Written as an allegory, Hinds’ Feet on High Places is the story of a girl named Much-Afraid who is in the service of the Chief Shepherd. She lives in the Valley of Humiliation, but longs to escape and go to the High Places. A member of the Family of Fearings, Much-Afraid is an orphan surrounded by relatives such as her Aunt Dismal Forebodings and cousins Gloomy, Spiteful, and the bullying Craven Fear. They habitually mistreat her because of their hatred of the Chief Shepherd, trying to drive her from his employment. The final straw comes with their demands that she marry Craven Fear.
Much-Afraid pours out her plight to the Shepherd one evening and he offers her a chance to go to the High Places and tells her to make preparations. He asks if she is willing to be transformed, for no member of the Fearing family can go as they are. Before she can go she must allow the seed of Love to be planted in her heart. Shaped like a thorn, its entry into the heart is painful at first, but it makes possible the necessary transformation. Much-Afraid agrees after some quavering and is then sent home to prepare for her journey and warned to be ready for the Shepherd’s signal.
The story continues, chronicling the starting of her journey and the meeting of her two companions, sisters named Sorrow and Suffering. Her failures along the way are many and she despairs of reaching the High Places. Craven Fear dogs their steps and new enemies – Self-Pity, Bitterness, and Pride – attack in the Forest of Danger. Resentment assaults her in the mists and she begins to doubt the goodness of the Shepherd. Was it all a cruel trick?
The nature of an allegory makes many of the lessons in this story obvious, though no less meaningful or potent. Hinds’ Feet On High Places is not unlike Pilgrim’s Progress in this regard. Presented as it is, the story may be easily read by adults or to children. Beautifully integrated into the storytelling are passages from the Canticles – the Song of Solomon – in the form of the Shepherd’s speech and in the songs sung, while the title and desire of Much-Afraid come from Psalm 18:33 and Habakkuk 3:19: “The Lord God maketh my feet like hinds’ feet, and setteth me upon mine High Places.”
Hannah Hurnard overcame a fear of people and faltering speech and answered God’s call to the mission field. She was a missionary to both Jews and Arabs in the Holy Lands from 1932 until the early fifties, serving as a medical assistant. After Israel became a state in 1948, she turned more to writing and speaking abroad. She is best known for Hinds’ Feet On High Places, which is now regarded as a classic among Christian works.