Once upon a time, in a land far away, there was a porcupine named Rolly. Like the other porcupines in this far away land, Rolly was big, much bigger than the little porcupines that we mostly see as road kill along our highways. Because of his size and his quills, other animals did not bother Rolly very often. Yet he always needed to be on his guard, for he never knew when some dangerous creature would try to attack his soft underside.
He spent his days travelling around looking for food, climbing trees to look around, chatting a little with other porcupines without ever getting too close. Those quills were just as painful to a porcupine as to other creatures. Rolly didn’t spend much time wishing his life could be different. He was just like porcupines had always been.
One day Rolly came over the top of a hill and found a group of creatures eating together in the meadow. They were about the same size as he was, but instead of quills they had a soft fuzzy coat. He watched as two of them bumped into each other, but neither yelled “Ouch!” In fact, they didn’t seem to notice. As Rolly watched, he could see this happening all over. These creatures actually seemed to like being close together.
For the first time in his life, Rolly began to feel lonely, a kind of deep sadness that made him wish he could join these creatures. But he knew his quills would drive them away.
From then on, Rolly would look for this band of fuzzy creatures each day and watch them. He saw that when they laid down to sleep they would huddle close together. It seemed like as they truly enjoyed being close to each other. Rolly noticed too that there was a man with the sheep who appeared to be their guide. He knew when they were thirsty and led them to a clean pool of water to drink. Rolly learned that the creatures were called sheep and the man with them was their shepherd.
One day he saw a wolf creeping close to one of the sheep and wanted to yell a warning. Before he could open his mouth the shepherd was there and struck the wold with the big stick that he always carried and the wolf ran away as fast as he could. Another day a cougar caught one of the sheep and started to carry it away. The shepherd took a round stone out of his bag and placed it in the pouch of a sling with two long cords. The shepherd took the ends of the cords in one hand and began to swing the sling in circles, faster and faster. Suddenly his arm stopped, pointing directly at the cougar and let go of one cord. Rolly heard a Crack!, and the cougar dropped dead. The shepherd picked up the wounded sheep, carried it back to the flock and began to care for his wounds.
“Wouldn’t you like to be one of us?” Rolly jumped. He had been so fascinated by the cougar and the shepherd’s actions that he hadn’t noticed the sheep approaching him.
“But I can’t” said Rolly. “I’m a porcupine. Nobody wants to get close to a porcupine.” “Nobody cares about a porcupine,” he added sorrowfully.
“We all used to be porcupines, just like you,” responded the sheep.
This piece of news shocked Rolly. “I don’t believe you,” he responded, wishing all the time that it could be true.
“If you ask the shepherd, he will make the quills fall out and you can become just like the rest of us.”
It was a promise, and a challenge. Rolly was almost too afraid to accept the challenge. On legs that had suddenly become very weak he began to walk over to where the shepherd was sitting and watching over his flock. His mouth was so dry, he didn’t know if he would be able to say a word.
“Hello Rolly, are you tired of being a porcupine?”
The shepherd knew his name! Now the words came tumbling out: “Yes, I’m tired of being alone, not having any friends, of pushing others away from me, of being afraid lest they get too close. I don’t want to fight anymore.”
“If that is truly your wish, it may be so,” responded the shepherd. And Rolly felt all the quills drop away from him.
“Let me introduce you to the other sheep,” said the shepherd.