Friday, February 17, 2006

The Little Shepherd of Kingdom Come

Book Cover: The Little Shepherd of Kingdom Come

A few months ago I read The Little Shepherd of Kingdom Come by John Fox, Jr. (1898). It is much cited among scholars of Appalachia, and was evidently a popular and influential book in its time. At least four major movies were based on elements of the plot, and Kentucky named Kingdom Come State Park after it.

With an elevation of 2,700 feet, Kingdom Come is Kentucky's highest state park. Resting near the Kentucky-Virginia border on the crest of Pine Mountain, the park offers scenic vistas second to none.

The park's name is from John Fox Jr.'s novel "The Little Shepherd of Kingdom Come," a book about an orphaned youth and his journey through the hills and into the furor of the Civil War. Extraordinary rock formations are featured at this park, including Log Rock, a natural sandstone bridge, and Raven Rock, a giant monolith that soars 290-feet into the air at a 45-degree angle.

I found it rough going, myself. I was stopping to make notes so often that I downloaded a Gutenberg project free text file, opened it in Emacs, and made "marginal" notes to my heart's content. I'm guessing the people who named Kingdom Come State Park after it never read it through. The plot is silly, the main character is despicable (he's not nice to his dog, for heaven's sake! A dog that makes Lassie and Rin Tin Tin look like lazy, stupid layabouts!), and the author slings offensive stereotypes about as freely as dew in the morning. This last bit is what makes it so much fun to quote. I'm afraid you'll be in for selected Appalachian tidbits from this volume for some time to come.

Here are a couple of Internet references to whet your appetite.


Reya Mellicker said...

Wow! Have you visited the rocks described in the book? I'm wondering about Raven Rock in particular.

Rebecca Clayton said...

I've never been there, but it looks spectacular. You have a raven connection, don't you? Lately, our ravens have been coming close enough for a really good look. (When they keep their distance, I have a hard time telling whether it's the crows or the ravens. They seldom oblige me with characteristic vocalizations.) On Thursday morning, a raven was balancing on a flimsy sapling just above my mailbox, letting me appreciate just how BIG he is. Quite a treat!

Anonymous said...

"silly plot", despicable main character", "offensive stereotypes"-these are all comments that don't take into account the era the author lived in. He was born near the beginning of the Civil War, and died at the end of World War I. He wrote the speech of the mountain people as it was spoken. The offensive "stereotypes" apply more to sensibilities of today than to when the novel was published over a century ago.