The very first sentence of Bierce's story “Haita The Shepherd” reads as follows:

In the heart of Haita the illusions of youth had not been supplanted by those of age and experience.

While the sentence is basically easy to understand per se, I am not sure how to interpret it, what is the actual meaning. Perhaps the "illusion" is meant in a way that I am not familiar with? When I rephrase it, I still am not sure what the writer wanted to express:

In his heart the illusions (deceptions?) of youth had not been replaced by the illusions of age and experience.

2 Answers 2


It is the second sentence that throws light on the first:

In the heart of Haita the illusions of youth had not been supplanted by those of age and experience. His thoughts were pure and pleasant, for his life was simple and his soul devoid of ambition.

And we know he is still a youth because the story tells us so:

And Hastur, knowing that Haita was a youth who kept his word, spared the cities and turned the waters into the sea.

So his impressions of life and the world are those of a young shepherd leading a simple, undemanding life rather than those of an older person with more experience of the world, who has learned about life the hard way.



What the author is trying to convey is that in the natural course of our lives, our perceptions of reality as children are eventually replaced by our perceptions of reality as adults. The author chooses to use the word "illusion" in place of perception which suggests that these perceptions, through eyes young or old, can largely be deceiving. However, in the case of Haita, this transformation (or supplanting) has yet to happen, either because Haita is still too young or for another reason that we are to eventually discover. If it's because Haita is too young then perhaps the author chose to open the story this way to foreshadow what this story will be about—aging and the illusions of perception as one ages.

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