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Mountain Born by Elizabeth Yates

April 29, 2010

This wonderful book was first published in 1943 and republished by Bob Jones University Press in 1993.  This coming of age story takes place on the family sheep farm where life revolves around the seasonal care of the sheep; lambing, taking the sheep to summer pasture, shearing and harvest.  This book is written with beautiful imagery and is an accurate account of life on a sheep ranch in the late 1800’s.  It is a children’s book which both edifies and educates.

Mountain_Born_Young_ShepherdThe young boy, Peter, and his parents are helped on the farm by a wise old shepherd who has worked there since Peter’s father was a boy. “Benj” is able to read the sheep, the land and the sky. He is full of wisdom and insight from his years of spending weeks alone tending the sheep with only God’s creation for company.

The real value of this story is the metaphors used to display self sacrifice. I don’t think I’m going too far to see it as an allegory of the sacrifice of Christ. The plot centers around a little black lamb which is presumed dead at birth, but unexpectedly revives and becomes Peter’s special pet, or “cosset.”

Peter cares for the little orphaned lamb and they become fast friends. As anyone who has ever raised a “bum” lamb knows, they quickly look to their caregiver almost as a mother. Peter and “Biddy” have a special bond, and as Peter grows up, Biddy takes her place as the flock leader. She proves to be a wise leader, even returning to the farm house from summer pasture when a wolf threatens the flock- and thus warning the men of the farm of the danger to the sheep.

As Peter becomes a young man, his responsibilities on the farm increase and he grows accustomed to the rhythms and realities of life and death, success and failure, good times and bad. Through it all, his father and Benj are models of courage, integrity, wisdom and perseverance, providing Peter with role models of manhood.

As Biddy gets older, Peter waits for her to have her own black ewe lamb. She eventually does, and it is evident this one posesses the same traits of leadership as Biddy. Biddy raises the ewe lamb through its first summer until a rare late summer snow storm threatens the whole flock. The blizzard is so severe and comes up so quickly the men cannot get to the flock to bring them down to safety. The faithful Biddy leads them down the mountain herself, taking the brunt of the storm, wind, and wet to break a trail for the rest of the flock. In her unselfish push to save them, she puts her own life in danger.


The realities of life and death on the farm. They are handled in a gentle and straightforward manner.

When wolves harass the flock and threaten the sheep, Benj hunts the wolves and kills them. This is handled in a thoughtful manner as Benj explains he does not relish the job, but all the sheep in the valley must be protected.

Quotes the 23rd Psalm

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