Stories serve all kinds of purposes. Some entertain, some excite, some comfort, and others teach. The story I’d like to share with you today serves as a moral story, designed to teach you something about life in an entertaining way. I recently came across ‘The Story of the Priest and His Goat’, and I’ve been thinking about it ever since.
As I retell the story in my own way, I’d like you to think about what the story means to you and what you can learn from it. Isn’t that the beauty of stories? Everybody can get something different out of them, and I’d love to hear your own thoughts in the comments below if you’re willing to share. For now, though, enjoy the following story…
Once Upon A Time...
There once lived a Priest from a small village known for his religious devotion and kind heart. But the Priest was not perfect. His heart was full, but his mind was often empty, and his innocence and naivety were well known by all. For the most part, though, his fellow villagers respected the man for his religious rituals. Many would leave gifts as payment for his services.
One day, after a particularly long ceremony with a wealthy villager, the Priest was given a goat as a way of a thank you. Grateful for such a generous gift, the Priest stammered his thanks as he threw the goat over his shoulder to carry back to his home on the outskirts of the village.
The goat was heavy; such was the wealth of the villager. Still, the Priest continued through the market square, past the village well, and out towards the long stretch of road that would eventually take him home.
A Cunning Plan...
Unbeknownst to the innocent Priest, three thieves had been watching him struggle with the goat towards the village edge. These three thieves knew of the Priest’s naivety and started to hatch a plan.
Never ones to work to pay their way in life, the thieves developed a cunning plan to steal the goat from the Priest. The goat was fat and would easily feed the three thieves for the next week. But they also knew that the Priest was much-loved amongst the villagers, so if they were to steal the goat, they would have to do so by fooling the Priest, lest they be rounded up by the villagers and prosecuted.
After a moment’s more whispering, the three thieves split up. They sprinted along shortcuts that would take them to three different positions along the way of the Priest.
Once all three were in position, they waited…
As soon as the Priest reached the first thief’s position, a cunning man emerged from the bend ahead and, smiling at the Priest, said, ‘Sir, I have to ask – why do you carry a dog on your shoulders? Surely it is trained enough to walk beside you?’
Confused, the Priest replied, ‘A dog? My dear man, can’t you see that this is a goat? It was given to me not a moment ago!’
Still smiling, the thief continued, ‘I can assure you, Sir, that what you are carrying is a dog. I’m sorry you don’t believe me.’ Then, leaving the Priest rooted to the spot in surprise, the thief continued down the path without looking back.
The Priest looked at the goat upon his shoulders carefully for a moment, shook his head, and then continued down the road, muttering about childish tricks.
Eventually, the Priest reached the second thief’s position. A young woman emerged from behind a sandbank off the side of the road and said, ‘Good evening, might I ask why you’re carrying a dead calf on your shoulders? Surely you have a horse and cart for that?’
Perplexed by the woman’s words, the Priest replied, ‘A dead calf? My dear lady, can’t you see that this is a goat? How could you mistake a dead calf for a living goat?’
Unperturbed by the Priest’s words, the woman went on, ‘I am sorry Sir, but it is you that is mistaken. What you are carrying on your shoulders is clearly a dead calf. Either you are playing tricks on me, or you simply don’t know what a calf looks like. Good day.’
And with that, the thief continued on the road without looking back.
This time the Priest became more concerned. How could two different people claim the goat on his shoulders was a dog and a calf? It made no sense. With his confusion only growing, the Priest had no choice but to continue on his path toward home.
After only a short time, the Priest reached the third thief’s position, and when he did, an older gentleman walked toward him with a look of concern on his face. With a laugh in his voice when he spoke, the man said, ‘Sir, whatever are you doing? Carrying a donkey upon your shoulders makes you look like the village laughing stock!’
At this, the Priest really began to panic. First a dog, then a calf, and now a donkey? That was it: The goat must have been some sort of ghost that could morph into different creatures!
Frightened to have been carrying such a thing, the Priest hurled the demonic creature onto the roadside and ran toward home as fast as he could.
The Priest didn’t hear the laughter of the three thieves as he ran along the road to his home but laugh they did.
‘What a fool!’ the cunning man giggled.
‘How stupid!’ the young woman laughed.
Once the older gentleman had dried his eyes from laughing so hard, he said, ‘Shall we take our goat home and enjoy a feast?’
And so they did.
The Moral of the Story
I think there are many things you can take from this story, so I’d love to hear your thoughts below. For me, though, the moral of the story is more complex than what I had initially thought when reading it for the first time.
Initially, I thought the moral of the story was simply to not believe everything you are told. And yes, this is a great moral because there is so much information and misinformation out there that if you believed everything you were told by different people about a topic, you’d never really have a well-informed opinion about anything. But then I thought about the story some more, and actually, I came up with a different moral that I’ll be taking away from it.
For me, this story is about being confident in your own beliefs. It’s about having a strong sense of who you are and what you believe, not allowing anybody who comes into your life to change that or push you towards a different path. Change is good as you learn new things, and we should never set opinions in stone. But we shouldn’t be easily influenced by others around us either.
The Priest was easy to manipulate in this story because he didn’t have a firm set of beliefs or confidence in what he knew to be true. That’s why the thieves could convince him that the goat on his shoulders were all those different animals.
Ultimately, the moral of the story is that you have to stand for something, or you’ll fall for anything. So, look at where you are in your life right now. How confident are you in what you believe? How can you make sure that you aren’t open to influence by others – that you are your own person with your own thoughts and feelings that are just as valid as those around you?
If you’re struggling to answer those questions, now might be a good time to reflect on ‘The Story of the Priest and His Goat’ as I have done, and try to figure out what you stand for so you don’t fall for anything else…