The story has overlapping themes, but a most significant one is loss of innocence, which is symbolized by the loss of the ring.
When the story starts, the newlywed Lovisa (Lise) believes she can never have any secret from her husband and thinks to herself as he talks about sheep, "What a baby he is! I am a hundred years older than he.” When she hears the story of the sheep thief, a "pleasant little thrill" runs down her spine. She decides to hide from her husband as a game, thinking it would show him "what a void, what an unendurably sad and horrible place the universe would be when she was no longer in it." Life is simply a child's game to this young woman with "golden curls." We learn that "she had never in her life been exposed to danger."
When Lise then encounters the sheep thief in the "sylvan closet" of the small alcove in the grove, in what amounts to a symbolic rape, the thief's "knife" points up at her "throat." Later, "he put the knife back...
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