Thus Spoke Zarathustra | Study Guide

Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche

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Thus Spoke Zarathustra | Characters

Character Description
Zarathustra Zarathustra, the only main character in the book, serves as Nietzsche's alter ego in the exploration of his philosophy. Read More
Wanderer/Shadow The wanderer/shadow appears from time to time along Zarathustra's journey and is one of his guests. Read More
Youth The youth meets Zarathustra and follows him as one of his disciples in Chapter 8: On the Tree of the Mountainside. Read More
Adder The adder appears in Chapter 19: On the Adder's Bite as it unsuccessfully attempts to lethally poison Zarathustra. The episode with this creature illustrates Zarathustra's instruction to not requite an enemy's evil with enmity, but rather prove to an enemy that he has done some good.
Ass The ass is worshipped by Zarathustra's guests in Chapter 78, The Ass Festival in something of a parody of the biblical event when Moses came down from the mount with his tablets of law to find the Israelites worshipping a golden calf. The ass is first encountered bearing the packages of the two kings and unlike Zarathustra's companion animals, it does not speak.
Conscientious man The conscientious man is recognized by Zarathustra as a "higher man" and becomes one of Zarathustra's guests. Zarathustra must overcome his pity for the conscientious man as his last test before his spirit can transform from the lion into the child at the end of the book.
Dancing girls The dancing girls meet Zarathustra on his journey. The dancing girls, who express the freedom of movement in a pastoral setting, represent the joyful release from religious inhibitions and body-guilt.
Disciples The disciples, also referred to as "brothers," follow Zarathustra for part of his journey and listen to his discourses. Most of what Zarathustra has to say throughout is addressed to them in each of the chapters of the book, but when they attempt to revere him, he sends them away to find their own truths and transformations.
Eagle The eagle is one of Zarathustra's two animal companions who stays with him throughout his journey. As a creature of the sky, the eagle soars above the earth-walking man, offering words of wise foresight.
Fool The fool, also known as "Zarathustra's ape," mimics Zarathustra's words and appearance. He is confronted directly by Zarathustra in Chapter 51: On Passing By. This character serves as an example of how something that appears to be the truth may actually be an illusion.
Jester The jester ridicules and jumps over the tightrope walker in an episode of Zarathustra's Prologue. This character is the mocking voice of self-criticism in the potential "higher man" of the tightrope walker.
King at the left The king at the left is one of Zarathustra's guests, who makes his appearance in Chapter 63: Conversation with the Kings. His is a conservative and quiet voice.
King at the right The king at the right is one of Zarathustra's guests found wandering with the ass and the king at the left in Chapter 63: Conversation with the Kings. He is more outspoken than the king at the left.
Little old woman The little old woman appears in Chapter 18: On Little Old and Young Women to ask Zarathustra to address the issues of women. She represents a sounding board for the author's ideas about women in general.
Magician The magician is one of Zarathustra's guests, invited to Zarathustra's cave in Chapter 65: The Magician. As a "higher man," the magician is frank and honest about his craft of illusion which common folk take as powerful magic.
Pope The elderly retired pope has killed God and is one of Zarathustra's guests first encountered in Chapter 66: Retired. Since the purpose of this character to rouse the religious is no longer relevant, he has an opportunity to reinvent himself.
Sage The sage is one of Zarathustra's guests who first appears in Chapter 2: On the Teachers of Virtue. His is a soothing voice to his listeners on the virtue of sleep so that morality can be defined as a passive, rather than active principle.
Saint/old man The saint/old man meets Zarathustra on his journey in Zarathustra's Prologue. His is the voice of cynicism on human nature, and he warns Zarathustra that the town toward which he is heading is filled with men hostile to hermits.
Seamen The seamen spend time with Zarathustra aboard a ship in an earlier chapter, but it is in Chapter 40: On Great Event they first report having seen Zarathustra flying in the sky. These honest laborers are hailed by Zarathustra as fellow travelers who endure discomfort and risk on the open seas, but he does not attempt to teach them as he does his disciples.
Serpent The serpent is one of Zarathustra's animal companions who travel with him on his journeys. As the opposite of the eagle, the serpent is possessed of the wisdom of the earth.
Soothsayer The soothsayer appears at different points along Zarathustra's journey, notably in Chapter 41: The Soothsayer and Chapter 62: The Cry of Distress. This character is thought by Zarathustra to be a "higher man" because he lives largely outside social norms, but his dismal pronouncements of foreboding are unrelenting, leaving him behind in joy and humor.
Tightrope walker The tightrope walker dies and is carried by Zarathustra to be buried in Zarathustra's Prologue. This character might have become a higher man had he lived to transition spiritually from the camel to the lion stage. Even so, Zarathustra honors the life of risk the tightrope walker led.
Ugliest man The ugliest man is one of Zarathustra's guests when Zarathustra finds him in Chapter 67: The Ugliest Man. Shunned by society due to his horrific appearance, this character nevertheless embraces his condition as who he truly is, and so is hailed as a "higher man" eligible to become an "overman." But because he is defined by his appearance, this man is unable to evolve.
Voluntary beggar The voluntary beggar is one of Zarathustra's guests. He is discovered by Zarathustra in Chapter 68: The Voluntary Beggar.
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