Thus Spoke Zarathustra | Study Guide

Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche

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Thus Spoke Zarathustra | Part 4, Chapters 61–70 | Summary



Chapter 61: The Honey Sacrifice

Zarathustra's animals observe his general contentment and ask him about his happiness. He tells them he has no concern for happiness because he's too wrapped up in his work. They suggest it would be good for him to go up the mountain. He agrees and tells them to have honey there so he can make a honey sacrifice. But once he reaches the summit, Zarathustra sends away his animals and views the height of the mountain as comparable to the depth of "the human sea: that is where [he] now cast[s] [his] golden fishing rod and say[s]: Open up, you human abyss!"

Chapter 62: The Cry of Distress

Zarathustra thinks he is alone with his own shadow the next day but is startled by the presence of the soothsayer. "Th[is] proclaimer of the great weariness" had once been Zarathustra's guest but now appears even more foreboding than he had before. The soothsayer tells Zarathustra his bark (small boat) will not be stranded much longer because the waves of the sea are reaching up the mountain. They listen together and hear a woeful cry of distress in the distance. Zarathustra recognizes it as his "final sin" and asks the soothsayer what it is. The soothsayer replies he has come to Zarathustra to test him with pity for "the higher man." They then part ways. Zarathustra goes in search of the higher man and the soothsayer leaves to wait for him in his cave.

Chapter 63: Conversation with the Kings

Zarathustra searches no longer than an hour before he comes across two richly adorned kings—one on the right and one on the left—leading an ass loaded with baggage. Zarathustra listens for a while to their conversation and realizes the two kings have been struggling with some of the same obstacles to overcoming the self as he has been. Zarathustra greets them and asks them what they are doing there. They reply, "We are on our way to find the higher man—the man who is higher than we, though we are kings." Zarathustra tells them to wait for him in his cave while he continues to search for the source of the cry of distress.

Chapter 64: The Leech

A man is lying on the ground across Zarathustra's path. The man had been sitting low to the ground with his arm in the water of a swamp. When he draws his arm out, it is covered with leeches and blood. Zarathustra is horrified and tells the man to go up to the cave where his wounds can be tended, but the man tells him he has been doing this deliberately, saying, "Praised be the great leech of the conscience, Zarathustra!" He tells Zarathustra he is "the conscientious in spirit ... there may well be none stricter, narrower, and harder than I." Pleased with the man's attitude, Zarathustra sends him to his cave and continues his search.

Chapter 65: The Magician

Zarathustra comes upon a man who "kept looking around with piteous gestures, like one abandoned and forsaken by all the world." He listens to the man's lament, which is like a long poem to "Thou unknown god," an entity that causes the man every kind of torture and suffering. Zarathustra sees through the ruse and beats the man with his staff, saying, "Stop it, you actor ... you wicked magician ... In whom was I to believe when you were moaning this way?" The magician confesses he was playing the part of "the ascetic of the spirit" and tells Zarathustra he is pleased with his ability to make Zarathustra believe for even a short while. At this, Zarathustra takes a closer look at what just happened and finds a small truth in the magician's statement, "I did all this only as a game." Zarathustra sends the magician to his cave before he continues "on his way, laughing."

Chapter 66: Retired

A tall, dark-robed man is sitting by the path, and the look of him so displeases Zarathustra that he would like to avoid him. But the man spots Zarathustra and asks him for help because he has lost his way. He says he is a retired pope in search of a festival at Zarathustra's cave. Zarathustra tells the man, "It is I, the godless Zarathustra, who speaks: who is more godless than I, that I may enjoy his instruction?" The old pope describes how he served his god faithfully, but "was a concealed god, addicted to secrecy." As his servant, the old pope came to view how this god fathered a son through adultery and realized the two roles of being a loving god and a judging god are incompatible ones. Zarathustra figures he'd like to hear more about all this. He assures the old pope god is completely dead and tells him to go up to his cave and wait there for Zarathustra's return.

Chapter 67: The Ugliest Man

The search for the cry of distress continues to draw Zarathustra along his path until he "enter[s] a realm of death." Everything there is loathsome and devoid of life, and Zarathustra walks through it until he stands still and sees something sitting that almost looks like a human being. Revolted, Zarathustra turns away but the being manages to speak, asking Zarathustra to guess his riddle, "What is the revenge against the witness?" Zarathustra recognizes the being as the ugliest man who murdered god and "took revenge on this witness." The ugliest man agrees Zarathustra has solved the riddle by recognizing himself as the witness. Zarathustra turns away, but the ugliest man begs him to stay. Zarathustra tells the ugliest man to go to his cave and wait for him there before continuing his search.

Chapter 68: The Voluntary Beggar

The land through which Zarathustra travels becomes green and warm and refreshes his spirit following the unpleasant land he has just left. Amazed, he finds himself attracted by a herd of cows who surround a speaker and seem to be listening to him. Pushing aside the cows, Zarathustra finds a man sitting on the ground apparently preaching to the cows, saying things like, "Except we turn back and become as cows, we shall not enter the kingdom of heaven." When he sees Zarathustra, the man recognizes him and greets him joyfully, saying he himself is "the voluntary beggar." Zarathustra asks the beggar why he should seek happiness among the cows instead of among the rich, but this beggar will have none of that, because as he says, "I was nauseated by our richest men ... this gilded, false mob whose fathers have been pickpockets." Zarathustra tells the voluntary beggar to go to his cave and wait for him there.

Chapter 69: The Shadow

Once the voluntary beggar leaves, Zarathustra thinks he is alone but a voice behind him calls on him to wait and says he is Zarathustra's shadow. Annoyed by all this unwanted company, Zarathustra tries to run away from his shadow, but soon discovers there are three runners instead of two. The involuntary beggar has joined the chase. After running for a while, Zarathustra finds it is futile and he stops to question his shadow. His shadow explains how close he is to Zarathustra himself, saying, "Wherever you sat, I sat too ... with you I broke whatever my heart revered." The shadow ends his speech saying he is in search of his home. Zarathustra recognizes the nature of this shadow as a wanderer. Feeling pity for his shadow, Zarathustra sends him to his cave for a "rest and home this evening" before going on alone.

Chapter 70: At Noon

Fatigued by all his running, Zarathustra feels the need to rest at noon and lies down by a tree to sleep. He chides himself with sleeping at noon when the sun is at its highest point but finds he hadn't slept much according to the sun's position.


This group of chapters returns the story of Thus Spoke Zarathustra to a clearly identifiable sequence of plot events that had previously been abandoned. There is in it also a gentle self-mocking on the part of Zarathustra as he successively encounters each of the "higher men" and it is through these empathic exchanges he slowly becomes entangled in his pity for them. The translation of the word pity from the use Nietzsche had put to the German word mitleid was one Kaufmann struggled to render accurately. The term also refers to a kind of compassion because it also means "suffering with." However, Kaufmann notes that the word pity also carries a note of condescension consistent with Zarathustra's superior standing relative to those around him as Nietzsche has drawn his alter ego character.

Chapter 61: The Honey Sacrifice is an emphatic example of Zarathustra's thinking when he reverses the height of the mountain on which honey can be gathered to the depths of the sea, where baited hooks of the fishermen await a good catch. There is in this a good measure of gentle humor in this thinking.

The "king at the left" and the "king at the right" in Chapter 63: Conversation with the Kings is the first of seven events that bring Zarathustra in contact with, as Kaufman states, "Men who have accepted some part of his teaching without, however, embodying the type he envisages." But Zarathustra struggles with his interest in them while at the same time being repulsed by their "revolting and tiresome flatteries."

In Chapter 65: The Magician, the magician's ability to entice Zarathustra for even a brief moment brings up the veracity of "performing" the truth, which is a lie because it is not actual reality. People are "tricked" into believing what is not true, similar to the "willing suspension of disbelief" in the performing arts by which an audience participates in an experience of aesthetics. In this scenario, both the performer and the audience "cooperate" in the event. Kaufmann adds that the character of the magician was informed in part by Nietzsche's friend, the composer Richard Wagner.

The elusive character of the wanderer/shadow who appeared earlier in Chapter 40: On Great Events makes a reappearance in Chapter 69: The Shadow. Nietzsche had, according to Kaufmann, a fascination with a man and his shadow expressed in his previous work, The Wanderer and His Shadow (1880). Other authors who have explored this idea of a man confronted by his "double" include Danish author Hans Christian Andersen in his tale The Shadow (1847) and Prussian author E.T.A. Hoffmann's version of Peter Schlemihl who lost his shadow in The Sandman (1816).

Chapter 70: At Noon is one of several instances throughout Thus Spoke Zarathustra in which reference is made to the cycle of night and day. Nietzsche aligns this measure of time with the lifetime of a man. This repetition suggests the riddle of the Sphinx (a mythological being with the body of a lion, the wings of a bird, and the head of a woman) to Oedipus in Greek legend, which likens the span of a day to the 3 life-stages of a man. As a whole, Thus Spoke Zarathustra narrates the adventure as one externally occurring over the span of several years, but there are also several plays on the nature of time and space on an internal level alluding to the periods of a single day. For example, Zarathustra may have completed stage one of his spiritual metamorphosis as a camel during the "morning" period of his spiritual life. This corresponds to the correct answer to the Sphinx's riddle that it is in the morning of a man's life that he crawls on all fours. During the second spiritual metamorphosis as a lion, like an adult male who walks on two legs during the "noon" of his life, man struggles to gain power over the self of will.
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