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Little Bo Peep has lost her sheep
And doesn’t know where to find them
Leave them alone
And they’ll come home
Bringing their tails behind them

Little Bo peep fell fast asleep
And dreamt she heard them bleating,
When she awoke, she found it a joke
For they were all still a fleeting

Then up she took a little crook
Determined for to find them.
She found them indeed, but it made her heart bleed
For they`d left their tails behind them

It happened one day, as Boo Peep did stray
Into a meadow hard by
There she espied their tails side by side
All hung on a tree to dry

She heaved a sigh, and wiped her eye
And over the hillocks went rambling
And tried what she could
As a shepherdess should
To tack again each to its lambkin

 

It might interest you to know that, early in the sixteenth century, “Bo” was a scary exclamation – the progenitor  of “Boo!”   A peep, of course, is a quick or covert look at something.  “Bo Peep” was a popular game involving hiding and reappearing suddenly to scare people.

So!

Is Bo Peep the given name of a little shepherdess whose entire flock suffered the same appendage severance at the same time?  Or, is it an ironic nickname given to someone very large, and with a long history of terrorizing the community with her sudden disappearance and reappearances?

The last one.

Let’s look at the evidence.  The second line, at first, seems to be a reiteration of the first – “Doesn’t know where to find sheep” is pretty much the same thing as having “Lost them”, right?

Wrong.  Bo Peep didn’t “lose” her sheep in the sense of not knowing where they were.  They were taken from her.  She didn’t know where they went after, so she couldn’t get them back.

And our narrator doesn’t care.  He’s talking to someone other than Bo Peep, about Bo Peep, and “her” sheep – even though his argument makes it clear that he and the person to whom he is speaking are the rightful shepherds.  When you leave sheep alone, they go home – and our speaker thinks they’ll naturally return to the place where he and the person he is talking to live, not to where Bo Peep lives.  (The sheep will “come home,” not, “go home.”)

So then who is this weirdo, who claims other peoples’ sheep as her own, disappearing and popping up among the rolling hills in a sudden, scary way?

A fucking dragon.

That’s who.

Now don’t you feel better about the fixation on sheep tails?  Obviously, the narrator only means “tail” in the sense of something that follows something else.  So it’s not about bodily appendages that just fall off – that would be way creepy.  It’s about dragons.  Little baby dragons, made by Bo Peep, who follow the lambs around, trying to spit fireballs and biting off hunks of raw mutton.

The shepherds, who fought the mama dragon away from their flock once, have cleverly hidden the animals somewhere a dragon can’t find them.  They’re worrying now that, if they’re not able to feed the sheep soon, they’ll wander home, attracting a tail of hungry dragonlings.

Having just finished fighting a dragon, of course, the shepherds aren’t in the best shape.  They’re worrying about just making the trek back to wherever the sheep are holed up, never mind having to gear up for round two in these dragon wars.

The narrator tries to pass the time, after worrying about the future, by retelling a story or two from the past (notice the change in verb tense).  The shepherds naturally keep a close eye on Bo Peep.  Someone surprised her in her sleep once; they could tell she was dreaming about sheep by the way she twitched, probably, like you can tell when dogs are dreaming about squirrels.

Another time when they’d hidden their flocks, she caught a person, a crook (maybe a sheep-thief she found wandering the hills, searching for the same animals).  She picked him up and flew around over the village, trying to make the humans bring her favorite meat in exchange.  It worked – they brought the flocks out into the open to save the man’s life – but instead of feasting she gave signs of heartbreak.  That’s when the villagers realized she was looking for her dragonlings.  She thought she’d find them with the sheep, but they’d left their tails behind them.  In the end she found her babies hanging out in a tree nearby.  She breathed out a fiery column and licked one eye with her long dragon tongue, and then chased the little dragons back into the hills to catch themselves some supper.  Good times.

But now the dragons are bigger, the sheep are fewer in number, and it isn’t cute anymore; the shepherds have to fight for their livestock.  Let’s not pretend these humans stand a chance.

Case regretfully closed.