The Parable of the Goat and the Sheep

A sheep and a goat were standing in a fenced pasture chewing on alfalfa and wild barley. The

goat, tired of the bare patches of earth made by the sheep, leapt up onto the turf roof of the farmhouse and began chewing the cud that grew upon it.

“Get down from there you fool goat!” said the sheep from the ground below.

“Why should I?”

“You aren’t supposed to be on the roof,” said the sheep

“You’re the fool. There’s no such thing as ‘supposed to.’”

“Mark my words, the farmer will punish you for this.”

“He’ll have to catch me first,” said the goat.

The farmer, returning home from an errand, saw the goat on the roof and called for him to come down, saying, “Get off the  roof before you cave it in, you foul goat!”

The goat ignored him and continued chewing his cud. The farmer threw a rock at the goat, which struck him smartly on the rump, causing the goat to jump, yet he refused to get down off of the roof. The farmer tried several more rocks to no avail before climbing onto the roof, damaging and denting the turf that rested on the lattice below, and with his staff hit the goat around the shoulders and head.

Bleating, the goat ran from the farmer, jumping off the roof and going back to where the sheep still stood.

“Don’t let me catch you on the roof again, you worthless beast,” the farmer said, hitting the goat an additional time for good measure. He sighed and set about fixing his damaged roof.

“I told you so,” the sheep said. “I told you you’d be punished for acting a fool.”

“I am punished for having free will,” the goat said.

“Have you eaten any more than me?” the sheep said.

“I have eaten what I wanted to eat, you worthless slave!”

The next day, the dog was rounding up the animals. He barked at the sheep and nipped lightly at her feet, and the sheep went quickly to stand among the others ewes. Gently, the farmer and the dog began to lead them all into the next pasture, a resting field.

“Go get the goat,” the farmer said to the dog. The dog followed his master’s order, and ran to the goat, barking and nipping lightly at his feet.

The goat, in response, stood stubbornly and refused to move, then began to kick whenever the dog came near, hitting him on the nose and making him yelp. Seeing this, the farmer walked over and hit the goat around the shoulders and neck, making the goat bleat and run away. The goat still refused to go to the other pasture.

“The other field is rested, you idiot,” the farmer said. “Do as I command!” He hit the goat again and again, until at last the goat followed the sheep into the rested field.

The sheep, seeing the goat being hit said, “It’s much easier when you just do as you are told.”

“I am only punished because I have free will,” the goat said. “But I would rather be free than be a sheep. Everything you do you do according to the will of your master. He will lead you to the slaughter, and you would go happily and with ignorance to your death!”

“Shows how much you know about sheep. The farmer wants my wool, not my flesh.”

“The flesh of your children, then,” the goat said.

“It is the same for them,” said the sheep.

“To hell with you!” the goat said.

Some days later, the farmer had a visit from a relative, who brought with him his whole family. In the afternoon, he went out to his pasture.

“Goat. Come hither,” he said to the goat.

Hearing the farmer, the goat ran away, to a far corner of the pasture. The farmer came forward with his staff, and the goat ran from him, leaping onto the back of the sheep, who was in the middle of the herd.

The farmer walked away, and the goat laughed at him. In a few minutes, the farmer returned, not with his staff, but with a long gun. He shot the goat, which stood upon the sheep, and the herd scattered, leaving the goat dead on the ground. The farmer retrieved the corpse and walked back toward his kitchens to slaughter the animal.

That night he fed his relatives and also called his neighbors, so that every useable morsel of the goat was eaten.

Watching the feast, the sheep said to herself, “Serves the old fool right.”

The next day more visitors arrived at the farm. This time it was the lord with his retinue of servants and retainers, sojourning in the countryside.

When the lord greeted him, the farmer said, “What brings my lord hither to my humble estates?”

“Fair weather and a fair hunt,” said the lord.

“Ah, the woods are rich and well maintained by the woodsman,” said the farmer, though he knew that was not the case. “But there is always chance at play in such matters. If the hunt goes ill, or the stags are too scarce, come and stay at my house, and I will feed you well.”

“If it is so, then allow me to pay you for your hospitality,” said the lord.

“Only as you see fit, my lord,” said the farmer.

That evening, the lord returned from the hunt empty-handed and said to the farmer. “I believe I will take you up on your offer. The wood is too scarce, methinks, but at least the pastures are rich.”

“Indeed,” said the farmer. The farmer then let the lord and his retainers rest by his fireplace and went out to the pasture with his relative, who was still visiting him.

“Pity you slaughtered the goat yestereve,” his relative said to him.

“The goat would ill-suit a man of the gentry,” the farmer said. He gathered up the sheep and lead her away from the herd.

“As opposed to mutton?” said his relative.

“Mutton for the dogs and servants,” said the farmer, “and lamb for the lords.” With that he gathered up also a male lamb. “This ewe is past her prime, and it is time for this lamb to be slaughtered or sold for a stud. The lord is a fair man, so we shall come out the better for it.”

And so the farmer took the sheep and the lamb, and slaughtered them, and the household dined on the mutton, and the lord and his retainers dined on the lamb, and all that was unsavory was given to the dogs, who ate the mutton happily.

One Comment

  1. This reminds me of a conversation I had with a Buddhist regarding vegetarianism, in that I described to him that if I were an animal raised for slaughter, I believe I could come to terms with that. He didn’t have much to say on the matter beyond that, and it is academic since the Buddhist theory of reincarnation is obviously false (I love science, since it supports only the religion which I follow.)

    I don’t see how this is a parable, however, as the biblical definition clearly lays out the definition as allegory, and clearly describes the allegories in most cases.

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