The Ring Summary
by Isak Dinesen

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The Ring Summary

(Short Stories for Students)

Dinesen, writing in the 1950s, sets the action of ‘‘The Ring’’ in rural Denmark ‘‘on a summer morning one hundred and fifty years ago,’’ which would correspond approximately to the year 1800. Sigismund and Lovisa, two newlyweds (twenty-four and nineteen years of age) whose love, after much tribulation, has prevailed over the reluctance of the bride’s family, are out walking to observe the pasturage of Sigismund’s farm and to inspect the Cotswold rams by which the farmer hopes to ‘‘improve his Danish stock.’’ Dinesen’s narrator divulges Lovisa’s reminiscences of their struggle against her parents’ wishes (she is of higher station in life than he, and her family is wealthier than his) and her present sense of having been liberated into ‘‘freedom’’ by her marriage. Lovisa delights in the ‘‘rustic atmosphere’’ of the locale and experiences joy in the notion that she has no secret from her husband.

At the sheepfold, sheepmaster Mathias tells Sigismund that two of his English lambs are dead and two more sick. While two helpers go off to fetch the sick lambs for examination, Sigismund and Mathias converse about the sheep thief who has been plaguing the district. The thief drags off his prey ‘‘like a wolf’’ and three nights earlier killed a man and injured the man’s son in order to escape capture after having been caught by them redhanded. Lovisa wants to know more and gets Mathias to tell the story in full for her benefit. Details of a bloody fight in a sheep house, during which the thief broke his arm, excite her: ‘‘She felt a pleasant thrill running down her spine.’’ Mathias says that the man should be hanged; Sigismund says ‘‘poor devil.’’ Lovisa wonders that her husband could pity such a violent and lawless man.

Sigismund sends Lovisa home, and she leaves her hat with him to carry back for her; she walks slowly, daydreaming and delighting in the landscape. She fondly imagines that soon Sigismund will return after her and decides to play a trick to show her husband how much she means to him. She hides in a glade that she had previously discovered so that Sigismund, not seeing her on the path, will wonder for awhile where she has taken herself. The glade is the main setting of the tale and the stage of its central incident.

In order to enter the glade, Lovisa must push aside stubborn underbrush and thickly entwined low branches of trees. At the center a clearing opens with room for three or four people, so shielded by the tangle surrounding it that it is perfectly isolated from the rest of the world; a green realm, a fine and private place. Entry proves difficult, and when she wins it, she finds herself face-to-face with a ragged, bloody stranger,...

(The entire section is 720 words.)