The Wolf of Gubbio
To explore Jesus's teaching about loving others even when they don't love you
by The Revd Guy Donegan-Cross
Suitable for Key Stage 2
To explore Jesus' teaching about loving others even when they don't love you.
Preparation and materials
- An animal hand puppet (optional).
- This might be an appropriate assembly to draw attention to the school's anti-bullying policy and remind everyone of the steps to take if they feel they are being bullied.
- Ask how many of the children have pets. Ask if their pet trusted them right away, or whether it took a while for the animal to respond to them.
- Introduce the hand puppet to the children, if you're using one. Have a 'conversation' with the puppet, using nods (or your ventriloquist skills!), in which you talk about how your puppet was initially very scared of you as its owner, but that gradually you managed to gain its trust. Alternatively talk about an experience you have had of an animal that needed taming. Lead into the story below.
- Tell this story. You might want to warn the younger children that it's quite scary!
This story happened a long time ago in a town in Italy called Gubbio. It was a beautiful place, built in the hills, and its citizens were very proud to live there. 'We live in Gubbio!' they said proudly.
But one night a shadow came out of the woods, and was seen prowling the streets. The following morning the body of one of the citizens was found, with clothes torn to shreds. Everyone was very afraid. The following night they all locked their doors and windows and stayed in. All, that is, except for one woman, and the next morning she too was found dead. The people were amazed and terrified. What, or who, could be killing them?
Then a woman spoke up: 'I saw it last night. A dark, grey, vicious wolf was walking through the streets, blood dripping out of its mouth.' All day long people talked about the wolf, and again that night they locked their doors and windows. However, two young men decided to try and kill the wolf, and walked the streets of the town with swords in their hands. The following morning all that was found of them was their mangled clothes and a few bones.
The townspeople were in despair. What could they do? The wolf was destroying their peaceful town. Should they call in the army? Then a small girl had an idea: 'There is an old man in the next town, the other side of the woods, and they say he is able to talk to animals. Perhaps he can help us.' Quickly a group of people set off to find the old man. They were too afraid to go through the woods, so they had to walk the long way round, which took them an extra day. When they reached the next town they asked people there where they could find the man who could talk to animals. He was sitting in the town square, feeding the birds.
'Old man, can you help us? We have a wolf who is attacking our people. We need it stopped,' they said to him.
The old man agreed to help, and together they set off back to Gubbio. When they had got as far as the woods, it was getting dark. The old man told the people to carry on home without him, and he headed into the woods on his own.
That night the people of Gubbio locked their doors and windows and waited for daybreak. No one could sleep.
The following morning the people rushed into the town square. There sat the old man on a bench, with the wolf sitting calmly beside him.
Everyone was amazed. 'What did you do? Why didn't he kill you? How can we stop him?'
'It's very simple,' replied the old man. 'You must feed your wolf.'
That night everyone locked their doors again. The dark shadow once more roamed the streets. Suddenly there was a shaft of light as a door opened, and a large plate of food was put on the street. Then the door quickly shut again. The dark shadow fed.
This continued for several nights. Then one night the door stayed open a little, and a cautious hand reached out to stroke the wolf's head. After a few more nights the wolf was given a hug, and a few weeks later the wolf entered the house, where it ate its food happily, before returning to the woods.
Now, everyone in Gubbio has a new friend. They talk to the wolf, stroke it and play with it. 'We live in Gubbio,' they say. 'And we have our own wolf!'
- Remind everyone that this is an old story and that although wolves can be dangerous, they prefer to stay away from people, and they are now a protected species.
Say that we all know that animals can be difficult - and so can people. There may be people who don't like us. What do we do about them? Someone said: 'The best way to deal with an enemy is to make them into a friend.' That's why Jesus said, 'Love your enemies.' It's easy to love people who love us, but if we want to truly love people and make them our friends, then we may have to try and do what the people of Gubbio did to the wolf.
Note: This might be an appropriate time to draw attention to the school's anti-bullying policy and remind everyone of the steps to take if they feel they are being bullied.
Time for reflection
Ask the children to close their eyes.
Think of someone who you find difficult.
Ask God to help you to be kind to them,
even when they are not good to you.
Thank you that you love us,
even when we don't love you;
even when we make mistakes and do things we shouldn't.
'Love will never come to an end' (Come and Praise, 99)