USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘Goats’
Proverbs

The Old Goats Have the Hardest Horns

My informant is a friend and sophomore student at USC from Norway. She lived for the majority of her life in Norway before moving and living in Thailand, Dubai, and Namibia until she attended college. Having lived for over a decade in Norway, Norwegian is her primary language.

 

“De gamle bukkene har de stiveste hornene, which, this basically means eh…it directly translates into ‘the old goats have the hardest horns’. Meaning that eh…the older you get the wiser you get.”

 

Analysis: This proverb speaks to a relatively universal idea that age brings wisdom. It is widely accepted in many cultures that the older members of the community are the ones that are most respected and have the most knowledge. My informant told me that her parents used to tell her this when she was younger in instances where she was impatient, made poor decisions, or was acting “smart”.

 

Legends
Narrative

The Goat Room

At Williams College in Massachusetts the frat system was dissolved in the 1960s but all the old frathouses still exist and have been converted into dorms.  They are identifiable as frat houses because they still feature the fraternities old symbols on the wall.  One of the most interesting hazing traditions that this frat took part in was at the end of the initiation process the current members of the frat would take all the prospective members into this room.  They would then bring in a goat and tell the prospectives they had one final task to complete before becoming a member.  Any man who sought entry into the house would have to have sexual intercourse with the goat that night.  The brothers would then leave and come back in the morning.  When they returned they would ask the prospective members who had “fucked the goat.”  Some would step forward.  Instead of lauding them for their dedication to the fraternity these men would be chastised in front of the group for their blind following of such a vile order.  They would be asked to leave and not admitted into the fraternity.  Those who had refused to have intercourse with the goat would be lauded for their strong character and offered a spot in the frat.

I went to visit the informant at her college and we participated in a 24 hour theater festival.  We were rehearsing in the goat room and I noted that I recognized the symbol on the wall as a frat symbol.  My friend and the other girl with us then proceeded to tell me the full story.

I think this story is very interesting because it plays with the expectations of fraternity culture.  You expect the brothers to come back and kick out those who refused to follow orders but in fact the opposite is true.  However the act still portrays fraternities in a negative light.  The prospective members underwent a traumatic experience and in the end they were not accepted.  This is perhaps even more traumatizing than following orders that lead to acceptance.  Either way the story prizes individual thinking over a group mentality.  It is also interesting to note that this story exists in a school where fraternities do not.  The story is probably making a commentary on the evils of the fraternity system and how the school is better off without them.

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