Sredni Vashtar

by

Saki

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Conradin Character Analysis

Conradin is a ten-year-old boy living in early 20th-century England, who is supposedly in poor health and unlikely to live more than five more years (although his doctor may not be reliable). Lonely, but with an active imagination, Conradin frequently finds himself stifled by his older cousin, Mrs. De Ropp, who claims to be looking out for Conradin’s best interests, but who seems to take particular pleasure in denying Conradin the things that he enjoys. To take refuge from the watchful eye of Mrs. De Ropp, Conradin begins spending time in an abandoned toolshed on his cousin’s property. The shed becomes a playground for his imagination, but it’s also the home of two real creatures: the Houdan hen and a polecat-ferret that Conradin paid a local boy to smuggle in. Conradin names the polecat-ferret Sredni Vashtar and that he eventually begins to worship as a pagan god. Mrs. De Ropp notices that Conradin is spending a lot of time in the shed and, as usual, decides to thwart him. She succeeds in selling off the Houdan hen, but even after it’s gone, Conradin continues to spend time in the shed. He prays to Sredni Vashtar to “do one thing for me,” without specifying what exactly the one thing is. At the climax of the story, Conradin watches Mrs. De Ropp go into the shed, expecting her to find and exterminate Sredni Vashtar but hoping for the opposite and whispering a battle chant that he had created for the ferret. As it happens, Sredni Vashtar survives and escapes, apparently killing Mrs. De Ropp. Conradin doesn’t seem concerned—in fact, his prayers have been answered. At the end of the story, he prepares himself a piece of toast while the servants shout in dismay and argue about what to do next.

Conradin Quotes in Sredni Vashtar

The Sredni Vashtar quotes below are all either spoken by Conradin or refer to Conradin. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Imagination vs. Reality Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Cambridge University Press edition of Sredni Vashtar published in 2018.
Sredni Vashtar Quotes

Conradin was ten years old, and the doctor had pronounced his professional opinion that the boy would not live another five years.

Related Characters: Conradin, Doctor
Page Number: 93
Explanation and Analysis:

Mrs De Ropp would never, in her honestest moments, have confessed to herself that she disliked Conradin, though she might have been dimly aware that thwarting him ‘for his good’ was a duty which she did not find particularly irksome.

Related Characters: Conradin, Mrs. De Ropp
Page Number: 93
Explanation and Analysis:

And one day, out of Heaven knows what material, he spun the beast a wonderful name, and from that moment it grew into a god and a religion. The Woman indulged in religion once a week at a church near by and took Conradin with her, but to him the church service was an alien rite in the House of Rimmon. Every Thursday, in the dim and musty silence of the tool-shed, he worshipped with mystic and elaborate ceremonial before the wooden hutch where dwelt Sredni Vashtar, the great ferret.

Related Characters: Conradin, Sredni Vashtar, Mrs. De Ropp
Page Number: 94
Explanation and Analysis:

The Houdan hen was never drawn into the cult of Sredni Vashtar. Conradin had long ago settled that she was an Anabaptist. He did not pretend to have the remotest knowledge as to what an Anabaptist was, but he privately hoped that it was dashing and not very respectable. Mrs De Ropp was the ground plan on which he based and detested all respectability.

Related Characters: Conradin, Sredni Vashtar, Mrs. De Ropp
Related Symbols: Houdan Hen
Page Number: 94
Explanation and Analysis:

Something perhaps in his white set face gave her a momentary qualm, for at tea that afternoon there was toast on the table, a delicacy which she usually banned on the ground that it was bad for him; also because the making of it ‘gave trouble’, a deadly offence in the middle-class feminine eye.

Related Characters: Conradin, Mrs. De Ropp
Related Symbols: Toast
Page Number: 94
Explanation and Analysis:

‘Do one thing for me, Sredni Vashtar.’

Related Characters: Conradin (speaker), Sredni Vashtar
Page Number: 94
Explanation and Analysis:

Sredni Vashtar went forth,
His thoughts were red thoughts and his teeth were white.
His enemies called for peace, but he brought them death.
Sredni Vashtar the Beautiful.

Related Characters: Conradin
Page Number: 95
Explanation and Analysis:

And presently his eyes were rewarded; out through that doorway came a long, low, yellow-and-brown beast, with eyes a-blink at the waning daylight, and dark wet stains around the fur of jaws and throat.

Related Characters: Conradin, Sredni Vashtar, Mrs. De Ropp
Page Number: 95
Explanation and Analysis:

And while the maid went to summon her mistress to tea, Conradin fished a toasting-fork out of the sideboard drawer and proceeded to toast himself a piece of bread. And during the toasting of it and the buttering of it with much butter and the slow enjoyment of eating it, Conradin listened to the noises and silences which fell in quick spasms beyond the dining-room door.

Related Characters: Conradin, Maid , Mrs. De Ropp
Related Symbols: Toast
Page Number: 95
Explanation and Analysis:

‘Whoever will break it to the poor child? I couldn’t for the life of me!’ exclaimed a shrill voice. And while they debated the matter among themselves, Conradin made himself another piece of toast.

Related Characters: Maid (speaker), Conradin, Mrs. De Ropp
Related Symbols: Toast
Page Number: 96
Explanation and Analysis:
Get the entire Sredni Vashtar LitChart as a printable PDF.
Sredni Vashtar PDF

Conradin Character Timeline in Sredni Vashtar

The timeline below shows where the character Conradin appears in Sredni Vashtar. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Sredni Vashtar
Imagination vs. Reality Theme Icon
Conradin, a ten-year-old boy, is pronounced sickly by the local doctor, who says he won’t live... (full context)
Imagination vs. Reality Theme Icon
Mrs. De Ropp, who would never admit to herself that she dislikes Conradin, nevertheless is willing to admit that it is not “particularly irksome” when she must force... (full context)
Imagination vs. Reality Theme Icon
Religion Theme Icon
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Conradin spends his time in a dull garden overlooked by the windows of the house. Mrs.... (full context)
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Conradin uses his imagination to fill the toolshed with “phantoms,” some based on history and others... (full context)
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Conradin is afraid of the sharp-fanged polecat-ferret, but it is also his most valued possession. The... (full context)
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Religion Theme Icon
Every Thursday, Conradin worships Sredni Vashtar with an elaborate ceremony, involving red flowers when they are blooming and... (full context)
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In Conradin’s imagination, the Houdan hen doesn’t join the cult of Sredni Vashtar. He decides she is... (full context)
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Eventually, Mrs. De Ropp begins to notice that Conradin is spending time in the toolshed. She decides that it isn’t good for him to... (full context)
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...on the table (a delicacy she usually bans on the grounds that it’s bad for Conradin and that it causes trouble for her to make). But Conradin doesn’t touch the toast.... (full context)
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That evening in the shed, Conradin changes the way he worships the “hutch-god,” Sredni Vashtar. Instead of chanting praises, he asks... (full context)
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Every night in his dark bedroom and every evening in the toolshed, Conradin repeats the same prayer: “Do one thing for me, Sredni Vashtar.” Mrs. De Ropp notices... (full context)
Imagination vs. Reality Theme Icon
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Conradin tells Mrs. De Ropp nothing about what’s in the toolshed, so she searches his bedroom... (full context)
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Conradin watches Mrs. De Ropp enter the shed. He imagines her opening the door of Sredni... (full context)
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Conradin expects that Mrs. De Ropp will come out of the shed with a pursed smile... (full context)
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Feeling the sting of defeat, Conradin begins to chant a hymn for the endangered Sredni Vashtar. The chant is a battle... (full context)
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A maid comes to lay the table for tea, but this doesn’t interrupt Conradin, who continues to wait and watch. He begins to feel hopeful, even triumphant—an unfamiliar feeling... (full context)
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And then Conradin sees it: out of the open shed door walks Sredni Vashtar, with stains of blood... (full context)
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The maid informs Conradin that tea is ready and asks where Mrs. De Ropp is. Conradin informs the maid... (full context)
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First Conradin hears noises, then silence, then the maid screams, and a chorus of others from the... (full context)
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Conradin overhears a shrill voice asking who will break the news to the child. The voice... (full context)