The Dangers of Trusting a Goat With a Secret

The name of this post is the name of a chapter from The Hunchback of Notre Dame but I reckon Victor Hugo could, and indeed should, have used that as the title of the book.

One of the main themes is the love of Quasimodo, the hunchback of the title, for La Esmerelda, a beautiful Romani street dancer. But arguably more important is her love for Captain Phoebus, a handsome soldier with an unpleasant personality. This infatuation doesn’t end well and causes her an awful lot of problems, but it isn’t the reason she gets found guilty of witchcraft.

It’s the goat.

[A] pretty little white goat, a nimble, lively, glossy creature, with gilt horns, gilt hoofs, and a gilt collar.

Djali is clearly a smart goat and has been well trained, for example, to do hilarious impressions of local politicians to the delight of (most of) the crowd and to spell ‘PHOEBUS’ out of letters carved on small pieces of box-wood. Also, when asked what month, day of the month, and hour of the day it is, she can tap the right number of times on a tambourine.

(Which sounds like witchcraft to me, how on earth can you train a goat to do that?)

Unfortunately, when La Esmerelda is put on trial, Djali is brought out as a second prisoner and seeing the goat perform these tricks convinces the court of witchcraft – especially when she spells out the name of La Esmerelda’s secret crush. That plus a bit of torture gets La Esmerelda to confess that she had participated

[…] in the feasts, sabbaths, and practices of hell, with daemons, sorcerers, and witches … [and] ha[d] seen the ram, which Beelzebub displays in the clouds to summon his children to their sabbath, and which is only seen by sorcerers […] [and] had commerce with the devil in the shape of a goat.

To me, all that is quite a jump from getting a goat to move bits of wood around with its foot, but there you go.

(Unless otherwise stated, I get a small commission if you buy through one of these links)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Create your website with
Get started
%d bloggers like this: