Can anyone tell me the meaning of the sentence in the following passage?

"And what doeth the saint in the forest?" asked Zarathustra.

The saint answered: "I make hymns and sing them; and in making hymns I laugh and weep and mumble: thus do I praise God.

With singing, weeping, laughing, and mumbling do I praise the God who is my God. But what dost thou bring us as a gift?"

When Zarathustra had heard these words, he bowed to the saint and said: "What should I have to give thee! Let me rather hurry hence lest I take aught away from thee!"--And thus they parted from one another, the old man and Zarathustra, laughing like schoolboys.

When Zarathustra was alone, however, he said to his heart: "Could it be possible! This old saint in the forest hath not yet heard of it, that GOD IS DEAD!"


Does it mean that Zarathustra didn't want to preach or argue with those who have different opinion and teach only those who wanted it? If no, what does the sentence mean?

2 Answers 2


So, after some research on the Internet I've found the possible explanation from Nietzsche's Teaching: An Interpretation of "Thus Spoke Zarathustra" which also resonates with my understanding:

Denying that he spoke of love, Zarathustra says instead that he brings mankind a gift.

Despite his persistence, the old saint is unable to take away Zarathustra's belief in mankind, but his warnings show that he is better acquainted with the ways of the world than Zarathustra, even though he is no lover of mankind. At a loss, finally, in the face of the old saint's insistence that he, a fellow solitary, not go to mankind, Zarathustra asks, in effect, "Why should one stay in solitude?"

When the old saint responds that he maintains his solitude in order to praise God, the com- passionate and gift-giving Zarathustra continues on his way, turning even his separation from the old saint into a gift to man, for he departs so as not to take away from the old saint the belief that makes his solitude possible. In parting they laugh at one another, each knowing the folly of the other's belief, Zarathustra's in mankind, the old saint's in God.


You must read it in context: Zarathustra is the prophet of the "new Nietzschean religion".

In the previous paragraph Zarathustra answers to the old saint that he is coming because "[he] loves mankind" and in order to "bring it [to mankind] gifts".

But the saint is speaking of material gifts, while Zarathustra is bringing to mankind the novel "that GOD IS DEAD!"

We can read it as a critique of traditional religious attitude : we pray God asking for "gifts" (of some sort) and - at the same time - as a critique of ascetic attitudes: leaving the world in search of a "direct contact" with God.

  • Excuse me, but I still don't understand what Zarathustra doesn't want to take from saint/people.
    – Artem
    Commented Apr 6, 2018 at 11:14
  • 1
    @ArtemMalchenko - The saint laughed at Zarathustra, and spake thus: "Then see to it that they accept thy treasures! They are distrustful of anchorites, and do not believe that we come with gifts. And just as at night, when they are in bed and hear a man abroad long before sunrise, so they ask themselves concerning us: Where goeth the thief ?" Commented Apr 6, 2018 at 11:21
  • So in simple words Zarathustra doesn't want to give his knowledge to those who doesn't want to listen.
    – Artem
    Commented Apr 6, 2018 at 11:43
  • @Mauro ALLEGRANZA I agree with what you write. But for me it's not the answer. Because I read the OP's question as follows: Why did Zarathustra not start his mission by telling the old saint "God is dead"? I have no idea of an answer, and I do not find any plausible hint in the commentary by A. Pieper.
    – Jo Wehler
    Commented Apr 6, 2018 at 14:19
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    @JoWehler - I think that we have not to "overload" the dramatized organizetion of N's text: I mean that it is not Spinioza's Ethics; maybe not all sentences must be takern at face value. Commented Apr 6, 2018 at 18:05

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