A Horse and Two Goats Summary by RK Narayan
A Horse and Two Goats Summary About the Author
R.K. Narayan (10 October 1906 – 13 May 2001), holds his place among the best known and most widely read Indian novelists who wrote in English. Most of his stories are set in the fictional territory of Malgudi. His first novel ‘Swami and Friends’, was published in 1935. Besides novels, he wrote short stories, travelogues, condensed versions of Indian epics in English, and his memoir. He received numerous awards and adulations during his life time. These include the ‘Sahitya Akademi Award’ in 1958, the Padma Bhushan in 1964, and Padma Vibhushan in 2000. He was also nominated to the Rajya Sabha in 1989. His other important works include ‘Malgudi Days’, ‘The English Teacher’, etc.
A Horse and Two Goats Summary
In, ‘A Horse & Two Goats’, Muni is a poor resident of Kritam, one of the thousands of unobtrusive villages situated in India. There are around thirty houses in the village but only one, the Big House, is built of bricks. The others are made of mud with bamboo thatch. The village has neither running water nor electricity. Muni was once a proud owner of a large flock of sheep and goats, but with time he lost most of the things and now he is the owner of just two scrawny goats. He and his wife have grown quite old now, without any offspring to depend on. They are forced to live in poverty and with insensitive remarks from fellow villagers.
Muni has to run through his credit at all shops in the village. So when he asks his wife to cook drumsticks in a sauce, she asks him to get the ingredients from the shop failing to which she sends him away telling him to fast till the evening. He hopes that she will earn enough money somewhere for an evening meal. Muni then takes his goats to their usual place, a grass spot near the highway. Here Muni sits all day in the shade of the life-sized statue – a horse, rearing next to a fierce warrior – and Muni watches his goats and occasional passing vehicles.
As Muni waits for the time to return home, a yellow station wagon comes down the road and pulls over. A well dressed American in Khaki steps out and asks Muni about the nearest gas station. He looks at the statue and instantly gets attracted to it. Muni takes him for a policeman or soldier. The two begin to converse – two people talking to each other in separate languages, neither understanding the other.
The American is a New York based businessman. He lights a cigarette and offers one to Muni also, then presents his business card which Muni thinks is a warrant and gives a long explanation to prove himself innocent. The American thinks that Muni is the owner of the statue and being highly fascinated with it, shows his desire to buy it. Muni understands that something is being discussed about the statue, so he carries on to explain the myths behind it.
Finally, the American shoves one hundred rupees into Muni’s hand confirming the deal, leaving Muni to wrongly think that he has purchased the goats. He rushes home to give the money to his wife while the American stops a truck, with some help, removes the horse from the pedestal and drives away with his purchase. On the other hand, Muni’s wife does not believe in Muni’s story about how he got such a big amount and her doubts grew even more when the goats return home following Muni.
A Horse and Two Goats Summary Word Meanings:
1. Flourish : Thrive, to grow well
2. Revenue : Tax
3. Sprawled : To spread unevenly
4. Hooped : Bound in a circular manner
5. Grandiose : Impressive
6. Gargoyles : Strangely carved animal
7. Balustrade : Railing
8. Sallied : Set out1 depart
9. Snapped : Broken
10. Miller : One who works in a mill
11. Tethered : Fastened, tied
12. Craving : Longing
13. Imp : A small devil
14. Eloped : Ran away secretly
15. Itinerant : Travelling from place to place
16. Impelled : Urged, forced
17. Mumbled : Muttered
18. Sneered : Smile with dislike
19. Parapet : Alow wall
20. Unobtrusively : Discreetly, unnoticeably
21. Scoundrel : A disreputable person
22. Recoup : To get back
23. Accosted : To approach and speak angrily
24. Cronies : Close friends
25. Lounging : Relaxing
26. Lorded over : Showed power or authority
27. Gawky : Awkward and clumsy
28. Shearing : Cutting hair or wool
29. Elated : Very happy and excited
30. Pestilence : A contagious epidemic disease
31. Scraggy : Being lean and long
32. Progeny : Children, offspring
33. Spurn : To refuse to accept
34. Downcast : Sad and unconfident
35. Meandered : Curved
36. Pedestal : The base of a column or other tall object
37. Reared : Nourished, raised
A Horse and Two Goats Summary Questions and Answers
Compare the relationship between Muni and his wife and relationship between the American and the wife.
We can comprehend a lot of outstanding differences in the two relationships. When Muni was rich, he had enough right to decide and control most of the things in his family. He also lorded over his wife. He had even thrashed her a few times. However, when he loses everything and becomes a poor man, he also loses his rights in the family. He has to obey what his wife orders him. They love each other but poverty makes them emotionless. The relationship of the American and his wife seems to be better than Muni’s relationship, because their financial condition is better than that of Muni.
Ruth, the wife of the American, seems to be a good and understanding wife. As the man expresses, he desire to visit India, the very next day his wife calls the travel agent and tells him to fix the tour. Ruth knows how to make her husband comfortable and free in making most of the decisions. The American is confident of his ability to convince her and also agrees to let his wife have freedom to take her own decisions. Thus, in comparison, these differenced appear because of their financial condition and tradition in marriage.
Examine how cross cultural differences bring out humour in the story, ‘A Horse and Two Goats’.
R.K. Narayan in this story has wonderfully depicted how cultural and linguistic difference between two men can create a humorous situation. Muni is a common Tamil villager in India, who only knows two words in English, ‘Yes’ or ‘No’. He accidently encounters a ‘red-faced’ American whose station wagon stops near Muni, due to lack of gas.
As he was wearing khaki dress, Muni mistakes the man for a policeman who he thinks has come to arrest him for a murder committed recently. Muni wants to escape but is afraid that the man may shoot him. Muni went on to give his introduction in Tamil language which obviously the man did not understand. When the man offered him a cigarette, he was surprised and blows off the lighter the man lighted for him.
When the man gave his card, he shrank away considering it as an arrest warrant. He tries to tell the American that he had no knowledge about the murder and would definitely hand over the culprit if he happens to catch him. He assured him that he must be from the other village. The foreigner understands nothing but just nods his head.
The fun comes as the readers get to know the characters’ concerns while they, themselves utterly fail to understand anything about each other. This makes the conversation humorous and interesting? Again when Muni talks about punishing the thieves, the foreigner thought that Muni was talking about chopping woods with an axe.
The man then pointed to the clay horse and wished to know about it. He found it a masterpiece and showed interest in buying it and carrying it home. He guessed that Muni was the owner as he was sitting under it. Muni, due to misunderstanding, started his story of how the horse would come to life and carry away the good people after the Kali Yuga ends and the world gets destroyed.
When the man offered Muni a hundred rupee note for the horse, Muni feels amused to think that he was asking . for the change. Muni patting the goats makes him feel that he wanted to buy his goats which comes to him as a long awaited offer. Muni took the money and went away and the man went off with the horse by taking help from a passerby.
The fun continues when Muni’s wife accuses him of theft. Muni’s explanation that he had sold the goats to the red-faced man goes in vain as the goats return back, making his wife all the more suspicious.
A Horse and Two Goats Summary Extract Based Questions
Answer the following questions with reference to R.K. Narayan’s short story entitled ‘A Horse and Two Goats’:
The foreigner followed his flock and decided that it would be a sound policy to show an interest in the old man’s pets. He went up casually to them and stroked their backs with every show of courteous attention. Now the truth dawned on Muni. His dream of a lifetime was about to be realised.
(i) What did Muni often dream of ?
(ii) How was the foreigner dressed? Why did Muni feel the urge to run when he first laid eyes on him? What stopped him from doing so?
(iii) Muni assumed that a recent incident had brought this visitor to his village. Give details of this incident
(iv) What was the visitor actually interested in? What did he offer Muni soon after they met? Why did the offer surprise Muni?
(v) Which part of the story do you find most amusing? Give reasons for your answer.
(i) Muni had often dreamt of selling his goats some day and with that money, he wanted to open a small shop with a thatched roof, spreading a gunny sack on the ground with fried nuts, coloured sweets and green coconut displayed on it. Sitting there he would watch towards the hills and quench the thirst of famished highway wayfarers.
(ii) The red-faced foreigner wore khaki clothes making him look like a policeman or a soldier.Muni felt the urge to run away when he first laid eyes on him because he thought that the man was a police officer but could not understand why he was after Muni. He does not run firstly, because he was unable to put his limbs into action readily due to old age, and secondly, for the fear of being chased and shot on running.
(iii) Few weeks ago, a body had been found mutilated and thrown away under a tamarind tree at the border between the villages of Kritan and Kuppam. This caused a lot of talks. So Muni assumed that the man was a policeman who had come to enquire about the murder or may be to arrest him.
(iv) The visitor was actually interested in the stone horse statue. He offered hundred rupees for the horse as he thought that the statue belonged to Muni as he was sitting with it.When the man offered a hundred rupee note, the old man got confused and thought maybe he is asking for change and laughed at the idea of someone asking ‘him’ for a change of a thousand or ten thousand rupee note.
(v) According to me, the most amusing part of the story ‘A Horse and Two Goats’ is towards the end where Muni mistakenly thinks that the foreigner is offering him money for his two goats, though it is actually for the clay horse statue on the pedestal. As the language problem between the two men persists, they never really understand each other. But most wonderfully, Muni convinces himself that he was finally able to understand the matter. In addition to this, the foreigner misleads Muni by showing interest in his pet goats as an act of courtesy.
Read the extract given below and answer the questions that follow.
‘‘But its size did not prevent its giving itself the grandiose name Kritam.”
(i) What is ‘Kritam’? What is the meaning of this name? What is the irony about it?
(ii) Describe the village’Kritam’.
(iii) What was Muni’s daily routine?
(iv) What did Muni eat for breakfast and lunch?
(v) What is known about the drumstick tree?
(i) Kritam was one of the numerous villages in India where the protagonist of the story lived. The word ‘Kritam’ in tamil means ‘coronet’ or ‘crown’.The irony about it is that, the name of the village is contrary to it. Though it meant a crown but in reality it was one of the insignificant villages dotting the map of India, may be the tiniest of all.
(ii) Kritam is one of the smallest of India’s seven hundred thousand villages. There are only thirty houses in the village, most of them with simple thatched huts. The only sophisticated residence in the village is the ‘Big House’, a brick arid cement building from whose well the local villagers get their water. It was painted bright yellow and blue with beautiful carvings of Gods and Gargoyles on its boundary. The other houses were distributed in four streets and Muni the protagonist’s house, was the last house in the fourth street.
(iii) Every morning, Muni use to drive his goats to the highway on the outskirts of the village and let them graze as he sat on the pedestal of a clay statue of a horse. He collected faggots and dry sticks and carried them home for fuel at sunset.
(iv) In the morning, Muni’s wife cooked him millet flour cooked in boiling water with salt. For lunch his wife packed some millet cooked into a little ball to be eaten with raw onion.
(v) The drumstick tree grew in front of his hut from which he sometimes shook down drumsticks to eat. There was no particular owner of the tree but he considered it his as he lived in its shadow. He also tied his goats to the trunk of the tree.
Read the extract given below and answer the questions that follow.
“More likely you are seventy,” he said to Muni. “You also forget that you mentioned a birthday five weeks ago when you wanted castor oil for your holy bath.”
(i) Who is the person talking to Muni? Why does he have to discuss Muni’s age?
(ii) Is Muni finally able to enjoy a meal of drumstick in sauce? What is the reaction of his wife?
(iii) What shows that Muni knew his wife well ?
(iv) Why did Muni prefer to take his goats to the Highway?
(v) Describe the horse statue. What was the legend behind it?
(i) The shopkeeper to whom Muni has gone to buy certain ingredients for the drumstick sauce on credit is talking to Muni. Muni has no money to pay for the items, but tries to convince the shopkeeper to give him on credit by engaging him in conversation and laughing at his jokes. Muni tells him that he will return back the money when his daughter sends him money on his fiftieth birthday. But the shop owner does not believe him as firstly, he has no daughter and secondly, he looked at least seventy while he said he was fifty and he had already mentioned his birthday five weeks ago.
(ii) No, Muni is unable to secure the ingredients for the sauce and tells his wife to sell the drumsticks.His wife told him that there is nothing to eat so he will have to fast till the evening. She ordered him to take his flock of goats for grazing and not to return before sunset.
(iii) Muni’s wife was furious when he came back empty handed. She ordered him to go out empty stomach and not to return before sun set. But Muni knew that if he obeyed her she would somehow manage to get some food for him in the evening, provided that he does not argue with her and anger her further. According to him, her moods always became better by the evening.
(iv) Muni preferred to take his goats to the highway so that he could watch the highway and see the lorries and ‘ buses pass through to the hills, which gave him a sense of belonging to the larger world. He could sit on a pedestal at the base of a clay statue of the horse and also crouch under its belly for shade.
(v) It was a purely white, life-size horse made of baked and burnt clay. There was a pure brocade of red and black lace on its back. Its head was raised in the pose of forelegs prancing in the air with its tail in a loop shape. Beside the horse stood a majestic warrior with scythe like mustachios, bulging eyes and curved nose. The warrior wore a multicoloured sash made of same brocade around his waist. Muni’s grandfather had told him that the horse in the statue was a reference to the mythical horse Kalki, who according-to a tamil legend, will come to life when the world ends and trample all bad men.
Read the extract given below and answer the questions that follow.
“Muni felt he should get up and run away, and cursed his age. He could not readily put his limbs into action.”
(i) Why does Muni wish to run away and from whom?
(ii) Why does he give up the idea of running away?
(iii) What does the foreigner tell about himself?
(iv) What makes the foreigner think that he was keeping Muni from his chopping work? What does he say
about his own chopping skills?
(v) Why does Muni shrink away from the card presented by the foreigner ? What explanation does he offer?
(i) While Muni is sitting on the pedestal, a yellow station wagon coming down the highway, runs out of gas and comes to a stop on the road in front of the statue and a red faced foreigner approaches Muni, enquiring him about a nearby gas station. Muni, unable to understand his language, mistakes him for a police officer because he is dressed in khaki. He believes that the man had come to investigate about a dead body that was found near Kritam few weeks before. So to avoid any sort of trouble, he wishes to run away.
(ii) Firstly, because he was old enough and could not manage to run. Secondly, he thought that if he ran the man could chase or shoot him easily. And more importantly because the man offered him a cigarette to smoke, something he had always wanted to do but couldn’t afford one.
(iii) The foreigner tells Muni that he was a businessman dealing with coffee and how he and his wife Ruth, decided to travel to India on vacation after a power failure in the Empire State Building forced him to work four hours without air conditioning on a hot summer day. This incident makes him take a break from his work and travel to India to know how people live here. His wife had stayed in Srinagar and he is travelling alone.
(iv) In his own language Muni was telling the foreigner how the villagers lost their cattle, either they are killed by jackals or cheetahs or stolen by someone from the other village. And once the thief is caught after when the priest at the temple sees his face in the camphor flame, he is minced like meat. The foreigner takes his gesture for chopping and believes he his delaying him in his work and he offers to chop for him as he enjoyed it, and on Sundays he did nothing but chopped wood for fireplace.
(v) Muni shrunk away from the card because he thought that the foreigners in khaki was a policeman and he was presenting a warrant to arrest him. A dead body was discovered under a tamarind tree at the border between Kritam and Kuppam, a few weeks before, which had to lot of gossip and suspicions. Thus, Muni explains, swearing on God, that he had no idea of the case and the murderer will not escape, as God is watching everything. He says that the people of the other village could go to any extent.
Read the extract given below and answer the questions that follow.
“Tell me, will you accepta hundred rupees or not for the horse? I’d love to take the whiskered soldier also but no space
for him thisyear.”
(1) What made the foreigner believe that Muni was the owner of the horse?
(ii) How does the ‘state of mutual mystification’ complete?
(iii) How was Munis dream of a lifetime about to be realized?
(iv) How does the foreigner manage to carry away the statue?
(v) How did Muni’s wife react to “the fortune for the day”? How did Muni treat the goats who came back home?
(i) The foreigner believed that Muni was the owner of the horse by the way he sat on its pedestal in a similar manner as the other souvenir sellers in India.
(ii) Finally, when the foreigner hands over a hundred rupee note to Muni, he first thinks he is asking for a change and suggests that he should go to the village money lender. But when the foreigner stoops down to pet his goats, he mistakenly believes that the man is inclined to buy his goats. Elated, Muni accepts the money and leaves the goats behind for himThe American too is happy that he has been successful in buying the horse. This ends their mutual mystification.
(iii) When Muni understoods that the foreigner wanted to buy his goats, he felt extremely happy because he had reared them up in the hope of selling them someday and with the money he wished to open a small shop beside the highway and sell fried nuts, coloured sweets, and green coconut for the thirsty passerby. This was his ‘dream of a lifetime’ which he could see getting realised soon.
(iv) After Muni is gone with the money, the foreigner believes that he is gone to fetch some help and begins to wait. When a truck came downhill, he took help of a couple of men to detach the horse from its pedestal and place it in his station wagon. He paid them five rupees each and also purchased some gas for his truck and drove away.
(v) Muni’s wife suspects him of stealing the money, and says she will go to her parent’s home because she does not want to be there when the police apprehends him. At the moment, the two goats return making his wife more suspicious about Muni. When Muni saw the goats that had followed him home without his knowledge, he cursed them and shouted at them asking where their new owner was and that they should know that they belonged to him and why did they come back.