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[YRP Students' Essays] Practices of a Sheep Herder

* In 1956 Horace Miner published the oft reprinted essay, "Body Ritual Among the Nacirema" in the academic journal American Anthropologist. In it, he examined North American healthcare from the prospective of an outsider, renaming the United States as "Nacirema," or America spelled backwards. Young people were invited to write their own version of his essay about a culture they had lived in, adopting the voice of an outside observer and perhaps hiding the name of the country for the reader to guess....


When one culture, species, or even nationality is seen from a different angle, it is pertinent that one's opinion may alter and yield a different view of the culture, even if it is its own. As anthropologist Miner states, "One's species and their rituals are not wholly understood unless they are inveighed upon their own kind" 1).

In the islands located in East Asia is the Noppin, which is eminent for sheep is cultivated by special sheepherders, which is the main part of the Noppinese culture. Noppin is separated into two groups: the sheep, and their herders. The Noppinese sheep are a special kind of sheep that follow what the herders do even without their striking them; they simply mimic actions the herders take. If the herder beats one sheep, the other sheep will torture the sheep until it is weary. If the herder's face is white, the sheep dip their faces in flour to match the herder. The number of sheep in Noppin is mammoth compared to the number of herders, and if the herders are out of the sheep's sight, the sheep go into chaos, which causes a big problem today.

In Noppin, there are countless sheep, but the herders are vanishing because they are relegated to become sheep. As easy as it is to become a sheep, it is hard for a sheep to be promoted to a herder. Once a leader is turned into a sheep, it becomes frightened following the herder because all the others are doing the same; but if one is different, the other sheep will torment the one sheep. Noppinese sheep are usually white, but when a sheep does not follow the herder and takes different actions from the other sheep, it turns black.

There are different interpretations for the reason the sheep turn into black, but Fukuhira2), a sheepologist who has been studying Noppinese sheep for years explains that it is a sign that that sheep is going to evolve into a herder. Those who do not make it through this evolution go into a pandemonium stage --because they realize how different they are --and turn back into a white sheep, but those sheep that overcome the trial are able to evolve into herders.

The Noppinese sheep did not always obey and mimic the herders, but since the herders are much more intelligent than the sheep, the herders spray a bitter yellow liquid substance in the sheep's grass. Hundreds of years ago the Noppinese sheep did not eat much, but as a sheep grows older, it eats more and more of that grass. The bitter yellow liquid substance makes them form an addiction to the grass, and they also depend more and more on the herders, which makes the sheep's fur whiter until the fur is twice the volume of its body. As the sheep's fur grows whiter and bigger, the sheep's life comes to an end.

When the sheep's fur becomes so huge that the sheep cannot move by itself, it is time for the herder to cut all of the sheep's fur. When the herder cuts all of its fur, the sheep realizes it is nothing without its fur, and the sheep goes through a tragic stage and is unable to stand up because of fear they will not be the same as the other sheep. Without the bitter grass the herders feed them or their white fur, they become divergent from the other sheep and cannot live any longer. They also no longer have the energy to follow the herders and are therefore left behind to decay.

Even if the Noppinese sheep seem pitiful, it is not clear whether Noppin sheep are hidden in the areas where we live. Noppinese sheep densely populate areas where there are lots of people, so they may camouflage themselves among others. Many may not even realize that they are sheep, especially when they only look around to other sheep for the answers.

1) Horace Miner (1912-1989) was an anthropologist and a teacher, and specialized in the cultures, and rituals of species throughout the world.
2) Fukuhira Korakusa (1991-) is a sheepologist who specializes in the Noppin sheep, and aspires to change the sheep's dependency on herders.

Child Research Net would like to thank the Doshisha International Junior/Senior High School and Sakurako Hirafuku, student and author, for permitting reproduction of this article on the CRN web site.
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