In a house, there was an old carved cabinet. On the cabinet was carved a man with a goat’s legs. His name was Major general-field-sergeant-commander Billy-Goat’s-Legs. On the shelf also lived figures made of china and porcelain. Among those figures was the figure of a shepherdess. She was dainty and beautifully painted. She was placed near the figure of a chimney sweep. Because they were so nearby each other, they had become engaged.
There was also the figure of a Chinaman, who could nod his head. He was considered to be the grandfather of the shepherdess and was also quite a bit larger than the other figures. Because of this, he had a say in what the shepherdess did. When Major general-field-sergeant-commander Billy-Goat’s-Legs asked the Chinaman for the shepherdess’ hand in marriage, he nodded his consent.
The Shepherdess was not at all happy about this. She had heard that the major had eleven other china wives locked away in the cabinet. The Chinaman did not seem to care and told her that she would be the twelfth.
The shepherdess begged the sweep to take her out into the wide world where they made lived together. It was not easy. They first had to make it off the shelf. Then they had to hide inside of a cabinet, where a mismatched deck of cards was putting on a play. They tried going up the chimney, but when they got there, the shepherdess saw the wide-world and the stars in the sky and decided that it was too big for her.
She begged the sweep to take her back down the chimney. When they got there, they found the Chinaman broken on the floor. He had fallen in trying to go after the pair. The Shepherdess was sad because the Chinaman had been her grandfather, but the sweep told her not to worry because he could be riveted back together. The shepherdess realized that she had accomplished nothing and wished she hadn’t done anything in the first place. The family that owned the cabinet did rivet the Chinaman back together, but he could no longer nod his head.
The shepherdess and the sweep spent the rest of their days together because the Chinaman could not nod his head one way or the other.
For as long as people have had it figured out that they can make things out of clay, people have been collecting those things made of clay. Porcelain and china are both types of clay, sort of. They’re things made from the Earth that someone figure out how to make pretty. Some of the figures from the time period that this story was published are worth a lot of money. The shepherdess and the sweep would have been prized possessions of this family in the story and if one of them broke, they would have had it mended, although, it wouldn’t look as nice as it had before.
The shepherdess wanted to go out into the wide world because she thought her world was so bad, but when she saw the wide world, she knew that her world had been safer. It wasn’t ideal, but it was safer. She thinks she accomplished nothing, but she did accomplish something. She was able to stay with the sweep instead of the Major. Sometimes it seems like we did a lot of work and didn’t accomplish a whole lot, but we still accomplished something.
I have some issues with this story. Basically, I see that the shepherdess thought she should have stayed at home and just took her crappy life, even though it was unfair to her and the sweep. I see that this story is saying she should have just obeyed and stayed in her little bubble and let the grownups decide what was what.
This is not a truth. It’s not always good to let other people decide for you especially in the case of marriage. I don’t really know what kind of mood Hans was in when he wrote this story. The shepherdess and the sweep came out on top, but that wasn’t without the shepherdess feeling that she had done all these horrible things. I don’t think she did do horrible things. I think she was too hard on herself. I think she had this image in her head of how a “good girl” was supposed to be and when her actions took her away from that image, she beat herself up mentally.
The shepherdess is not the only female that has this problem. A lot of women have this problem. I simply don’t think it’s right to continue perpetuating the idea that women should always behave a certain way.
Cute story, in ways, but I’m starting to think it’s awfully weird that Hans had such a fascination with toys coming to life.
Would you have done the same things the shepherdess did? Why or why not?
Do you think it’s better to follow rules always or do what’s right for yourself?