The Hungry Little Lamb
by Adrienne Potter
(Words that might be new for 1st, 2nd and 3rd graders: assistant, shepherd, frolicked, exhausted, pasture, continued, journey, brook, amazing, horizon, outstretched, gamboled, trek, fleece, listless, following)
There was once a great shepherd who had thousands of sheep. He had so many that he had hundreds of shepherds who helped care for them. He was kind and gentle with the sheep, and the dogs who helped him were taught never to bite them when they herded them. The sheep were moved daily to green pastures where they could find fresh grass to munch.
Most of the assistant shepherds were very kind and gentle, but there were some who were not. They listened to the shepherd, or read any instructions he sent to them, and then they did as they pleased. One shepherd kept the sheep in the same pasture for days on end, until there was nothing but weeds left to munch. His sheep grew thin and restless. They bleated in hunger. Some set off by themselves in search of new grass to eat but the cruel shepherd sent the dogs after them and forced them back.
Finally, when he felt like it, the cruel shepherd packed up his belongings and herded the sheep to a greener pasture. He opened his pouch of wine and drank it all, then fell asleep drunk. The sheep were so hungry that they ate all the grass in one morning and then bleated for more. There was one little lamb among them who was very curious and sad. Somehow he felt that things were not right and that he needed to do something, but he didn't know what. That night as he lay with his mother and saw the beautiful stars in the sky that seemed to stretch forever, he decided that the next day he should go and explore.
After the sun rose the hungry sheep searched for something green, and a small group of them slowly moved away from the flock in search of more grass. The curious little lamb quickly joined them. It was noon and the dogs were sleeping. Slowly, slowly, they crept towards a hill. When they reached the top the dogs woke up and ran towards them. As they came nearer the sheep scattered in all directions. Quickly the dogs moved to herd them all back to the flock, but the little lamb hid under a bush and they missed him. As soon as the dogs and sheep were moving back down the hill he scurried down the other side.
He was alone! There was grass here! Lots of it. He ate and ate until he was full and then he kept moving away from the herd. He knew he couldn't stay with them under the care of the cruel shepherd. The birds sang to him of greener pastures and the frogs croaked about a kind shepherd who always led his sheep to lush meadows. An owl had once hooted in the night of a great shepherd and a great flock who always had green grass to eat, and the little lamb wondered if he could find them.
In the evening the cruel shepherd counted his sheep and saw that one was missing. He sent the dogs out after it and they searched for thirty minutes, but by then the littlelamb was far away, and so he called them back. Night came and the little lamb lay down under a bush and fell asleep. In the morning he felt the warm sun and the fresh air and ate the grass that he saw everywhere. He kept moving. A pretty, yellow butterfly fluttering in the morning breeze pointed him in the direction of the great shepherd, and so he moved on.
He started down a steep canyon, but a bluebird flew down and warned him that there was wolf down there and the little lamb listened and went back the other way. He didn't know that the wolf had caught his scent and was moving out of the canyon to follow him. The little lamb came to a large meadow filled with flowers and green grass and frolicked in delight amid the bees, butterflies, and other insects there. He stopped and ate until he was full and then moved on.
That night he found a small opening in a rock and climbed inside to sleep. The moon and the stars in the sky lit up the meadow outside his tiny den. Rain fell in the night and washed away his scent so that the wolf couldn't find him, and so the wolf returned to the canyon.
In the morning the little lamb continued on his journey. He saw a small group of shepherds with a little flock far ahead of him and so he followed them from a distance. He watched from the woods as they entered a cave, made a fire, and camped there. He slept near the cave that night under the light of the moon. The next day he started out again on his search. He came to a very tall hill and felt that he had to climb it. He stopped to eat and drank at a small brook, then kept climbing. All day he climbed until he was exhausted, but finally in the late afternoon he reached the top.
The view was amazing. Tall mountains were on the horizon and in front of them were valleys filled with more pastures than he had ever thought could be. In the valley just below him he saw the largest flock of sheep he had ever seen.
A large eagle swooped in circles high above him, interested in the new little animal that looked like a speck below. The great shepherd saw the eagle circling and then saw the tiny speck on the hill. He sent his dogs after it. The little lamb frolicked and played in the grass as he enjoyed the beauty around him. Suddenly a huge shadow passed over him and he was frightened. He hid under a bush. He heard dogs barking and then he saw the huge bird circling over him.
What should he do? Were the dogs friendly? Should he run or stay? He bleated out in fear, not knowing what to do. A little cricket next to him sang its little cricket song:
"Stay! Stay! Don't run away. Hide in the shade of the bush today!"
The little lamb listened, happy to obey. The eagle swooped so low that he knocked some branches off the bush and the lamb jumped, but then crawled closer to the trunk of the bush. The eagle flew up and away and then dove again towards the bush. He grabbed for another branch and pulled it off as he passed. The whole bush shook and the cricket and the lamb huddled together in fear. The eagle came back for another pass and this time took another branch. He could see the lamb clearly now and he prepared for another dive.
The dogs were running as fast as they could up the hill and the shepherd was following quickly behind them. One dog was faster and stronger than the others and he raced up the hill, tail straight out and ears laid back. The big eagle dove straight towards the bush, claws outstretched, ready to snatch the little lamb away. The dog saw him dive and put on a burst of speed. The eagle was almost at the bush and the dog leaped into the air and snapped at the eagle with sharp teeth.
The eagle, startled by the dog, almost fell to the ground but he caught himself and rose into the air again. The other dogs arrived and shooed the little lamb out from under the bush, but he thanked the cricket as he left. The dogs stayed close around him as he gamboled down the hill. The eagle knew it was beaten as it rose up to the clouds.
The dogs were kind and gentle as they herded him to the shepherd, but the little lamb was scared. What if the shepherd was angry with him for leaving his flock? What would happen to him? At last they were at the bottom of the hill where the great shepherd was waiting for him. He gathered up the little lamb gently in his arms and carried him back to the huge flock. The little lamb was glad because he was so tired. The shepherd saw the tiny mark on the lamb that told him from which flock he came and was amazed. This little lamb had survived a long and tedious trek.
The shepherd knew something was wrong and so he sent another shepherd off to find the hungry flock. The assistant shepherd followed the trail of the little lamb by watching for tiny bits of fleece stuck to the bushes. He saw the wolf lurking in the canyon and wondered how the little lamb had escaped from it. He flashed his knife in the sun and the wolf stayed away.
At last he reached the hill that the lamb had first climbed and looked down on the lazy shepherd and the hungry flock. He saw the shepherd sleeping under a tree next to an empty pouch of wine and saw how thin and listless the sheep were. He had been given instructions to help the sheep in any way he thought he should and so he went to the lazy shepherd and told him to leave. The lazy shepherd was angry, and tried to hit the assistant shepherd but the blow was stopped by the assistant's staff. They both knew he hadn't done his job. The lazy man packed his bags and left, muttering and grumbling.
The assistant shepherd immediately herded the sheep to a greener pasture and watched contentedly as they hungrily munched fresh, new grass. He let them eat until they were full and then they all rested. On the next day he moved them to another pasture, and again the following day. Finally, after a week, they found the huge flock of the Great Shepherd. The little lamb ran out to greet them and found his mother, who had been very worried about him. She kissed him and nuzzled him and wanted to scold him but she didn't. He had done a very brave thing and saved the entire flock from starvation.
The great shepherd patted him on the head and found a new assistant shepherd for the flock of the little lamb. A week later, after they had eaten well for days, the little lamb and the flock started up the hill with their new shepherd, eager to start a new and better life.
One evening the little lamb noticed a beautiful star shining high in the sky. It's rays were so long they seemed to touch the ground. The shepherd and his assistance were so entranced by the star that they began guiding the sheep towards it. Suddenly a bright light began to open in front of them and they shielded their eyes from its brilliance. In a moment they could see an angel standing in the light and they heard a voice telling them that a New King had been born that night and that the star would guide them to Him. The assistant guided his flock back to the Great Shepherd to tell him what they had seen.
The Great shepherd left the flock in the care of his son and left with the assistant, the little lamb and his mother, and a small herd for the city of Bethlehem. When they arrived they gazed in awe at the newborn King of Israel and his parents, living in a cave carved into the side of a hill. The Shepherd made a gift of the little lamb and his mother to Joseph and Mary. The little lamb grew large and fat and he and his mother gave wool for warm clothing to the Holy family for all their days.
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