Thus Spoke Zarathustra | Study Guide

Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche

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Thus Spoke Zarathustra | Part 1, Chapters 11–22 | Summary



Chapter 11: On the New Idol

Zarathustra says there are still "peoples and herds" elsewhere, but "not where we live, my brothers: here there are states." He adds, "State is the name of the coldest of all cold monsters" and claims the state has created "its own language of customs and rights."

Chapter 12: On the Flies of the Marketplace

Zarathustra speaks of the marketplace where the "noise of the great actors and the buzzing of the poisonous flies begins." He speaks of actors, showmen, and the innumerable "small miserable creatures." He goes on to explain these "small creatures" grow mute "when [a person] stepped among them" and their strength "went from them like smoke from a dying fire."

Chapter 13: On Chastity

Zarathustra says it is "better to fall into the hands of a murderer than into the dreams of a woman in heat." He also recommends against chastity for those for whom it is difficult "lest it become their road to hell—the mud and the heat of their souls." A virtue to one person may be a path to hell for another.

Chapter 14: On the Friend

Zarathustra claims if "one wants to have a friend one must ... want to wage war for him ... to wage war one must be capable of being an enemy." This section goes into varying thoughts on the nature of a friend. He notes a person cannot be a friend if he or she is a slave.

Chapter 15: On the Thousand and One Goals

Zarathustra addresses good and evil, and how what is good in one nation may be evil in another. This chapter also contains a reference to the "will to power." Nietzsche writes that "a tablet of the good hangs over every people." This is a tablet of "their overcomings" and it is "the voice of their will to power." He continues by saying there have been "a thousand goals" for just as many people. There is "one goal" that is missing, and "if humanity still lacks a goal—is humanity itself still not lacking too?"

Chapter 16: On Love of the Neighbor

Zarathustra speaks about love for one's neighbor. He says, "One man goes to his neighbor because he seeks himself; another because he would lose himself." Zarathustra suggests he would rather teach "the friend and his overflowing heart." This is in anticipation of the overman.

Chapter 17: On the Way of the Creator

Zarathustra speaks on the creator, the one who needs to have a "new strength and a new right." One who seeks "easily gets lost" in loneliness and challenges. He notes, "If you would be a star, you must not shine less" because of it. Ultimately a creator must "go into [their] loneliness with [their] love and with [their] creation" and in time will "justice limp after [them]."

Chapter 18: On Little Old and Young Women

Zarathustra says he has a "treasure" he conceals under his coat. It is a "little truth." He says he met a "little old woman" who commented that he had not spoken about women and asks him to do so. He says, "Everything about woman has one solution—that is pregnancy. Man is for woman a means: the end is always the child." In asking what a man wants, Zarathustra says men are like children and want two things: "danger and play." Therefore, men seek women who are "the most dangerous plaything." He suggests men ought to fear women when they love and when they hate. He goes on to say a woman finds the world "perfect" when she "obeys out of entire love." She is but a shallow surface whereas "men's disposition" is "deep; his river roars in subterranean caves." The old woman pronounces these things all as true, but before they part ways, she advises him, "You are going to women? Do not forget the whip!"

Chapter 19: On the Adder's Bite

Zarathustra tells of falling asleep and being bitten by an adder. The adder expected Zarathustra to die of its poison, but Zarathustra asked, "When has a dragon ever died of a poison of a snake?" He offered the snake its poison back, and it licked his wound. When telling this story, Zarathustra's disciples ask what it means and he says, "If you have an enemy, do not requite him evil with good ... Rather prove that he did you some good." He goes on to share the idea that a "wrong shared is half right." He closes by saying to do no wrong to a hermit.

Chapter 20: On Child and Marriage

Zarathustra speaks of the urge to have a child and of marriage. He addresses in detail the limits of most marriages: "For the most part, two beasts find each other." He notes an exception, however, when marriage creates a "longing for the overman." This, he says, he would call "holy."

Chapter 21: On Free Death

Zarathustra discusses death—the slow death and the "too late" and the "too early" deaths. He urges people to "die at the right time." He speaks of people who make ropes, saying they "drag out their threads and always walk backwards." He addresses the death of Jesus Christ and says he "died too early; he himself would have recanted his teaching, had he reached my age." Zarathustra says that in dying, a person's "spirit and virtue should still glow like a sunset around the earth: else [their] dying has turned out badly."

Chapter 22: On the Gift-Giving Virtue

This chapter is divided into three sections. In the first section, Zarathustra leaves The Motley Cow accompanied by disciples. He tells them he wants to walk alone. They give him a staff with a gold handle with a "serpent coiled around the sun." Zarathustra says a "gift-giving virtue is the highest virtue." He speaks too of selfishness, degeneration, and virtue. In the second section, Zarathustra says to his disciples they are to "remain faithful to the earth." He tells them they "shall be fighters" and "creators." Ultimately, Zarathustra tells his disciples they shall be the chosen and out of them shall come the overman.

In the third section, Zarathustra tells his disciples to go alone. He points out, "One repays a teacher badly if one always remains nothing but a pupil." Here, he cautions them against revering him and says, "Lose me and find yourselves."


Although Zarathustra's speeches to his disciples/brothers continue as they travel together, the section concludes with separation. Zarathustra sends his disciples/brothers away from him the moment they begin to focus on Zarathustra as a master rather than upon their individual solitary journeys toward the overman. Another distinction, or separation that has, up until this section of chapters, been implied is between men and women. The implication here is that the quintessential human being capable of undergoing the metamorphosis of the spirit from camel to lion to child is male, because women are inferior and subject to the will of man.

The language of the state of customs and rights is a clear starting point from which to attack the dragon's scales of "Thou shalt." This action supports a list of corresponding "Thou shalt not" rules (such as those of the biblical tablets of Moses). Such an attack is the task of the spirit that has transformed into the lion, supporting the implication that Zarathustra inhabits this second metamorphosis of the spirit. Thus, it follows that in the final chapter he has finished this level as he anticipates the arrival of the child. In Chapter 11: On the New Idol, Zarathustra addresses the idea of the state outright as Kaufmann says in his notes, giving voice to Nietzsche's "vehement denunciation of the state and of war in the literal sense. ... In Nietzsche's own phrase: antipolitical." This is not only sweepingly applied to secular authority, but also to sacred authority supported in a formal religious doctrine.

Given his unsatisfactory relationships with women and his very narrow romantic connections with them, Nietzsche came to believe that women were either tyrants or slaves. In Chapter 14: On the Friend, Zarathustra speaks the author's opinion, which refers to "the Greek conception of friendship" as something only possible between men. Yet, Nietzsche depended upon his sister Elisabeth, who also took charge of the publications of his works, in his day-to-day struggles with ill-health, most notably in the last 11 years of his life.

The whip recommended to Zarathustra by the old woman in Chapter 18: On Little Old and Young Women reflects a general mistrust of women. Kaufmann notes in his discussion of this section of Thus Spoke Zarathustra that although the old woman agrees with Zarathustra's estimation of the purpose of women, her agreement is necessarily limited by Nietzsche's scant understanding. Kaufmann acknowledges that "his remarks about women are surely, more often than not, second-hand and third-rate." In any case, a woman with a mind of her own was a threat and danger to herself and society. The whip is also a reference to Salomé, who posed for a photograph arranged by Nietzsche with him and another friend, Paul Rée. She was seated in a cart drawn by the men and wielded a flowered whip. Salomé ultimately rejected Nietzsche and left with Rée. Kaufmann notes in his biography of Nietzsche's life that the loss of the intelligent and well-educated Salomé as an intellectual sounding board was followed by "his [Nietzsche's] first attempt to put down his philosophy—not merely sundry observations—in one major work: Zarathustra." The frustratingly elusive and amorphous "feminine" element is made humanly physical only in the old woman (who speaks) and the group of dancing girls (who do not speak, but dance and sing).

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