Zlateh the Goat

Zlateh the Goat Themes

The Importance of Trust and Interdependence

Zlateh the family goat has great trust for the human family she lives with. Even as Aaron leads her on an unfamiliar journey to her future death, she sees no cause for concern. This relationship of trust is tested by the arrival of a dangerous snowstorm. But when Aaron finds shelter, Zlateh's trust in him is restored. Then, during the period of three days during which they live together in the haystack, Aaron's trust becomes equal to Zlateh's. He begins to depend on Zlateh for his survival, as she provides crucial sustenance and warmth during those three long days of the snowstorm. In turn, this interdependence leads to greater love and affection between the two of them.

Economic Hardship

"Zlateh the Goat" paints a vivid picture of the constant presence of economic hardship in rural Jewish life in Eastern Europe. In the story, the peasants in the village survive by subsistence agriculture, so when a big storm comes, the harvest is affected, and families such as Reuven's cannot make ends meet. This is a precarious economic balance, reliant on good weather and subject to serendipity. It also establishes the premise for the plot arc of the story, necessitating Reuven's decision to sell Zlateh.

Warmth and Comfort

The fearful cold of the snowstorm is juxtaposed with the atmosphere inside the haystack where Zlateh and Aaron find shelter. Inside the sweet-smelling hay, they feel safe and happy. At the end of the story, the descriptions of the fireside dreidel games and family togetherness elicit the same coziness, drawing a parallel between family life at the home, and the sense of familiarity and comfort that Aaron and Zlateh found in each other inside the haystack.


Singer's stories often reflected a subtle mysticism. Although religion is not overtly present in "Zlateh the Goat,' the mystic element can be located in Zlateh the goat herself. Her beneficent and peaceful character imply a sense of blessedness, and some of her simple bleatings suggest wise sayings, as though she is a prophet for the word of God. Aaron and Zlateh's survival during the snowstorm is close to a miracle, and Zlateh plays an integral role in that survival.


There are many elements of dualism throughout "Zlateh the Goat." Zlateh, for example, is just an old, ordinary goat; but at the same time, she is also wise, good, and integral to Aaron's survival. Similarly, the snowstorm represents both danger and fortune. At first, when it begins to snow, the cold weather poses a grave threat to Aaron and Zlateh's lives. The mood darkens as the sky becomes black and the wind rages. Yet the snow is also the key to Zlateh's redemption: it forces them to seek shelter rather than go to the town to sell her to the butcher. The raging snowstorm then becomes the impetus for something beautiful: the growth of the bond between boy and goat.