Thus Spoke Zarathustra | Study Guide

Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche

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Thus Spoke Zarathustra | Part 4, Chapters 71–80 | Summary



Chapter 71: The Welcome

Zarathustra is very near his cave in the afternoon when he again hears the cry of distress he has been trying to track down all day and is surprised to hear it coming from inside the cave. This time, it does not seem to come from a single source, but from many. When he enters the cave, he finds all the people he had met that day sitting around his serpent and eagle. Amazed, Zarathustra realizes the higher man is actually an amalgam of these odd characters and tells them they are welcome to whatever he has. This cheers them up, and the king at the right speaks for the company in saying they are encouraged by his presence. Even so, Zarathustra tells them they are not strong enough for him, and says, "You are mere bridges: may men higher than you stride over you. You signify steps." Zarathustra describes to them his children for whom he waits, who are "built perpendicular in body and soul."

Chapter 72: The Last Supper

The soothsayer comes forward and reminds Zarathustra he promised them a supper, at which mention the animals leave to find food to feed the many guests. In addition to food, the demand is for wine rather than water. As it happens, the king at the left informs the crowd they have brought with them plenty of wine. There is no bread, but meat, grains, nuts, and fruit are plentiful so each may take whatever he pleases.

Chapter 73: On the Higher Man

The dinnertime conversation revolves around the topic of the higher man who, in shunning the crowds who want everyone to exist on the same level, no longer has any use for god. But having done this already, these higher men dining with him (whom Zarathustra hails as his "brothers") are not what Zarathustra is interested in finding. They have come only part of the way and Zarathustra encourages them to look beyond the mob and its petty moralities. "Overcome these masters of today, O my brothers—these small people, they are the overman's greatest danger," he tells them. Zarathustra adds to this the idea that as creators, they should not create "for" or "because" of anyone or anything else but themselves. And while solitude is good for some, it isn't for everyone because "in solitude, whatever one has brought into it grows—also the inner beast." Zarathustra also reminds them to dance with laughter and a light heart, saying, "Lift up your hearts, you good dancers, high, higher!"

Chapter 74: The Song of Melancholy

The cave now seems stuffy and stale to Zarathustra, so he slips outside for a breath of fresh air. However, the old magician seizes on Zarathustra's absence to perform a parody of their host's speeches, singing and playing to a harp for entertainment.

Chapter 75: On Science

Everyone is caught up in the old magician's performance except the conscientious man, who says to him, "Beware when such as you start making speeches and fuss about truth!" The problem is that in listening to the illusion, the higher man loses his freedom, according to the conscientious man. He goes on to state that what he wants from Zarathustra is security, or freedom of fear, which is what he calls "science." At this point, Zarathustra enters and counters with a different motivation for the creation of science by saying, "He [man] envied the wildest, most courageous animals and robbed all their virtues." Zarathustra slips out of the cave once again.

Chapter 76: Among Daughters of the Wilderness

The wanderer/shadow begs Zarathustra to stay with them because "there is much hidden misery here that desires to speak." In an apparent effort to cheer everyone up, the wanderer/shadow reminisces about days gone by when he "loved such Oriental girls" and composed a song with them. He seizes the harp from the magician's hands and "began to sing with a kind of roar" about a charming dancer whose legs go missing.

Chapter 77: The Awakening

The song of the wanderer/shadow is met with a good deal of enthusiasm from the company. Zarathustra is pleased with their merriment, perceiving that even his own spirit of gravity is fleeing with the last light of day. A healing sets over his guests even though Zarathustra is not their physician. But a moment later, he realizes the cave has become silent. Curious, he peeks back inside to see what's going on and finds all the men have surrounded the ass in order to worship the animal.

Chapter 78: The Ass Festival

Zarathustra jumps into the middle of the circle of worshippers and pulls them to their feet saying, "Everyone would judge that with your new faith you were the worst blasphemers or the most foolish of all little old women." The old pope counters with the idea it is "better to adore God in this form than in no form at all!" The excuse given by the wanderer/shadow is that the ugliest man started it. And the conscientious in spirit claims, "I may not believe in God; but it is certain that God seems relatively most credible to me in this form." Zarathustra agrees that in this worship these men have become as children, but tells them, "But now leave this nursery, my own cave, where all childishness is at home today!" And when they again celebrate this festival "invented only by convalescents," Zarathustra asks them to remember him.

Chapter 79: The Drunken Song

The ugliest man is not willing to let go of the festivities even though the hour now approaches midnight. The higher men recognize how they have been healed by having been Zarathustra's guests and want to thank him. Even the ass and the habitually morose soothsayer were said to have danced around Zarathustra. At this, Zarathustra's spirit leaves and his body is held by the higher men. When he is able to speak again, Zarathustra tells them the hour has come for them to "wander into the night." There follows a long speech by Zarathustra praising the beauties of the night.

Chapter 80: The Sign

The following morning, Zarathustra rises alone and greets the rising sun. He leaves his sleeping guests behind inside the cave and takes a walk along the mountain with his eagle and his serpent. He is surrounded by birds so thick he must push them away and is surprised to find his hand land on "a thick warm mane; and at the same time he hear[s] a roar in front of him—a soft, long lion roar." Zarathustra knows the sign he has been waiting for is near. He realizes his final sin is his pity for the higher man, which he has given up. "My children are near, Zarathustra has ripened," he says.


In this final grouping of chapters, Zarathustra overcomes his sense of pity for the "higher men" he gathered into his cave. Given that Nietzsche drew upon Greek philosophical references such as Aristotle, he may have been referring to The Allegory of the Cave, a well-known philosophical study attributed to Socrates in Book 7 of Plato's The Republic (c. 380 BCE). As long as seekers of knowledge remain in the cave, they are likened to a group of people deluded into believing everything they know is real. The comparison to the higher men Zarathustra sends to his cave is apt; they do not leave the cave, and their celebrations are enclosed in it as if to protect them from the larger truth of the outside world. Zarathustra himself, however, finds the cave stifling and periodically goes outside alone for fresh air. The last chapter concludes with Zarathustra outside awaiting the coming of the last metamorphosis of the spirit in the early morning dawn, while his guests continue to slumber.

It was Zarathustra's need to "ripen" that drove him to leave, in part because the life he was engaged in was not helping him move forward in his quest. He needed another point of reference to recognize how his pity springs from his love of anyone who shows any potential for overcoming himself. Having his disciples follow him didn't work because until he could leave them behind, he was unable to see they were placing their hopes in him instead of using him as an example or model for their own journeys. The pity or sympathy he felt for these young men became exhausted when the "honey" of his speeches was spent. Even so, Zarathustra's attachment to his feelings of pity has not been overcome.

Zarathustra was only able to ripen once he could shed his last sin of pity through the test of being with both the individual and the collective "higher man." This process takes place throughout the final 10 chapters of Thus Spoke Zarathustra. The key lies in his ability to perceive how the higher man acts in some instances as a group of individuals and in other instances as a collective of specific individuals with a shared mind.

It is significant to note that in some respects, Zarathustra's guests are individuals and in others, they act as a single entity, a condition expressed in Chapter 71: The Welcome. Zarathustra discovers this as he approaches his cave and realizes the cry of distress he has been following all day is coming from inside. While the ugliest man is a different person than the voluntary beggar, they act together in worship of the ass in Chapter 78: The Ass Festival. This view of the higher man in a collective (quasi-religious) worship ritual provides the turning point of the book, as Zarathustra recognizes an important foreshadowing of the collective distress in Chapter 62: The Cry of Distress. Thus, while Zarathustra found these men under differing circumstances, the cry of distress that first aroused his concern was a collective one that sounded as if it came from a "single" being. The cry continues to draw Zarathustra onward until the group has been gathered at his cave. His pity and subsequent attempt to ease the individual and separate sufferings of each higher man is bearable and almost undetectable. But, the overwhelming pity that hits Zarathustra as he finds his guests collectively trapped in the comforts of merry-making and worship cannot be ignored. He attempts to get out of it himself several times and finally succeeds the morning after. He abandons his guests to their slumber while he waits in the early morning sun with his realized lion, the birds surrounding them, and his eagle and serpent for the imminent third metamorphosis of his spirit—his children of the future.

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