The Snake who Thought He was a Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing

Shayan Kashani
11 min readJan 5, 2024

The snake, who thought he was a wolf in sheep’s clothing, slithered past a pair of meerkats playing dominos on his way into the town square for The Gathering.

It was the last Sunday of the month, when all the animals in the valley came to stretch their legs, socialize, barter, and gossip about trivial things like which of the bear triplets would grow taller. It was a who’s who event. Mammals, birds, amphibians, reptiles, you name it.

“Don’t even get me started on the insects,” the snake was overheard saying to no one in particular as he ventured into the bazaar. “They’re all over the place! For once, I’d like to leave a Gathering without ants all over my hooves!” said the snake, causing a nearby gazelle smoking a cigarette to roll her eyes.

Eventually, the snake made his way to the lagoon, where all the cool animals — your pigs, your wolves, your elephants, your jungle cats, your primates and what have you — liked to hang out.

He sidled by a pack of wolves standing in small groups socializing.

“Mind if I join you guys? Whoa! Don’t eat me, please! Hahaha,” the snake said to the wolf on his right, cueing a wave of moans and grumbles from the larger crowd.

“Not this again,” said one wolf standing in the adjacent group. Every fucking time,said another. Would someone just convince him to get therapy already?”

The snake was used to these kinds of comments and had become an expert at tuning them out. To the point, one might argue, of not even hearing them.

Then he turned to the wolf to his left and whispered, but loudly so others could hear, “Pssst, I’m actually a wolf. I’m one of you! I’m just wearing sheep’s clothing.”

The wolf, an older female who had been to enough Gatherings in her time to know when enough was enough, said, “Is that so?” as she squared up to the snake. “How abou — “

“Don’t.” Another wolf, an older male, stepped in. “It’s not worth it.”

“The hell it’s not! This little snake has been crawling all over the place for a year telling every hussy from Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh that he’s a wolf in sheep’s clothing! How absurd is that? He’s a snake! Look at him! He’s not even wearing a costume! He’s just slithering around like the snake that he is — no legs, no claws, no snout — and we’re supposed to just buy this wolf in sheep’s clothing nonsense? Also. Why would a wolf wear sheep’s clothing? That’s ridiculous. Those assholes. All that pom. Look at this glorious pelage!” The wolf said, turning to show off her side. “And another thing,” she continued, slurring her words a little, “I’ve got news for you, you slithering reptile.

She said ‘reptile’ in a way that hurt the feelings of a turtle, quietly perched on a ledge, not bothering anyone.

“A wolf in sheep’s clothing is not even a thing! It’s just an expression humans made up to describe someone who’s, guess what, acting like a snake!!”

“Alright, alright,” the older male wolf said, “someone’s had a few drinks this morning. How many is that now? Eleven? How about we leave the gentleman alone and check out the other side of the lagoon?”

“No! I’m not going anywhere.” the drunken wolf said, now bordering on belligerent. “And don’t.. don’t shush me! I won’t be silenced! It’s about time someone stepped up to this … this … imposter!” she screamed, pointing a paw at the snake.

The kerfuffle had attracted a crowd, as kerfuffles often do.

A leopard poked his head through, yawned, and said, “How boring.”

A pair of Vietnamese pot-bellied pigs had also joined the crowd. “I will never understand how their little brains work,” one of them said. “Oh, Howard,” said the other, “not everyone can be as smart as you.”

The snake, entirely used to all the attention, waited for the crowd to simmer, ensuring all eyes were on him. Then he turned to the wolf and said, “Actually, it’s you who’s a little confused, my good madame. You see, I am a wolf. Today, like most days, I happen to be wearing sheep’s clothing, which is probably what’s throwing you off.”

“You’re not even wearing anything!” the wolf screamed, more hysterical than ever. “You’re a snake. You have scales.”

“Like a piano,” said Howard. “Oh, Howard!” squealed the other pig, “You’re so smart!”

“You look nothing like a wolf! Look, I’m a wolf!” the wolf continued. “Look at these paws! Look how much taller I am than you! How could you possibly think that you’re one of us? And while we’re at it. There’s something I’ve never been clear on. I’m sure there’s an orangutang here who knows what I’m talking about.”

“Here, here!” someone from the back of the crowd, presumably an orangutang, yelled out.

“Why sheep’s clothing, huh?” the wolf asked the snake. “You’re already running the mother of all gambits: A snake pretending to be a wolf? Or wait, is it a snake who thinks he’s a wolf? Ha! Whatever. Pretending. Thinks. What’s the difference? It’s absurd either way. My question is, why sheep’s clothing? Like, why go that extra mile with the lie, you know what I mean? That’s real dedication. Method-acting props.”

“That’s enough!” the wolf’s friend tried to step in again but was greeted with a snarl and snap so ferocious that he instantly stopped and walked the other way, muttering, “That goddam frog and his cocktails…”

“So?” the practically rabid wolf turned back to the snake. “What’s with the sheep’s clothing then? What gives?”

The snake seemed completely unperturbed by the wolf’s hostility, the barrage of questions, or the ever-growing spotlight. The snake loved the attention. He savoured it. Before responding to the wolf, he looked at the gathered crowd.

It was bigger than usual. Most notably, a couple of elephants, a tiger, and a crocodile had wandered over, lending extra gravitas to the situation.

“Well,” the snake started, “I don’t know what to tell you. We’re surrounded by animals of all kinds — each with their own eyes and common sense. Let’s ask them, why don’t we? Who here thinks I’m not a wolf? Please raise an extremity or otherwise hoot or holler.”

An eerie silence fell over the crowd as no one said anything. Then, an antelope coughed. Then, silence again.

“Me! I don’t think you’re a wolf!” cried the wolf. “Cowards! All of you! Cowards! Who do you think is behind those goose eggs going missing a few months ago? This snake in the grass! That family of gerbils? Remember them? Gone. And what about those twin rabbits?”

“They were hares,” yelled out a bear from the crowd.

“Whatever-the-fuck! Those bunnies never hurt anyone! And this goddamn snake ate them because you all keep letting him into the mammals-only events just because he thinks he’s a wolf! It’s insanity. Your children are dying, and you’re going to believe the horseshit this snake is feeding you??”

“Hey!” a stallion who was only half-listening raised his head from grazing half a mile away.

No one else said anything.

“Well,” the snake turned to the wolf, “looks like you’re outnumbered, which means I win. We are who we think we are, old sport. We are the image we have of ourselves. We are what others say. And I,” the snake propped himself up and said, “happen to be a wolf in sheep’s clothing. Why is that so hard for you to understand?”

Before the wolf could respond, a couple of burley gorillas wearing sashes with ‘Security’ on them stepped in, picked her up by the shoulders, and lifted her away without warning. As they walked off, one of them was heard saying, “How many times am I gonna have to kick you out for overindulging you old fool?”

Later that evening, the snake was washing up before bed when he caught a glimpse of himself in the water basin beneath the Akela poster, next to the Fenrir Greyback figurine.

How could anyone look at that face and see anything but a wolf in sheep’s clothing? he thought.

“Animals,” he said out loud to an empty apartment, “they’ll see whatever they want to see.”

That night, the snake had a strange dream.

The strangest he’d ever had.

A nightmare is a better way to describe it.

It was so unsettling that he woke up in the middle of the night, his scales rippling and undulating from head to tail. The snake slowly crawled over to the water basin to look at his reflection, afraid of what he’d see.

He was afraid, because a growing part of him knew what he would discover. The snake had seen it in his dream. And now, the reflection glimmering in the water beneath a lackluster half-moon confirmed it.

He was seeing himself as he was, for the first time.

He was a snake.

He spent the rest of that night, and the following three weeks, drinking.

The snake who used to think he was a wolf in sheep’s clothing didn’t have a lot of friends. Come to think of it, he didn’t have any, which is probably why no one noticed he hadn’t been around.

This suited the snake just fine, since he had a lot of things to figure out. He’d lived his whole life thinking he was a wolf. But he didn’t hang out with wolves. Not really. He hung around them, but not with them. The snake figured the reason was he was wearing sheep’s clothing, so no one quite knew what to make of him, one way or another.

That’s why the snake was alone most of the time.

He went from party to party, event to event, town to town. He’d announce himself as a wolf in sheep’s clothing and be let in immediately. No questions asked.

Sure, there was always the odd whisper here and there.

“That poor snake,” he once heard a flamingo say to a Siamese cat. “I don’t think there’s much emphasis on mental health in the valley,” was another comment that had stuck.

But the snake just dismissed it and chalked it all up to good fun — pointless pablum. Society folks pulling your leg was just a way of them accepting you. Why would they let him into all the events if he were an actual reptile?

These thoughts and memories now plagued and haunted the snake’s every waking moment.

It was day seventeen of his binge. After finishing his supply of fine cricket cider, the snake had turned to the hard stuff — frog venom, hyena moonshine, and talcum powder, which he had to go to the black market, near the human village, to get, but it was worth it because the stuff got you right blasted.

How could I have been so blind?, the snake thought to himself.

All those months? All those Gatherings? All those embarrassing remarks? My goodness!

The snake coiled into a ball and closed his eyes, bombarded by countless memories of conversations in which he’d made a fool of himself in front of damn near the whole world.

He stopped drinking a few days later after a marathon bender, the likes of which only Russian bears are known for surviving. But that didn’t mean the snake was ready to leave the house.

Far from it.

He was afraid of facing the animals out there, seeing him for who he really was.

A slippery snake.

Devious. Conniving. Sly.

The very symbol of mistrust. The epitome of fear.

How could he have missed the signs all his life? Why didn’t he ever pay attention to the whispers behind his back?

The snake missed the next Gathering. And the one after that. And two more after that.

When he hadn’t shown up for the third Gathering in a row, some of the pelicans, widely known as having big mouths, started spreading rumours.

“I hear a coyote killed him.”

“I heard he’s gone to Thailand.”

“Well, maybe he finally found his wolfpack,” said a chimpanzee, and everyone within earshot burst out laughing.

A lot of rumours spread, as rumours often do, but there was one that stuck, and it gained even more traction a month later when the snake missed his fourth Gathering in a row.

Eventually, the story made its way to the lagoon, where the wolf, who had had an altercation with the snake months earlier, first heard about it. She was drinking again, but had only had a couple.

“Did you hear,” another wolf told her, “that snake you had a dust-up with a few months ago here? You know the time the gorillas dragged you out? Not the last time but the time before that.”

“Mmmhhhmmm,” said the wolf, sipping on what must have been the frog’s finest fuzzy navel yet.

“Well,” her friend continued, “I heard he committed suicide.”

This got the wolf’s attention, who put down her drink and scratched her ear.

“What did you say?” she asked.

“The snake who thought he was a wolf in sheep’s clothing committed suicide. How else would you explain his absence from the fourth Gathering in a row?”

“That’s all you’ve got to go on?” the wolf asked, clearly interested.

“Well yea. I mean, everyone is talking about it. Like, everyone. Even the gophers, and you know they like to keep to themselves. The iguanas are saying it! And you know how much they hate gossip.”

“Well I still don’t think you should spread unfounded rumours. It does no one good, thank you very much.” She put down her drink and walked away before her friend had time to retort.

She walked right out of the town square and back to her lair, preoccupied with the mystery.

That night, unable to sleep, the wolf got up and snuck away from the rest of her pack.

She was on a mission: to discover what had happened to the snake.

Wolves and snakes rarely cross paths, so there was no use going to her friends. Instead, she asked around. She asked as many people as she could, as often as she could, and everywhere she went.

Some would just shrug and say they didn’t know. A mule behind a dumpster rolled his eyes and said something about that smug sonofabitch. But to the wolf’s surprise, most animals missed the snake.

She was particularly taken by the account of a deer she’d met in the plains. Ordinarily, meetings between deer and wolves aren’t amicable, but the wolf had flown the white flag, a sign indicating she wanted to talk.

So the deer says: “None of us were friends with him or anything. We didn’t call him or know where he lived. But I’d seen him ‘round the way. Here and there. Slithering away and running his mouth. I miss the crazy old coot. He was a good time. He had a charisma about him. Sliding around with a good attitude, high on life, not letting nothin’ or nobody get him down. You need someone like that around to shake things up.”

“At first, everyone thought he was weird, sure. Some animals — heck, a lot of ‘em — even bullied the guy from time to time or made fun behind his back. Wild animals, amiright? What can you do? But over time, even though nobody liked the snake, we all sort of got used to him. He became part of the furniture. Part of the system. Like the mule from school nobody wanted on their team, but if kids from the other schools bullied him, you’d have to throw down.”

“He wasn’t a bad guy or anything. He just thought he was a wolf in sheep’s clothing. Is that really such a bad thing? Let me ask you. Who’s he hurting? Yes, I heard about the geese, gerbils, and hares, but he’s a snake! No different than you and all your kills. You get to eat, why shouldn’t he?”

“The point is, go easy on the guy. He’s confused. One day, he’ll realize he’s a snake. Worse, he’ll realize he’s always been a snake, and that’s gonna be a tough day. I don’t know if he’ll come back from that. Come to think of it, that’s probably what’s happened. He probably woke up one day, and poof, the illusion is gone. He sees himself as he really is. Yeah, that’ll be something.”

The deer’s story unnerved the wolf, causing her to question why she’d taken such offense to the whole thing to begin with. She desperately hoped to find the snake and reconcile. At least apologize.

More than anything, she hoped the snake was okay.



Shayan Kashani

Writer — Philosopher — Teacher — Runner — Reader — Nomad.