This is the story of how Much-Afraid escaped
from her Fearing relatives and went
with the Shepherd to the High Places where
"perfect love casteth out fear."
For several years Much-Afraid had been
in the service of the Chief Shepherd, whose
great flocks were pastured down in the Valley
of Humiliation. She lived with her
friends and fellow workers Mercy and
Peace in a tranquil little white cottage in the
village of Much-Trembling. She loved her
work and desired intensely to please the
Chief Shepherd, but happy as she was in
most ways, she was conscious of several
things which hindered her in her work and
caused her much secret distress and shame.
In the first place she was a cripple, with
feet so crooked that they often caused her
to limp and stumble as she went about her
work. She had also the very unsightly
blemish of a crooked mouth which greatly
disfigured both expression and speech
and was sadly conscious that these ugly
blemishes must be a cause of astonishment
and offense to many who knew that she was
in the service of the great Shepherd.
Most earnestly she longed to be completely
delivered from these shortcomings
and to be made beautiful, gracious, and
strong as were so many of the Shepherd's
other workers, and above all to be made like
the Chief Shepherd himself. But she feared
that there could be no deliverance from
these two crippling disfigurements and that
they must continue to mar her service always.
There was, however, another and even
greater trouble in her life She was a
member of the Family of Fearings, and her
relatives were scattered all over the valley,
so that she could never really escape from
them. An orphan, she had been brought up
in the home of her aunt, poor Mrs. Dismal
Forebodings, with her two cousins Gloomy
and Spiteful and their brother Craven Fear,
a great bully who habitually tormented and
persecuted her in a really dreadful way.
Like most of the other families who lived
in the Valley of Humiliation, all the Fearings
hated the Chief Shepherd and tried to
boycott his servants, and naturally it was a
great offense to them that one of their own
family should have entered his service.
Consequently they did all they could both
by threats and persuasions to get her out of
his employment, and one dreadful day they
laid before her the family dictum that she
must immediately marry her cousin Craven
Fear and settle down respectably among her
own people. If she refused to do this of her
own free will, they threatened to use force
and compel her.
Poor Much-Afraid was, of course, overwhelmed
with horror at the mere idea, but
her relatives always terrified her, and she
had never learned to resist or ignore their
threats, so she simply sat cowering before
them, repeating again and again that nothing
would induce her to marry Craven Fear,
but she was quite unable to escape from
The unhappy interview therefore lasted a
long time, and when finally they did leave
her for awhile, it was already early evening.
With a surge of relief, Much-Afraid remembered
that the Chief Shepherd would
then be leading his flocks to their accustomed
watering place beside a lovely cascade
and pool on the outskirts of the village.
To this place she was in the habit of going
very early every morning to meet him and
learn his wishes and commands for the day,
and again in the evenings to give her report
on the day's work. It was now time to meet
him there beside the pool, and she felt sure
he would help her and not permit her relatives
to kidnap her and force her to leave his
service for the dreadful slavery of marriage
with Craven Fear.
Still shaking with fear and without pausing
to wash the tears from her face, Much-Afraid
shut the door of the cottage and
started off for the cascade and the pool.
The quiet evening light was filling the
Valley of Humiliation with a golden glow as
she left the village and started to cross the
fields. Beyond the river, the mountains
which bounded the eastern side of the Valley
like towering ramparts were already
tinged with pink, and their deep gorges
were filled with lovely and mysterious
Through the quiet and peace of this
tranquil evening, poor, terrified Much-Afraid
came to the pool where the
Shepherd was waiting for her and told him
of her dreadful plight.
"What shall I do?" she cried as she ended
the recital. "How can I escape? They can't
really force me to marry my cousin Craven,
can they? Oh!" cried she, overwhelmed
again at the very thought of such a prospect,
"it is dreadful enough to be Much-Afraid,
but to think of having to be Mrs.
Craven Fear for the rest of my life and
never able to escape from the torment of it
is more than I can bear."
"Don't be afraid," said the Shepherd
gently. "You are in my service, and if you
will trust me they will not be able to force
you against your will into any family alliance.
But you ought never to have let your
Fearing relatives into your cottage, because
they are enemies of the King who has taken
you into his employment."
"I know, oh, I know," cried Much-Afraid,
"but whenever I meet any of my relatives I
seem to lose all my strength and simply
cannot resist them, no matter how I strive.
As long as I live in the Valley I cannot escape
meeting them. They are everywhere
and now that they are determined to get me
into their power again I shall never dare
venture outside my cottage alone for fear of
As she spoke she lifted her eyes and
looked across the Valley and the river to the
lovely sunset-lighted peaks of the mountains,
then cried out in desperate longing,
"Oh, if only I could escape from this Valley
of Humiliation altogether and go to the
High Places, completely out of reach of all
the Fearings and my other relatives!"
No sooner were these words uttered
when to her complete astonishment the
Shepherd answered, "I have waited a long
time to hear you make that suggestion,
Much-Afraid. It would indeed be best for
you to leave the Valley for the High Places,
and I will very willingly take you there myself.
The lower slopes of those mountains
on the other side of the river are the borderland
of my Father's Kingdom, the Realm of
Love. No Fears of any kind are able to live
there because `perfect love casteth out fear
and everything that torments.'"
Much-Afraid stared at him in amazement.
"Go to the High Places," she
exclaimed, "and live there? Oh, if only I
could! For months past the longing has
never left me. I think of it day and night,
but it is not possible. I could never get there.
I am too lame." She looked down at her
malformed feet as she spoke, and her eyes
again filled with tears and despair and self-pity.
"These mountains are so steep and
dangerous. I have been told that only the
hinds and the deer can move on them
"It is quite true that the way up to the
High Places is both difficult and dangerous,"
said the Shepherd. "It has to be, so
that nothing which is an enemy of Love can
make the ascent and invade the Kingdom.
Nothing blemished or in any way imperfect
is allowed there, and the inhabitants of the
High Places do need `hinds' feet.' I have
them myself," he added with a smile, "and
like a young hart or a roebuck I can go leaping
on the mountains and skipping on the
hills with the greatest ease and pleasure.
"But, Much-Afraid, I could make yours
like hinds' feet also, and set you upon the
High Places. You could serve me then much
more fully and be out of reach of all your
enemies. I am delighted to hear that you
have been longing to go there, for, as I said
before, I have been waiting for you to make
that suggestion. Then,' he added, with an.
other smile, "you would never have to meet
Craven Fear again."
Much-Afraid stared at him in bewilderment.
"Make my feet like hinds' feet," she
repeated. "How is that possible? And what
would the inhabitants of the Kingdom of
Love say to the presence of a wretched little
cripple with an ugly face and a twisted
mouth, if nothing blemished and imperfect
may dwell there?"
"It is true," said the Shepherd. "that you
would have to be changed before you could
live on the High Places, but if you are willing
to go with me, I promise to help you
develop hinds' feet. Up there on the mountains,
as you get near the real High Places,
the air is fresh and invigorating. It
strengthens the whole body and there are
streams with wonderful healing properties,
so that those who bathe in them find all
their blemishes and disfigurements washed
"But there is another thing I must tell
you. Not only would I have to make your
feet like hinds' feet, but you would have to
receive another name, for it would be as
impossible for a Much-Afraid to enter the
Kingdom of Love as for any other member
of the Fearing family. Are you willing to be
changed completely, Much-Afraid, and to
be made like the new name which you will
receive if you become a citizen in the Kingdom
She nodded her head and then said very
earnestly, "Yes, I am."
Again he smiled, but added gravely,
"There is still one thing more, the most important
of all. No one is allowed to dwell in
the Kingdom of Love, unless they have the
flower of Love already blooming in their
hearts. Has Love been planted in your
As the Shepherd said this he looked at
her very steadily and she realized that his
eyes were searching into the very depths of
her heart and knew all that was there far
better than she did herself. She did not answer
for a long time, because she was not
sure what to say, but she looked rather
flinchingly into the eyes which were gazing
at her so penetratingly and became aware
that they had the power of reflecting what
they looked upon.
She could thus really see her own heart as
he saw it, so after a long pause she answered,
"I think that what is growing there
is a great longing to experience the joy of
natural, human love and to learn to love
supremely one person who will love me in
return. But perhaps that desire, natural and
right as it seems, is not the Love of which
you are speaking?" She paused and then
added honestly and almost tremblingly, "I
see the longing to be loved and admired
growing in my heart, Shepherd, but I don't
think I see the kind of Love that you are
talking about, at least, nothing like the love
which I see in you."
"Then will you let me plant the seed of
true Love there now?" asked the Shepherd.
"It will take you some time to develop hinds'
feet and to climb to the High Places, and if I
put the seed in your heart now it will be
ready to bloom by the time you get there."
Much-Afraid shrank back. "I am afraid,"
she said. "I have been told that if you really
love someone you give that loved one the
power to hurt and pain you in a way nothing
"That is true," agreed the Shepherd. "To
love does mean to put yourself into the
power of the loved one and to become very
vulnerable to pain, and you are very
Much-Afraid of pain, are you not?"
She nodded miserably and then said
shamefacedly, "Yes, very much afraid of it."
"But it is so happy to love," said the
Shepherd quietly. "It is happy to love even
if you are not loved in return. There is pain
too, certainly, but Love does not think that
Much-Afraid thought suddenly that he
had the most patient eyes she had ever seen.
At the same time there was something in
them that hurt her to the heart, though she
could not have said why, but she still shrank
back in fear and said (bringing the words
out very quickly because somehow she was
ashamed to say them), "I would never dare
to love unless I were sure of being loved in
return. If I let you plant the seed of Love in
my heart will you give me the promise that I
shall be loved in return? I couldn't bear it
The smile he turned on her then was the
gentlest and kindest she had ever seen, yet
once again, and for the same indefinable
reason as before, it cut her to the quick.
"Yes," he said, without hesitation, "I promise
you, Much-Afraid, that when the plant
of Love is ready to bloom in your heart and
when you are ready to change your name,
then you will be loved in return."
A thrill of joy went through her from
head to foot. It seemed too wonderful to be
believed, but the Shepherd himself was
making the promise, and of one thing she
was quite sure. He could not lie. "Please
plant Love in my heart now," she said
faintly. Poor little soul, she was still Much-Afraid
even when promised the greatest
thing in the world.
The Shepherd put his hand in his bosom,
drew something forth, and laid it in the
palm of his hand. Then he held his hand
out toward Much-Afraid. "Here is the seed
of Love," he said.
She bent forward to look, then gave a
startled little cry and drew back. There was
indeed a seed lying in the palm of his hand,
but it was shaped exactly like a long,
sharply-pointed thorn. Much-Afraid had
often noticed that the Shepherd's hands
were scarred and wounded, but now she
saw that the scar in the palm of the hand
held out to her was the exact shape and size
of the seed of Love lying beside it.
"The seed looks very sharp," she said
shrinkingly. "Won't it hurt if you put it into
He answered gently, "It is so sharp that it
slips in very quickly. But, Much-Afraid, I
have already warned you that Love and
Pain go together, for a time at least. If you
would know Love, you must know pain
Much-Afraid looked at the thorn and
shrank from it. Then she looked at the
Shepherd's face and repeated his words to
herself. "When the seed of Love in your
heart is ready to bloom, you will be loved in
return," and a strange new courage entered
into her. She suddenly stepped forward,
bared her heart, and said, "Please plant the
seed here in my heart."
His face lit up with a glad smile and he
said with a note of joy in his voice, "Now you
will be able to go with me to the High Places
and be a citizen in the Kingdom of my
Then he pressed the thorn into her heart
It was true, just as he had said, it did cause a
piercing pain, but it slipped in quickly and
then, suddenly, a sweetness she had never
felt or imagined before tingled through
her. It was bittersweet, but the sweetness
was the stronger. She thought of the
Shepherd's words, "It is so happy to love,"
and her pale, sallow cheeks suddenly
glowed pink and her eyes shone. For a moment
Much-Afraid did not look afraid at all.
The twisted mouth had relaxed into a
happy curve, and the shining eyes and pink
cheeks made her almost beautiful.
"Thank you, thank you," she cried, and
knelt at the Shepherd's feet. "How good
you are. How patient you are. There is no
one in the whole world as good and kind as
you. I will go with you to the mountains. I
will trust you to make my feet like hinds'
feet, and to set me, even me, upon the High
"I am more glad even than you," said the
Shepherd, "and now you really act as
though you are going to change your name
already. But there is one thing more I must
tell you. I shall take you to the foot of the
mountains myself, so that there will be no
danger from your enemies. After that, two
special companions I have chosen will guide
and help you on all the steep and difficult
places while your feet are still lame and
while you can only limp and go slowly.
"You will not see me all the time, Much-Afraid,
for as I told you, I shall be leaping
on the mountains and skipping on the hills,
and you will not at first be able to accompany
me or keep up with me. That will
come later. However, you must remember
that as soon as you reach the slopes of the
mountains there is a wonderful system of
communication from end to end of the
Kingdom of Love, and I shall be able to
hear you whenever you speak to me.
Whenever you call for help I promise to
come to you at once.
"At the foot of the mountains my two servants
whom I have chosen to be your guides
will be waiting for you. Remember, I have
chosen them myself, with great care, as the
two who are most able to help you and assist
you in developing hinds' feet. You will accept
them with joy and allow them to be
your helpers, will you' not?"
"Oh, yes," she answered at once, smiling
at him happily. "Of course I am quite certain
that you know best and that whatever
you choose is right." Then she added joyfully,
"I feel as though I shall never be
He looked very kindly at the little shepherdess
who had just received the seed of
Love into her heart and was preparing to go
with him to the High Places, but also with
full understanding. He knew her through
and through, in all the intricate labyrinth of
her lonely heart, better far than she knew
herself. No one understood better than he,
that growing into the likeness of a new
name is a long process, but he did not say
this. He looked with a certain tender pity
and compassion at the glowing cheeks and
shining eyes which had so suddenly transformed
the appearance of plain little
Then he said, "Now you may go home
and make your preparations for leaving.
You are not to take anything with you, only
leave everything in order. Do not tell anyone
about it, for a journey to the High
Places needs to be a secret matter. I cannot
now give you the exact time when we are to
start for the mountains, but it will be soon,
and you must be ready to follow me
whenever I come to the cottage and call. I
will give you a secret sign. I shall sing one of
the Shepherd's songs as I pass the cottage,
and it will contain a special message for you.
When you hear it, come at once and follow
me to the trysting place."
Then, as the sun had already gone down
in a blaze of red and gold, and the eastern
mountains were now veiled in misty mauve
and grey, and the shadows were lengthening,
he turned and led his flock away toward
Much-Afraid turned her face homeward,
her heart full of happiness and excitement,
and still feeling as though she would never
be frightened again. As she started back
across the fields she sang to herself one of
the songs from an old book of songs which
the Shepherds often used. Never before
had it seemed to her so sweet, so applicable.
"The Song of Songs," the loveliest song,
The song of Love the King,
No joy on earth compares with his,
But seems a broken thing.
His Name as ointment is poured forth,
And all his lovers sing.
Draw meI will run after thee,
Thou art my heart's one choice,
Oh, bring me to thy royal house,
To dwell there and rejoice.
There in thy presence, O my King,
To feast and hear thy voice.
Look not upon me with contempt,
Though soiled and marred I be,
The King found mean outcast thing
And set his love on me.
I shall be perfected by Love,
Made fair as day to see.
She walked singing across the first field and
was halfway over the next when suddenly
she saw Craven Fear himself coming toward
her. Poor Much-Afraid: for a little while she
had completely forgotten the existence of
her dreadful relatives, and now here was
the most dreaded and detested of them all
slouching toward her. Her heart filled with
a terrible panic. She looked right and left,
but there was no hiding place anywhere,
and besides it was all too obvious that he was
actually coming to meet her, for as soon as
he saw her he quickened his pace and in a
moment or two was right beside her.
With a horror that sickened her very
heart she heard him say, "Well, here you
are at last, little Cousin Much-Afraid. So we
are to be married, eh, what do you think of
that?" and he pinched her, presumably in a
playful manner, but viciously enough to
make her gasp and bite her lips to keep back
a cry of pain.
She shrank away from him and shook
with terror and loathing. Unfortunately this
was the worst thing she could have done,
for it was always her obvious fear which encouraged
him to continue tormenting her.
If only she could have ignored him, he soon
would have tired of teasing and of her company
and would have wandered off to look
for other prey. In all her life, however,
Much-Afraid had never been able to ignore
Fear. Now it was absolutely beyond her
power to conceal the dread which she felt.
Her white face and terrified eyes immediately
had the effect of stimulating Craven's
desire to bait her. Here she was, alone
and completely in his power. He caught
hold of her, and poor Much-Afraid uttered
one frenzied cry of terror and pain. At that
moment Craven Fear loosed his grasp and
The Shepherd had approached them
unperceived and was standing beside them.
One look at his stern face and flashing eyes
and the stout Shepherd's cudgel grasped in
his strong, uplifted hand was more than
enough for the bully. Craven Fear slunk
away like a whipped cur, actually running
from the village instead of toward it, not
knowing where he was going, urged by one
instinct alone, to find a place of safety.
Much-Afraid burst into tears. Of course
she ought to have known that Craven was a
coward and that if only she had lifted her
voice and called for the Shepherd, he would
have fled at once. Now her dress was torn
and disordered, and her arms bruised by
the bully's grip, yet that was the least part of
her distress. She was overwhelmed with
shame that she had so quickly acted like her
old name and nature, which she had hoped
was beginning to be changed already.
It seemed so impossible to ignore the
Fearings, still less to resist them. She did not
dare look at the Shepherd, but had she
done so she would have seen with what
compassion he was regarding her. She did
not realize that the Prince of Love is "of
very tender compassions to them that are
afraid." She supposed that, like everybody
else, he was despising her for her silly fears,
so she muttered a shamed "thank you."
Then, still without looking at him, she
limped painfully toward the village, weeping
bitterly as she went and saying over and
over again to herself, "What is the use of
even thinking of going to the High Places? I
could never reach them, for the least little
thing is enough to turn me back."
However, when at last she reached the
security of the cottage she began to feel better,
and by the time she had drunk a cup of
tea and taken her evening meal she had recovered
so far that she was able to remind
herself of all that had happened there beside
the cascade and the pool Suddenly she
remembered, with a thrill of wonder and
delight, that the seed of Love had been
planted in her heart. As she thought of it,
the same almost intolerable sweetness stole
over her, the bittersweet, indefinable but
wholly delightful ecstasy of a new happiness.
"It is happy to love," said little Much-Afraid
to herself and then she repeated: "It
is happy to love." After putting the cottage
in order for the night, because she was utterly
tired out with all the conflicting emotions
of that strange day, she went to bed.
Lying there before falling asleep, she sang
over and over again to herself another of
the lovely songs from the old song book.
O thou whom my soul loveth,
Tell me where thou dost feed,
And where thy flocks at noonday
To rest and browse dost lead.
For why should I
By others be,
And not by thee?
O fairest among women,
Dost thou indeed not know?
Then lead my little flocklet
The way that my flocks go;
And be to me,
As I to thee,
(Cant. 1:7, 8)
Then she fell into a heavy, dreamless
Excerpted from "Hinds' Feet on High Places" by Hannah Hurnard. Copyright © 1986 by Hannah Hurnard. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. Excerpts are provided solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.