Two Goats Crossing the Bridge

This is my translated version. Again, it is usually spoken in Mandarin, but I cannot seem to remember the exact words. So the story goes, there’s a black and white goat on opposite sides of a river. They both want to get to the other side; however, there is only one bridge that is wide enough to fit only one goat at a time. At this point, there’s two ways the story could go. In the first way, both goats try to attempt to cross the bridge at the same time, then because the bridge is too small both goats end up falling into the river and dying. In the second way, the white goat realizes that in order to cross, it will have to let the black goat cross first. This way, both goats make it to the other side safely.

The informant is a student at USC who is majoring in Biology and Psychology and planning to enter medical school in the Fall of 2012. We’ve shared a number of science course together and we often meet on a number of occasions to talk about school and life issues A big part of her driving force has been the morals she was taught as a little girl. Being part of a Chinese school during her early childhood has allowed her to understand the customs and beliefs that are unique to that culture. She informed me that a number of the tales that she was taught at Chinese school were performed for the purpose of teaching lifelong messages that could apply to numerous situations, one of them being about two goats which cross a bridge. The tale was meant to portray that in the instance of conflict between two individuals, the one who yields to the other is indicative of the better person.

One restriction is that the informant could not recite the proverb/saying in Mandarin, because she could not remember. The informant provided a translated version in English.

Like most folk tales (a.k.a marchen), there appears to be some pedagogical aspect to “Two Goats Crossing the Bridge.” I believe this particular tale follows the principle to “think before we act.” Our parents often tell us to think before we act, so that we don’t act solely on our emotions which can lead us to make haste decisions that are sometimes irrational. Humans have the ability to problem solve, which makes humans unique to most non-human organisms. And it is by these means that we are able to decide which situation is best in the event that we are confronted with problems (or life-and-death scenarios). Also, the use of coat color (white and black) seems to distinguish the two goats based on the yin and yang concept. The white goat in this instance can be perceived as the “good” or the most rational entity, which utilizes the ability to rationalize to its advantage in order to produce the better outcome.