Short Stories, Irish literature, Classics, Modern Fiction and Contemporary Literary Fiction, The Japanese Novel and post Colonial Asian Fiction, Yiddish Literature, The Legacy of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and quality historical novels are some of my Literary Interests

Sunday, April 8, 2018

A Temptress on Cloven Hooves - A Short Story by Steve Wade-2017

Irish Short Story Month VIII

Link to “A Temptress on Cloven Hoooves” by Steve Wade

A Wide Ranging Q and A with Steve Wade

GOAT SYMBOLISM - from The Kato Association 


The goat has long been a visual aid in symbolic and mythological literature and stories. It has a varied significance: gentleness in one tradition and sensuality in another. Both sexes of the goat symbolize fertility, vitality and ceaseless energy. The he-goat (buck) is the epitome of masculine virility and creative energy, while the female (doe) typifies the feminine and generative power and abundance. Symbolically, the goat can be interchanged with the gazelle or the antelope. The wild goat of the Old Testament and Arabic lore is the Ibex.
The goat was probably, after the dog, the earliest domesticated animal. Goats grazing or at rest, or being milked by a goat-herder, are frequent subjects for idyllic scenes, representing the paradisial state; as such they appear on both pagan and Christian sarcophagi.

There have been many strange beliefs and myths about goats. Oppian says they breathe through their horns, while Varro maintains that they breathe through their ears; Pliny expresses a general belief that they are perpetually feverish. Goat skins were used for water and wine bottles when traveling and camping and as parchment for writing. Goat hairs were woven and the animal provided food and milk. The goat, especially the kid, was a sacrificial animal and was used also as a sin-offering (the Scapegoat.) The he-goat is lust personified, and a goat with a human head depicts depravity.

I am very glad to be able to feature a second story by Steve Wade for ISSM. 

In last month’s story, “The Call of the Sea” Wade drew on a deep feeling for the Irish seacoast to help create the powerful atmosphere of the story.  In just a few pages we were drawn into years of family dynamics.

“A Temptress on Cloven Hooves”” is set on an Irish family farm. (I think our appreciation and enjoyment of this story, I know mine was, will be enhanced by an understanding of the symbolic and mythological meaning of goats.  In my opening text, from The Kato Association, you can get a sense of this.  I had the feeling Wade was having a bit of fun with the goat symbolism.)

As the story opens the sadness on the farm is palatable.  Wade does a wonderful job of letting us see, feel and even smell the farm.  Twelve year old Peter and his mother have not spoken since the funeral of his father.  The father died in accident caused by Velvet, a goat who may have caused the tractor in which the father died.  Velvet loved the father as much as any dog.  Wade describes it all with cinematic precision:

“Twelve-year old Peter makes his way home from school. Already the evenings are getting shorter. Through flared nostrils he pulls in the scented promise of clear frosty days. The type of day Peter’s father used to welcome. A day that wasn’t so cold and wet, or so unbearably hot that a man working the fields and tending his beasts gave praise to the land, his freedom and his god. Those were sentiments his father had expressed often. Peter can still hear his smoky-brown voice: a voice that rolled across the fields, as much a part of the countryside as the neighing of a stallion or the bellowing of a bull.”

It has been decided that Velvet must die for what many think is her role in the father’s death, distracting him so he would lose control of his tractor.  The executioner is to be Alex, known for his enjoyment of cruelty in the slaughtering of animals.  Now the story gets really strange and takes a disquieting turn.  I do not wish to tell to much more of this story as for sure it is worth the few minutes it requires. I read it twice and I would recommend that.

I will share a bit more of the story to expand my suggested goat symbolism and give you a feel for the prose:

“Although nobody was close enough to observe what went wrong that day, some suggested Peter’s father failed to reduce his speed on a slope. Or he shifted gear while going uphill. But the conclusion that most settled upon was that he had swerved to avoid the goat while travelling at too great a speed. Peter had heard the farm hands using strange words to discuss the goat’s involvement. A cloven-hoofed temptress, they called Velvet; a pointy-horned devil luring Peter’s father to his death. One of Satan’s minions sent forth to undermine the noble work of God”

Without offending I think we can see a sexualised view of the goat. 

Wade portrays the to us irrational folk beliefs of the rural persons in the story without condemning them.  I also feel a sense of the emotional repression of the Irish in this marvellous text.

I will continue to follow the work of Steve Wade.  In both of this month’s stores by Wade I have featured for ISSM VIII are  centred on the death of a father.  

Mel u

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