A Chinese fable:
The Jin dynasty goat

During the Jin dynasty, Emperor Yan had a great many imperial concubines, and a favourite goat. At night, as the emperor walked past the plethora of bedrooms, he had the goat walk in front of him. If the goat stopped, the emperor took it as a sign from heaven to spend the night in the nearest room to where the animal had halted. Soon the emperor noted that the goat stopped most often in front the pearl bedecked door of the three hundred and eleventh concubine. She was draped in white clouds in anticipation of the approaching shower(s). (?) She bore the emperor a son, who eventually became the emperor Xing, who eventually lost his empire to the attacking barbarians because of his overwhelming desire for a harbour. A long and complicated story, but the secret of the three hundred and eleventh concubine was simple. She had strewn salt in her doorway and the goat stopped there to lick the salt.

***

"La prière de la chèvre"
Mon fidèle berger,
Toi qui m’entoure et me protège
Chaque jour durant,
Je t’offre ma compagnie et ses
Agréments,
Guide – moi à l’ombre d’un
Bosquet,
Guide – moi à la fraicheur d’une source,
Ma nourriture frugale suffira à
Donner toute la saveur à mon lait,
Qui pour ta plus grande satisfaction
fera ta fierté.

(Unknown author)

***

Lost

The path has disappeared. Forging a way through the undergrowth is laborious. It has taken only two hours or less for exhaustion to set in and with it, the oppressive feeling of being lost. Lost in the forest! The trees just go on and on, she thinks, no matter which way you look. She is now quite disoriented, and she doesn’t cope well with this sensation. Even when she was a child, and her mother would read her ‘Hansel and Gretel’. Back then it was the witch who enticed the children into the gingerbread house. Now it’s Pan, whose games awake a deep-seated fear. Panic, in fact. He knows (?) (loves?) the shadows and adores lustful fun (games?). (?) Panicking, she has now gone (?) (run?) deeper and deeper into the forest. Her grandmother had had to go through the forest. (?) She had learnt to pray in the forest. But her grandchild no longer prays. Prayers bring no relief. But what will help protect her against Pan? That robber of reason, whose victims he adorns (entwines?) with luxuriant fantasies (?) until they inarguably yield to him and his lust. (his works, his plans…)
{bis sie unverkennbar sein Werk, sich ihm und seiner Lust ergeben.}
Well, what of it? Is there really anything so terrible about that? If not, why so fearful? Her gaze scours the thickly entwined branches of the trees, peering into the heart of the forest. There is no end in sight, just densely packed trees as far as the eye can see. Worn out, she sits down and lets her head sink onto her arms. This forest goes on endlessly. She has no idea how much time has passed. Then suddenly, in the midst of the silence, there is noise. Twigs snap, there is a rustling and a stamping, as if a company of soldiers were approaching. Halt! Stay where you are!

The goats' slitted eyes are fixed on her. ‘Where on earth did they come from? Goats in the forest!’ She laughs. 'They're sure to know a way out of here. 'The goats stiffen, tense and curious. She feels her spirits lift and takes out sketching pad and pencil. She begins to trace the angular limbs and rounded bellies. But she hasn't even finished sketching a single animal when the goats, enticed by the small, rapid movements of her hand, draw nearer. And nearer. Her hand smells salty, the pencil smells woody, her clothes smell floral. The billy-goat smells the opposite sex. And the paper can be chewed. 'Go away! I don't want you that close!' There's a tugging from behind, a nudging at the pages of her sketchpad, a tugging at her skirt. Warm breath caresses her arm. 'What are you doing? Leave me alone!' The billy-goat lowers his head, firmly plants his hind hooves, and butts her.
She leaps to her feet. Her pencils tumble from their case. Immediately, the goats are at them. She tries to beat them to it but the billy-goat confronts her and won’t back down. She tugs at the corner of her skirt, now firmly clamped between the animal's jaws. The page is torn from the sketchpad and disappears into chewing goat jaws. She grabs at the last corner of the vanishing page, while elongated lips tear a second page from the pad. The billy-goat butts her again from behind. She has had enough. She screams, but the goats act as if deaf. Again the billy-goat nudges her, this time in the side and it hurts. She begins to walk off, (?) (run?) and the goats all follow her. 'Go away, leave me alone!' All she wants to do now is get away from this pack of obstreperous animals, she doesn't care in which direction. But she can't shake them off that easily. When she goes faster, so do they. Their narrow-slitted eyes keep re-appearing between the trunks of the trees. For a long time she can hear the sound of undergrowth snapping and cracking, until eventually only the noise of her own steps remain. Then finally … the forest opens up in front of her. The last rays of sunlight are streaming across the luxuriant green meadow. Only now does she hear her racing heart and become aware of her scratched legs. She is thirsty. Far below she can see houses and now that's where she now wants to be.

(c) R. Ziegler

Your impressions of goats can be added to my website: mail@ritaziegler.de