The Goats

Thor has two goats who pull his cart–Tooth-gnasher and Tooth-grinder.  You can eat them, and as long as you put their bones and hide back in a pile, complete, Thor can make them whole again.  Other than that, I assume that they’re ordinary goats.

But I’ve been watching Mack’s goats with an eye towards Thor, wondering what it was about goats, of all creatures, that would lend them to being associated with Thor.

Frankly, I haven’t yet figured it out.  But I’m having a good time watching the goats.  One thing I noticed about them is that they have a surprising amount of dexterity in their hooves.  I guess it’s the cloven thing going on, but when they’re trying to stand on something they’re unsure about, you can see their hooves wiggling in interesting ways to find purchase.  And they seem to take great joy in climbing up on things, even if it’s just a pile of wood.

It’s interesting to watch them with the horses, because, at one level, they seem to get that the horses are herd animals and they are herd animals and so, as such, they might herd together.  On the other hand, they seem tentative, unsure if they’ll be accepted by the horses, who seem convinced that running off the goats is good fun.

I have yet to figure out how I’m going to smuggle my lone sheep onto the farm.  I could get a sheep that resembled a goat and see if Mack noticed.  Or I could get a sheep with good wool for spinning and just claim it was a weird looking dog…

I don’t know.  We’ll have to see.  I’m going to have to learn how to spin first, I suppose.

13 thoughts on “The Goats

  1. Maybe the goats was the only strong animal the people in the area of the Acropolis could think of that was thor worthy. I don’t know. But I love baby goats and their little baby voices! They sound like children. OK, therefore, goodbye.

  2. Goats are pretty unpredictable, like lightning.

    Also, maybe it’s a bit of a joke. A cart drawn by two bulls was a sacral sign (and one of the emblems of Merovingian kingship later on). Did Thor start out with bulls and get demoted?

  3. Goats are found on mountaintops and have been historically associated with randy behavior. Plus, they were a central protein source in most of the ancient Mediterranean world and a signifier of household wealth — it would have been very good to have a goat that you could eat and then reassemble, sort of like a magical purse.

  4. But Thor wasn’t hanging out around the Mediterranean, was he? The Germans were known for cattle-herding first, and only secondarily for herding pigs, goats, and sheep.

  5. I thought that one of the theories is that Thor is a derivative thundergod from the Mediterranean set of thundergods…maybe not?

  6. Ooooh, this I did not know about. Is there anything good to read on the question? Because that transfer would indeed explain the goats.

  7. Well, I think we have to guess that Thor and the northern European thunder gods and the Mediterranean thunder gods share an ancestor in the sky god of the steppe. In other words, I think the Zeus biography I’m reading would share many early chapters with the Thor biography (and, to some extent, the Tyr biography).

  8. Hmmm. I did a search and found some nice articles on the origin and spread of goat domestication. Do Thor’s goats have any physical peculiarities that get mentioned? Because this article mentions one strange lineage of goats domesticated around 6,000 years ago, found only in Europe and Mongolia, which might be the steppe goats that the steppe deity brought along with him. Or not, of course.

  9. Proto-Indo-European deity research is the new black among classicists, replacing the Icelandic craze of a decade ago. I’ve read about half of David Anthony’s *The Horse, The Wheel, and Language* about early steppes people (enough to be pretty sure that anybody who likes words and poetry would probably like it), but I think I probably got the impression that the sky gods all shared a common lineage from hearing Karen Armstrong on BBC radio plugging her recent book “The Great Transformation.” I haven’t read Armstrong’s book, but it’s on my list of “things unrelated to my research field” that I plan to read this summer.

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