A young shepherd I saw, writhing, gagging, in spasms, his face distorted, and a heavy black snake hung out of his mouth. Had I ever seen so much nausea and pale dread on one face? He seemed to have been asleep when the snake crawled into his throat, and there bit itself fast. My hand tore at the snake and tore in vain; it did not tear the snake out of his throat. Then it cried out of me; "Bite! Bite its head off! Bite!" Thus it cried out of me — my dread, my hatred, my nausea, my pity, all that is good and wicked in me cried out of me with a single cry.
The shepherd, however, bit as my cry counseled him; he bit with a good bite. Far away he spewed the head of the snake — and he jumped up. No longer shepherd. no longer human — one changed, radiant, laughing! Never yet on earth has a human being laughed as he laughed! O my brothers, I heard a laughter that was no human laughter; and now a thirst gnaws at me, a longing that never grows still. My longing for this laughter gnaws at me; oh, how do I bear to go on living! And how could I bear to die now!
Nietzsche - Thus Spoke Zarathustra
"The Vision and the Riddle" ends with a shocking scene where Zarathustra comes upon a shepherd with a snake in his throat. The snake--"the heaviest and the blackest"--could symbolize the choking effects of the slave morality, and, as my students have suggested, the snake's head, which Zarathustra exhorts the shepherd to bite off, could represent the Christian God himself. At the passionate urging of Zarathustra, the shepherd does decapitate the snake and is immediately transformed: "No longer shepherd, no longer human--one changed, radiant, laughing . . . a laughter that was no human laughter."95 After the death of God, there is only eternal recurrence, and this "cosmic" laughter of Hesse's immortals is the only proper emotional response to such a meaningless existence. As Graham Parkes says: "laughter [is] an often necessary concomitant of insight into the way things are."
Cosmic laughter is different from the laughter of the child who is the only being capable of loving herself and embracing every moment without any awareness of the terror of the inevitable return of many similar moments. Cosmic laughter is instead the "Olympian laughter" of the "deeply wounded,"97 those, like Nietzsche, who have suffered greatly, who know eternal recurrence as an "abysmal thought," but who still realize that they must embrace it with a child's acceptance. It is the laughter of the lion, who has come home to Zarathustra's mountain retreat resigned to the futility of all his Nay-saying and protesting-- in short, a reformed Titan.98 It is also the laughter of the Daoist sage or Zen master who says "Yes" to anything and everything in the universe, even though at its core it is a faceless hundun.
Excerpted from N. F. Gier, Spiritual Titanism: Indian, Chinese, and Western Perspectives
Zarathustra, however, remained standing, and just beside him fell the body, badly injured and disfigured, but not yet dead. After a while consciousness returned to the shattered man, and he saw Zarathustra kneeling beside him. "What art thou doing there?" said he at last, "I knew long ago that the devil would trip me up. Now he draggeth me to hell: wilt thou prevent him?"
"On mine honour, my friend," answered Zarathustra, "there is nothing of all that whereof thou speakest: there is no devil and no hell. Thy soul will be dead even sooner than thy body: fear, therefore, nothing any more!"
The man looked up distrustfully. "If thou speakest the truth," said he, "I lose nothing when I lose my life. I am not much more than an animal which hath been taught to dance by blows and scanty fare."
"Not at all," said Zarathustra, "thou hast made danger thy calling; therein there is nothing contemptible. Now thou perishest by thy calling: therefore will I bury thee with mine own hands."
When Zarathustra had said this the dying one did not reply further; but he moved his hand as if he sought the hand of Zarathustra in gratitude.