The Black Sheep

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There was a country where they were all thieves.

At night everybody would leave home with skeleton keys and shaded lanterns and go and burgle a neighbour’s house.  They’d get back at dawn, loaded, to find their own house had been robbed.

So everybody lived happily together, nobody lost out, since each stole from the other, and that other from another again, and so on and on until you got to a last person who stole from the first.  Trade in the country inevitably involved cheating on the parts both of the buyer and the seller.  The government was a criminal organization that stole from its subjects, and the subjects for their part were only interested in defrauding the government. Thus life went on smoothly, nobody was rich and nobody was poor.

One day, how we don’t know, it so happened that an honest man came to live in the place.  At night, instead of going out with his sack and his lantern, he stayed home to smoke and read novels.

The thieves came, saw the light on and didn’t go in.

This went on for a while: then they were obliged to explain to him that even if he wanted to live without doing anything, it was no reason to stop others from doing things.  Every night he spent at home meant a family would have nothing to eat the following day.

The honest man could hardly object to such reasoning.  He took to going out in the evening and coming back the following morning like they did, but he didn’t steal.  He was honest, there was nothing you could do about it.  He went as far as the bridge and watched the water flow by beneath.  When he got home he found he had been robbed.

In less than a week the honest man found himself penniless, he had nothing to eat and his house was empty.  But this was hardly a problem, since it was his own fault; no, the problem was that his behaviour upset everything else.  Because he let the others steal everything he had without stealing anything from anybody; so there was always someone who came home at dawn to find their house untouched: the house he should have robbed.  In any event after a while the ones who weren’t being robbed found themselves richer than the others and didn’t want to steal any more.  To make matters worse, the ones who came to steal from the honest man’s house found it was always empty; so they became poor.

Meanwhile, the ones who had become rich got into the honest man’s habit of going to the bridge at night to watch the water flow by beneath.  This increased the confusion because it meant lots of others became rich and lots of others became poor.

Now, the rich people saw that if they went to the bridge every night they’d soon be poor.  And they thought: ‘Let’s pay some of the poor to go and rob for us.’  They made contracts, fixed salaries, percentages: they were still thieves, of course, and they still tried to swindle each other.  But, as tends to happen, the rich got richer and the poor got poorer and poorer.

Some of the rich people got so rich that they didn’t need to steal or have others steal for them so as to stay rich.  But if they stopped stealing they would get poor because the poor stole from them.  So they paid the very poorest of the poor to defend their property from the other poor, and that meant setting up a police force and building prisons.

So it was that only a few years after the appearance of the honest man, people no longer spoke of robbing and being robbed, but only of the rich and the poor; but they were still all thieves.

The only honest man had been the one at the beginning, and he died in very short order, of hunger.

Italo Calvino

[El texto en inglés está tomado de la web del College of Liberal Arts (Louisiana Tech Universitiy); aquí tenéis el texto en castellano… ¡pero sólo como último recurso!]


⇒Task: write a comment (≥50 words) on this short story (for instance: what did you think or how did you feel after reading it; could it happen somewhere?; what if it is happening just now?…).  Deadline: Wednesday, the 15th of January.

22 pensamientos en “The Black Sheep

  1. I have felt strange feelings because it is a very strange story, as all people steal from each other. Also, I think that the new man who arrives and doesn’t steal that he does very well although he die.
    I believe that this doesn’t happen today in nowhere although some people steal in houses, supermarkets, shops or banks.


    I have felt strange feelings because it is a very strange story, as all people steal from each other. Also, I think that the new man who arrives and doesn’t steal that he does very well although he dies in the end.
    I believe that this doesn’t happen today anywhere, although some people steal in houses, supermarkets, shops or banks.

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  2. At first sight we can see that this text is our reality,but It isn’t literal.
    Basically we can see this situation in south sudan, people who works in this country only earn 221$ for month and not all population work in that country, so obviously some family need steal for get food for survive, but in the text the families only steal because they were interested in defrauding the government.
    From my point of view after to read this text, the most important is the honest man, because my opinion about that part is that people never change, who is thief will be thief for all his life and if you do good things, you will receive everything you did.

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  3. Wow! This short story can describe how is the society today. This society was based in constant thiefts, and for one person who went to live in this society, everything changed. The rich thiefts were becoming richer and the poor thiefts were becomig poorer. If we look this aspect, we can see today this is happening! We are the poor thiefts ( the working persons) and the rich thiefts are the politics, the monarchy… or incluide your boss. Against more we work towars them, they are more rich and somehow wue poorer.Because all can be a scam. I don´t say that they earn money and we lose money, but somehow this history represent the society rightnow

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  4. It is a good text that perfectly explains the situation in which we all currently live with capitalism. Because every day the rich are richer and the poor are poorer, but there is no one who can do something to change it because there are many people interested in this model of life.


    Very nice, but a bit too short.

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  5. I think that the story is interesting and it makes you think and reflect on the society in which we live. I believe that the story author has based it on a possible case of what would be happening with us and the world where we live. In my opinion the story have a part of true because everyone is worried about the money or the things they have but nobody really cares about others.


    I think that the story is interesting and it makes you think and reflects on the society in which we live. I believe that the story author has based it on a possible case of what would be happening with us and the world where we live. In my opinion, the story has got a true part, because everyone is worried about the money or the things they have but nobody really cares about the others.

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  6. Under my point of view , this story represents who is our world really.
    people are very selfish and only think of themselves.
    In my opinion , there are honored people who have to become like the others to survive , as it´s in the case of the only person who doesn´t steal in history.


    From my point of view, this story represents what our world is really like.
    People are very selfish and only think of themselves.
    In my opinion, there are honest people who have to become like the others to survive, as it’s in the case of the only person who doesn’t steal in this story.


    Too simplish and lacking of structure.

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  7. This story seems incredible but I think that is true. I know the humans are weak but we should have awareness to know what’s right and wrong. Nowadays if you watch the politicians, we can think that happens the same that the story tells. The person who doesn’t follow the flow, he steps alone. But in my opinion, the greatest wealth is to be a honest person and to follow your own criterion.

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  8. I think of this text is that it’s a city with a very bad life because if they steal from each other, they will all remain poor, since what they benefit they lose again when they are stolen. But in making the contract of the rich with the poor for, in the end, the poor will remain poorer than they already were since they have to give it to the rich. And the honest man, it’s a great example.

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  9. After reading this text I see more or less our society, in which there are poor and rich, but all are thieves. Nobody can be honest or good person because it will end poor or hungry.
    With this we can see how our society is very bad and unfair with who does good things, and is very good and helpful with who does wrong things.

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  10. It reminds me of day to day with politicians, because they steal and cover themselves, so nothing happens to them. And the one who always gets hurt is the honest citizen that all he does is paying taxes to avoid receiving fines and make his family move forward.


    Too short.

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  11. I really feel like everything I’ve read happens in reality. Common people become poor because other people, governaments or religions want to be richer robbing them. If everybody in the past were thieves or honest people, at the time that one person thought differently from the group would cause social differences in the present. Nowdays the fortune of a country is owned by thirty or forty business people, politicians and royalty while the rest of the country are getting poored. This situation is difficult to change today, but I think that it’s not the right one.


    I really feel like everything I’ve read happens in reality. Common people become poor because other people, governments or religions want to be richer by robbing them. If everybody in the past were thieves or honest people, at the time that one person thought differently from the group, he/she would cause social differences in the present. Nowadays, a country’s wealth is owned by thirty or forty business people, politicians and royalty while the rest of the country are getting poor. This situation is difficult to change today, but I think that it’s not the right one.

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  12. After reading this text I guess that the story alludes to the current society where all the rich people become richer because of the poor’s work, while the last ones, work hard to get some money.
    But that money at the end of the day ends up in the hands of the rich.
    And this, ladies and gentlemen, is our (sad) reality.


    After reading this text, I guess that the story alludes to the current society where all the rich people become richer thanks to the poor’s work, while the last ones, work hard to get some money.
    But that money ends up in the hands of the rich at the end of the day. [word order]
    And this, ladies and gentlemen, is our (sad) reality.

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  13. According to what I have read in the story, I think that currently the society in which we live is the same. The richest steal from the poorest, leaving them without resources and enriching themselves from their poverty. Unfortunately, it is easier to live blindly than to be aware of this. This is a shame, really!!


    According to what I have read in the story, I think that the society in which we live currently is very similar. The richest steal from the poorest, leaving them without resources and enriching themselves from their poverty. Unfortunately, it is easier to live blindly than to be aware of this. This is a shame, really!!

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  14. After reading the text, on the one hand it seems unfair because the honest shouldn’t have lost. Because if he didn’t want to steal, they wouldn’t steal from him. On the other hand, if are the customs of the place where he lives, he have to adapt. I think that might happen in third world countries because maybe, in those countries to survive they need steal from each other.

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  15. The man honored for not stealing, he died of hungry. Everybody got into a cycle of stealing from each other. At the end, the Ritch become more ritch and the poor more poor. Today this happens in many places like in Spain. The Ritch steal from the poor to become more ritch.


    The honest man who didn’t steal starved to death…
    […insubstantial, lacking of structure, terrible grammar and even vocabulary mistakes… 😡 ]

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  16. In my opinion, this is a reflection of our society. There are poor people that haven’t resources to survive, rich people that still having money keeps stealing, and medium people which is dedicated to protecting the rich from being robbed by the poor.I can’t think of a better metaphor for descriving society.


    In my opinion, this is a reflection of our society. There are poor people that haven’t got enough resources to survive, rich people that keep stealing despite having money, and medium people who is dedicated to protect the rich from being robbed by the poor. I can’t think of a better metaphor to describe our society.

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  17. I think that this short history is really interesting because it have a critical message against the actual society becauso i think that the final situation of the histoy towm is practacally the same that we have in our lives. The rich use treir power and influence to be richer and because of them the poor end up being poorer. What a shit of society.

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  18. I think this story is very interesting because ”Who imagines that we all steal out neighbours every night? I was also surprised that with so much evil there is an honest man. Although for thieves it is a bad person for not doing the same as them, they steal. Finally I think that the text says is currently happenins with governments

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  19. There is always somebody who doesn’t march whith a grouo in also in society and that person has to repress his ideals for the good of all, that makes me feel that honest man he should have fought more for his ideals and not die in vain. It could happened now it would he because human resources, were totally depleted and it would be necessary to resort to such measures, as a benefit to he government, just as the rich did with the poor in history.

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  20. In that country, there weren’t any differences between residents. One day an honest person arrived and he changed all the economy and the way of life of them, creating jobs and inequalities. Nowadays, this type of society takes place in many countries. Politicians and big businessmen take advantage of us by behaving like thieves, and that’s why we end up being poor just because we remain on the sidelines without complaining about them.

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  21. This story is very good but it’s fake (!?). I think that in the beginning of the humanity everybody was honest, but one day, a dishonest person started stealing. That’s how the rich and poor people appeared in the society and not as the story tells.


    A bit too short.

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  22. In my opinion, this describes today’s society, since the good is taken for a fool and in order to survive they must be a bad person and on the other hand there are politicians who do what they want, that is, they pay to the poor to get what they want.

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