Shepherd Boy with his Dog by Bertel Thorvaldsen
The statue of a nude shepherd boy and his dog had been the museum’s most prominent exhibit for as long as anyone could remember. Although nobody could say just why, they felt drawn to it more than to any other exhibit.
There had been numerous reproductions, both full-size and reduced, and detailed and sensitive engravings of the statue had graced countless art books. But the museum’s visitors all insisted that no reproduction, however lovingly executed, could ever match the experience of being in the presence of the original.
It was almost as though it were alive....
Although few would have admitted it in so many words, all who saw the original statue fell in love with it. Indeed, in spite of the efforts of the museum staff, few could resist touching and caressing the boy’s smooth marble skin, and petting his dog as well.
“It’s amazing,” they often remarked.
“How did the sculptor make the figures so lifelike?”
The sheep were safely grazing in the meadow, so I put a sheepskin on the flat rock where I usually sat and settled down to watch while Snapper sat nearby. The sun was warm, so I hadn’t bothered to dress.
After a few moments Snapper got up and started barking. An old man in a grubby robe was walking toward us from the other side of the meadow.
“Easy, boy,” I told Snapper. “This fellow doesn’t look very threatening.”
Indeed he did not. He looked older than the hills, doddery and bent over his walking staff as he laboriously approached.
“Good morning, grandfather,” I said - merely a term of respect, you understand. I was glad he wasn’t really a relative.
In any case he was in no mood for pleasantries.
“Never mind that,” he grumbled. “This is my rock and I want to sit here, so get your lazy naked brown butt off of it.”
Snapper growled at him, and I felt like growling too.
Now, had he asked politely if I might not mind yielding him my seat so that he could rest his weary bones, I would have been only too happy to oblige. But he was being rude and obnoxious and I can’t stand that, especially from people who should be old enough to know better, so I stood - or rather sat - my ground.
A serious mistake, I now admit, but how could I have known?
“Your rock, old man?” I said. “I don’t see your rune upon it.”
“Nevertheless, it is mine. I made it.”
“You’re crazy, old-timer,” I said. “Only the gods can make rocks. Anyway, I’ve got comfortable here and I don’t feel like moving.”
“Don’t feel like moving, eh, you bare-arsed little whelp?”
“No, gramps, I don’t. Go find another place to sit. I’m staying right here.”
“Very well, young man,” he told me. “If you wish to sit upon my rock, then sit upon my rock you shall, with your mangy cur beside you. The power that I placed within the rock shall hold you fast.”
Even then I still thought the old man was crazy. But then I noticed that Snapper had stopped barking....
“It’s just as well you don’t feel like moving,” said the old man, “because from now on you won’t, ever again.”
The old man threw off his robe, and suddenly he wasn’t old but youthful and ageless, a naked man of superhuman grace and beauty.
He was a god! He really had made the rock! Oh, why couldn’t I have realised that before I insulted him?
“Such a pity,” he told me. “We could have had so much fun together if only you hadn’t been so stubborn.”
He patted my knee. I could not respond.
It was true: I couldn’t move any more. Try as I might, I could no more move than the rock upon which I sat; the rock that I, and Snapper, were now part of.
“Oh, well,” he said. “There will always be other meadows with other shepherd boys that I can try.”
And so saying he vanished, leaving me and poor Snapper frozen and helpless.
The villagers found me that evening when they came to round up the sheep. None of them recognised me. Even my own parents, my own brothers, had forgotten that I ever existed as flesh and blood. As far as they were concerned Snapper and I were just a statue they had found in their sheep field.
Soon we were taken away from home forever on the back of a cart, and transported to the great city. There we were placed in an exhibition of sculpture, and everyone who saw us remarked upon how lifelike we were.
Shepherd Boy with his Dog by Bertel Thorvaldsen
That was a long time ago, yet I still remember it as if it were yesterday. The day my life as a living person ended, and my new existence as an inanimate object began.
I won’t deny that I have been lonely, all these long centuries I have spent being shipped from one marble-pillared gallery to another, and yet my time as a statue has not been without its compensations. Everyone who sees me feels compelled to touch me. Every touch is like a caress, and every caress is like an orgasm. In that sense I have had thousands of lovers, and even if they cannot realise how much joy they are giving me, I know they can feel the love I give them in return.
And many of them pet Snapper as well. I’m glad. I know he appreciates it. He’s a good dog, and despite his name he hardly ever bit anyone who didn’t deserve it.
Comment on this story
Return to Top of Page | Story Index