Zlateh the Goat by Isaac Bashevis Singer

Summary: Zlateh the Goat by Isaac Bashevis Singer is about a female goat named Zlateh who was going to be sold to a butcher in order to gain some money for "holiday necessaries" and Aaron's duty to get her there. Certain events bend the final outcome of this story.


  • Zlateh the Goat - Old goat that was owned by Reuven the furrier that was sent to Feivel to get money for holiday supplies
  • Aaron - Aaron is Reuven's son who is told take Zlateh the Goat into the town of Feivel to be sold
  • Reuven - Aaron's father who is a furrier
  • Leah - Aaron's mother
  • Anna - Aaron's sister
  • Miriam - Aaron's other sister

Section 1:

  • There was hardly any snow so the "peasants" were worried about a poor yield of "winter grain"
  • Reuven the furrier decided because it was a "bad year" that they should sell the old family goat, Zlateh, to the butcher in the town of Feivel for "eight gulden" to get enough money for Hannukkah and holiday "necessaries"
  • Reuven gave the task of taking Zlateh the goat to Feivel to his son Aaron
  • Aaron left with the goat to Feivel in an umbrella of sadness for Zlateh from the family with the intention of completing the deal with the goat and returning with the money from the butcher the following day
  • The family said good bye to the goat and Zlateh remained "good-natured" for she trusted humans and was always fed and respected by them
  • Zlateh the goat was curious about the route that Aaron was taking for it was different, but she came to think that "a goat shouldn't ask questions"
  • The weather suddenly changed from the sunny weather when Aaron left the village to a dark day with hail and finally snow
  • Aaron did not see a snow like the one he was experiencing in all of his twelve years of life which shut out light, brought cold wind and covered the path so Aaron could not see it anymore
  • Aaron felt the cold through his jacket and Zlateh questioned the reason why they were out in such a storm for she had seen snow storms for twelve years as well
  • Aaron found out that he had wandered from the road and lost his sense of direction
  • Zlateh was acting like she was "pleading" to go home and she could not walk any more with a frosty look about her
  • Aaron knew that they were in a "mighty blizzard" and he felt cold while at the same time Zlateh was feeling betrayed by her humans
  • Aaron prayed for himself and Zlateh the goat; "for the innocent animal"
  • Aaron came upon a "large haystack" which he first mistook for a snow dune and knew that they were "saved"
  • Aaron made a "nest" for himself and Zlateh and the hay made a good food source for the goat
  • Aaron was smart enough to make a window so that they could breathe which he kept clear
  • After eating, Zlateh regained her trust in humans
  • When Aaron ate his two slices of bread and cheese and was still hungry, Zlateh gave of her milk unto him to reward him for the shelter and food that Aaron was able to provide for her
  • Aaron took note of the "chaos" that was the weather outside the warm, makeshift hay shelter
  • Zlateh gave "warmth" to the hay shelter and she ate hay from it in all directions
  • Aaron thought of Zlateh as a sister and talked to her in which all the questions that Aaron asked were responded to with the answer "maaaa."
  • Aaron told Zlateh the goat that they needed each other and especially if they were to stay in the hay shelter for a long time; Aaron:"If the snow keeps falling like this, we may have to stay here for days"
  • Together Aaron and Zlateh stayed in the hay shelter for three days and learned to love each other more while he told her stories and she fed him milk
  • Aaron dreamed of warm weather and he was a "snow child" born of the snow as was Zlateh the goat
  • When Aaron popped out of the hay shelter on the third night, he saw a quiet, white world and took note of the stars and the moon
  • On the fourth morning, Aaron got directions from a peasant driving a sleigh to his village and not the butcher
  • Aaron's family had first thought them as lost, but then neighbors told Aaron's family that they were coming up the road
  • Aaron's family was in joy to know that Aaron and Zlateh were alive and safe
  • Never did anyone think of selling Zlateh again and with the cold weather Reuven's furrier services were once again needed
  • Aaron's family was able to enjoy Hanukkah as planned with pancakes and all the family time
  • Aaron would remind Zlateh about the three days they spent together in the hay shelter in the snow storm and Zlateh responded with her "single sound" which was her sound of love expression

Other Notes:

  • Isaac Bashevis Singer was raised by his father who was a rabbi
  • Isaac Bashevis Singer wrote of Polish village life
  • Isaac Bashevis wrote "Zlateh the Goat" to "recapture" the time of life before the destruction of World War II
  • Singer wrote in Yiddish which he translated into English

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