Zlateh the Goat

Zlateh the Goat Summary and Analysis of Part II


Inside the warm haystack, Zlateh sat contentedly after having eaten her fill. But Aaron was still hungry after his meager snack of bread and cheese. He noticed that Zlateh's udders were full, and he laid down next to her and squirted her udders into his mouth. The milk nourished him, and Zlateh seemed happy to reward him for having brought them to this comfortable place.

Outside the haystack, it was dark, and the wind carried with it huge quantities of snow. Aaron could not tell whether it was day or night. He thanked God that it was warm and safe in the haystack. Zlateh kept nibbling from their shelter, and Aaron loved lying next to her warm body. Alone, away from his family, Zlateh became like a sister to him. He began to talk to her, asking what she thought about what had happened to them. Zlateh responded to each of Aaron's comments with a simple, "Maaaa," and although Aaron could not understand, he was patient. He told Zlateh that he needs her and she needs him, and then the two of them went to sleep.

When Aaron awoke, it was still dark outside, and he was hungry. Zlateh fed him with her milk and bleated, "Maaaa," which Aaron interpreted as a comment on acceptance of what God had given them. For the next three days, Aaron and Zlateh continued in the same pattern. Zlateh fed Aaron, kept him warm, and comforted him with her patient demeanor; Aaron told her many stories and gave her loving pats. Throughout this time, Aaron's love for Zlateh grew. He came to feel as though they had always been there—that he had never had a family nor a home outside the haystack in the snow. His dreams were about warm weather.

After three days, the snow stopped. It was still nighttime, and Aaron did not want to venture home in the dark. But he dug his way out of the haystack and gazed around him at the still, quiet sky; the brightly shining moon; and the large, nearby stars. The next morning, Aaron heard the ringing of sleigh bells. The peasant who drove the sleigh pointed out the road and the way home. Aaron had decided while in the haystack that he could not sell Zlateh, and so the two of them headed in the direction of home.

When they arrived in the village, Aaron's family was overjoyed. They had searched for him during the storm, but when they could not find him, they thought that he and Zlateh were lost. Aaron told them the story of how Zlateh had saved him with her warmth and milk, and everyone was very happy. Aaron's sisters gave Zlateh a special snack, and they never thought of selling her again.

The cold weather brought a need for fur coats again, and so Reuven's business picked back up. When Hanukkah arrived, Aaron's mother was able to make the traditional latkes (potato pancakes) every day, and even Zlateh got her own. Sometimes, while the children played dreidel near the fire, Zlateh came in to visit, and sat contentedly by the stove.

Every once in a while, Aaron would ask Zlateh if she remembered the three days they spent together in the haystack. Each time, she scratched her neck with a horn, shook her white beard, and give yet another "Maaaa"—that sound that expressed all of her love.


During their time in the haystack together, Aaron and Zlateh develop a symbiotic relationship. Zlateh gives Aaron food and warmth—necessary for his survival during the intense snowfall—while Aaron protects her from certain death from freezing by finding them shelter inside the haystack. In this sense, the story provides a lesson about the value of interdependency and trust.

"Zleteh the Goat" is also a story of redemption. In the first half of the story, the family was prepared to sacrifice Zleteh, although she did not know it. Yet the snowstorm and her role in saving Aaron ultimately lead to her redemption, and she becomes a treasured family member once more. This story of miraculous redemption is particularly resonant around the time of Hanukkah, a Jewish holiday that centers on similar themes. Zlateh's milk represents these Hanukkah miracles: formerly unable to produce milk, during the snowstorm she miraculously sustains Aaron off her milk for three days in a row.

The story also contains a fantastical or mystical element. The image of the boy and the goat living comfortably within a haystack while the snow falls all around them is a surreal one, and it gives the story a fairy-tale quality. Seen in cultural context, the story also contains elements of Jewish mysticism. Zlateh, for example, speaks simply with a goat's bleating sound, but in doing so manages to utter pearls of wisdom that Aaron somehow understands. She instructs Aaron to be patient and accepting of all of God's plans, even the trials and tribulations.

Another mystical element is the narrator's vivid descriptions of the natural world after the haystack, painting a picture of the moon's "silvery nets on the snow" and its position up above as if "it swam in the sky as in a sea." Descriptions of the beauty of the natural world evoke a spiritual quality, as if the world in that moment was "dreaming dreams of heavenly splendor."

The story ends with a decidedly cheery tone. The rejoicing of the family at the arrival of Aaron and Zlateh is coupled with a revival of Reuven's business, and so Hanukkah is celebrated as it should be. In this way, Singer resolves the initial conflict of the story, and concludes with a cheerful and positive mood.