quite happily for a time and one night, when the people were asleep, the wolf paid Old Sultan a visit.
“Good evening, my friend. How are you?” said the happy dog.
“Remember when I helped you regain the love of your family?” replied the wolf. “Well tonight I have a favour to ask of you. I want you to look away while I snatch one of your master’s fine fat sheep.”
“I cannot allow that, wolf, for I am true to my master and I will protect his sheep.” The wolf didn’t really think that Sultan was being serious. He had saved the dog’s life! He would surely spare one of his master’s sheep. Besides, what would he do to protect them without any teeth?
So, the following week, on a cold dark night, the wolf slowly crept into the field. He could see a delicious fat sheep quietly baaing her lamb to sleep. She had no idea that not far away, a wolf’s lips were drooling. But Old Sultan did. He had stayed up every night since the wolf’s visit in order to stop this attack. Letting off an explosion of barks, he leapt over the fence and growled at his friend.
The shepherd heard the barking and started running towards the field with a large stick. The wolf snarled and backed away. Throwing an angry look at the dog, he scowled, “Traitor,” before heading off towards the forest. The wolf returned to his home full of anger. He would not let this be. He would get his revenge.
The following morning, the wolf sent his friend, the wild boar, to challenge Sultan to come to the wolf’s home in order sort out this problem. Sultan had no one to stand by him, so he asked the family’s three-legged cat!
They set off into the forest, but the poor cat had some trouble walking along such an uneven surface. She limped this way and that, her whole body dipping as she did. She held her tail perfectly upright to help her keep balance.
The wolf and the wild boar were tucked behind some bushes waiting for the dog to arrive. When they spied him coming, they were shocked to see that he had brought along a small creature that carried something perfectly upright on its back! It was probably a sword! Every now and then, the body of the small creature dipped, probably to collect stones for an assault! The wolf had no idea that Sultan had such fearsome friends. He was now regretting his invitation to him.
He very slowly backed away from the bush and then shot up the first tree he could find, hiding amongst the leaves and branches.The wild boar followed his lead and dashed behind a large rock.
Sultan and his three-legged friend waited at the spot for a while and wondered why there was no one there! Now the wild boar hadn’t realised that his ears were not quite hidden behind the rock. He was very nervous and all of a sudden one of his ears twitched.
The cat, seeing something move, was on it with lightening speed. He thought it was a little mouse sitting on top of the rock, so he bit and scratched it. The poor boar yelped and jumped up and downーthis way and thatーtrying to get her off.
“It’s not me you want! It’s him, there, up in the tree; the wolf!”
Sultan looked up to see a large wolf tail hanging down between the branches. The cat decided that boar’s ear was not nearly as tasty as a mouse and so she let go of the boar, who squealed off into the forest.
Sultan and the cat looked up at the wolf and the whole tree started to shake. The wolf was afraid!
“Cowardly Custard! Cowardly Custard!”
They told him off for being selfish. They told him off for wanting repayment for help. They told him off for not being a good friend. And when they felt they had told him off enough, Old Sultan smiled a toothless smile and they helped him out of the tree.
The wolf reached the ground embarrassed and ashamed. He promised to do good things because he wanted to help, and not so that he could get something in return. And he spent the rest of the day with his friends; the cat who bobbed up and down with a perfectly straight tail, and the dog with a gummy grin.
Good friends indeed!