Hinds Feet on High Places
by Hannah Hurnard
I gave you a sneak peek of Hinds’ Feet on High Places a few weeks ago (you can find that here). In case you missed that post, Hinds’ Feet is an allegory detailing the journey of little “Much-Afraid”, a crippled and disfigured young woman following the Shepherd up to the High Places. In my interpretation, the High Places do not represent Heaven and the end of earthly life, but rather the reaching of a deep spiritual relationship with God which continues to grow.
I would find it difficult to review this book without contrasting it with another more famous allegory, Pilgrim’s Progress! I think I enjoyed this book by Hannah Hurnard considerably more, although in fairness I need to give Bunyan’s celebrated work a re-read. Each highlights different aspects of the Christian life in a beautiful way; Pilgrim’s Progress is more an overview of the entire life and experiences of a person all the way to heaven whereas Hinds’ Feet culminates in the main character reaching the High Places and then returning to the Valley to serve the Shepherd.
To compare, Hinds’ Feet has the advantage of being written in 1955 (as opposed to 1678) so the wording and style of writing is much easier to follow. Hurnard also utilizes less characters along the way (Sorrow, Suffering, and the Shepherd are the only consistent companions, as well as occasional appearances by Pride and Much-Afraid’s relatives the Fearings) which helps keep the focus on Much-Afraid’s internal growth and struggles.
The book includes many portions of Song of Solomon in an exquisite sort of rhyming paraphrase/translation. Here’s one brief segment from the book, based on the first few verses of Song of Solomon chapter two. I’d be very interested in reading the entire Song in this rhyming format if anyone knows where Hannah Hurnard got the texts.
I am the Rose of Sharon A wild anemone. As lily 'mong the thorn trees So is my love to me. An apple tree 'mong wild trees My Love is in my sight, I sit down in his shadow, His fruit is my delight.
One thing that I both like and dislike about allegories is how much room there is for interpretation of the symbolism. On one hand, the reader is invited to think deeply about Biblical truths and see them in a new light; on the other, allegory can be confusing or have a completely different meaning for different readers depending on their own beliefs. And am I the only one who struggles with separating the allegorical elements from the narrative? As in, a character stops to eat lunch and I wonder if that’s supposed to contain some greater message?
I’m not going to give this book a proper rating because I have such a hard time comparing an allegory to “regular” fiction, if you can call it that… but I know I would give this book a fairly high number of stars. I almost cried a number of times as I read, and that says a lot for me because I rarely ever cry while reading (I’m not sure why.) I was probably moved the most when Much-Afraid reaches the Grave on the Mountains, a place where she offers up her deepest human desires in order to do the will of the Shepherd. As the book closed, I felt inspired; inspired to greater service, greater humility, and greater hope.