In 1973, the Goat faced an uncertain destiny.
December 2, 2017 10:29 AM   Subscribe

Dear friends, family, and farm animals: the Gävle Goat has been erected for 2017. Since the 1960's the Swedish town of Gävle has erected a giant (13 meters tall and 7 meters long) Yule Goat constructed of straw over a Swedish pine frame. Nearly every year, the goat has been destroyed, usually via arson. Will 2017 be one of the vanishingly rare years that the Gävle Goat survives the holiday season? Keep up with the Gävlebocken Twitter to find out.
posted by angeline (74 comments total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
 
I feel that 1979 has quite the untold story:

In 1979, someone burned the goat even before he was put up. Another goat was built and impregnated, but also that one was sabotaged and destroyed
posted by nubs at 10:36 AM on December 2, 2017 [2 favorites]


🔥?
posted by sebastienbailard at 10:40 AM on December 2, 2017


My husband made a Twitter account last year solely to follow the Gävle goat.
posted by heatherlogan at 10:40 AM on December 2, 2017 [1 favorite]


Another goat was built and impregnated,

The material was impregnated with fire retardant.
posted by save alive nothing that breatheth at 10:41 AM on December 2, 2017 [6 favorites]


Yes, that became clear in the description of the fate of a later goat. At any rate, pretty much every year is intriguing in terms of what happens to the goat.
posted by nubs at 10:47 AM on December 2, 2017


Whatever the goat was impregnated with adds to the eldritch pagan ritual aspect; the great cycle of life and death, and all that.
posted by acb at 11:36 AM on December 2, 2017 [2 favorites]


So why do people set it on fire? Is it like, "fuck you government?" Do people hate the goat?
posted by 80 Cats in a Dog Suit at 11:37 AM on December 2, 2017


I know it's Christmas season when he appears in my IG feed.

🎵🎶 The most wonderful time of the year! 🎵🎶
posted by computech_apolloniajames at 11:42 AM on December 2, 2017 [4 favorites]


I imagine a lot of it is cultural transmission, a bit like the Werther Effect or the “happy slapping” fad among delinquent youth in Britain in the 00s. The Gävle Goat has been torched in past years, therefore the possibility is in people's minds. Some proportion of the population would have been inclined to go out and torch it for a lark, and may feel less inhibited in knowing that it's somewhat of a scofflaw tradition. Also, if you don't do it, chances are, somebody else will, so what are you waiting for?
posted by acb at 11:43 AM on December 2, 2017 [1 favorite]


December starts out so great... Whamaggedon, Gälve Goat... what will burn first? The goat or my ears?
posted by bigendian at 11:49 AM on December 2, 2017 [2 favorites]


No Gälve Goat post is complete without a link to the webpage with the live webcam. You too can keep an eye on the goat, 24/7!

Thanks for making this post. I've made it in years past, and totally forgot this year.
posted by hippybear at 12:11 PM on December 2, 2017 [5 favorites]


Also required: The Billy Goat, by The Refreshments.
posted by hippybear at 12:14 PM on December 2, 2017


80 Cats - as far as I can tell, people do not hate the goat. It's just that burning the goat to the ground is a rather more anti-authoritarian holiday tradition. People being cheerfully loutish in the spirit of the season (often loaded with the season's spirits) and doing things despite how much anyone tells them not to.

It's even more traditional than nice orderly straw goats.
posted by HypotheticalWoman at 12:22 PM on December 2, 2017 [2 favorites]


So why do people set it on fire? Is it like, "fuck you government?" Do people hate the goat?

If every year for the last 50 years you build a wooden goat, and nearly every year for the last 50 years somebody burns it down, it's not "somewhat of a scofflaw tradition." It is simply a tradition, enshrined for over a generation.

Frankly, if I were the mayor of Gävle or whatever, I'd be tempted to skip the uncertainty and just ceremoniously burn it the moment it's finished. That would take all the fun out of it, of course, so I probably wouldn't. If they really wanted to avoid this they'd build a metal goat, or make lots of little goats, or do anything to change the status quo. They aren't going to do that, of course, because it's a tradition.
posted by Mr.Encyclopedia at 12:24 PM on December 2, 2017 [1 favorite]


It needs some kind of heat-triggered device that when the goat is lit afire, the device plays prerecorded screams of highly theatrical agony.

oh! or even better, the program that janet runs when you go to press the reset button
posted by poffin boffin at 12:42 PM on December 2, 2017 [12 favorites]


AFAIK, the authorities take a very dim view of this tradition, and arsonists have been fined and jailed in the way that somebody maliciously setting fire to something that wasn't supposed to burn would be.

They also post guards to make sure that one can't just run up to it with a cigarette lighter and do the deed. One year, the arsonists used fire arrows, and I think at other times, the torching of the goat may have been a multi-stage operation, involving first disabling security systems.
posted by acb at 12:44 PM on December 2, 2017 [4 favorites]


I had never heard of this, and it is delightful. Flagged as fantastic!
posted by the primroses were over at 12:45 PM on December 2, 2017


The Gävle Goat is my favorite sign of Christmas. And whomever they have running their Twitter and Instagram does a fantastic job embodying the spirit of the goat - proud, tall, friendly, and if (when) the burn comes, give a cheery "farewell till next year!"
posted by jazon at 12:48 PM on December 2, 2017 [2 favorites]


All of this makes one wonder how one would defeat the authorities and torch the goat today. I was thinking perhaps a small drone, rigged up to overload the lithium-ion batteries Samsung Galaxy-style once above the target, plunging onto it in flames. Perhaps empty a canister of petrol onto it immediately before doing so.
posted by acb at 12:51 PM on December 2, 2017


honestly the fire arrows were fucking metal and should be the gold standard of destructive public mayhem
posted by poffin boffin at 12:52 PM on December 2, 2017 [13 favorites]


If Sweden ever ends up hosting the Olympics, an inflatable straw goat must feature in the final phases of the torch ceremony.
posted by acb at 12:55 PM on December 2, 2017 [3 favorites]


I'm certainly not arguing that because this is traditional the authorities secretly want it to happen. All the best traditions are anti-authority and make little sense.

Actually, I think a better idea would be one year use some other material, like PVC which won't openly burn on its own, as the "straw" and watch people merely singe and blacken the goat. You'd need an M2A1-7 flamethrower to effectively burn a PVC goat, which in turn might be the only way to top fire arrows.
posted by Mr.Encyclopedia at 12:56 PM on December 2, 2017 [2 favorites]


A drone can carry a fire poi.
posted by save alive nothing that breatheth at 12:58 PM on December 2, 2017


A drone already carries an incendiary explosive charge, i.e., a lithium battery. And if the drone is painted black and not on fire until a second before it ignites the goat, that's all the better for not getting caught/not being stopped.
posted by acb at 1:03 PM on December 2, 2017


Yes, because drones are silent and the brightly lit traffic area in which the goat is planted won't show black very well.
posted by hippybear at 1:05 PM on December 2, 2017


now i want a swedish heist movie like ocean's 11 wherein a gang of 11 criminal friends join together to either protect or burn the goat.
posted by poffin boffin at 1:07 PM on December 2, 2017 [10 favorites]


Yes, because drones are silent and the brightly lit traffic area in which the goat is planted won't show black very well.

In December, it gets dark early in Sweden. And a small, dark drone would be hard to spot, even if the entire area was bathed in a wash of Stålenhagian neon.
posted by acb at 1:11 PM on December 2, 2017


obviously if this movie already exists pls refer me to it immediately
posted by poffin boffin at 1:12 PM on December 2, 2017


now i want a swedish heist movie like ocean's 11 wherein a gang of 11 criminal friends join together to either protect or burn the goat.

They can have several Skarsgårds playing characters on various sides (an vaguely Carlos-the-Jackalesque international goat-arsonist, a police detective demoted from Stockholm to regional crimes in Gävle for some indiscretion, and so on); perhaps get Alicia Vikander in there as well. And if it's successful, David Fincher can do an English-language remake, also set and filmed in Gävle.
posted by acb at 1:18 PM on December 2, 2017 [5 favorites]


And a small, dark drone would be hard to spot, even if the entire area was bathed in a wash of Stålenhagian neon.

Like, there's literally a live-stream of the goat, if you want to see how well-lit it is.
posted by hippybear at 1:31 PM on December 2, 2017


Goats are ruminants :) ppl should be nice to the goat 😴
posted by gucci mane at 1:37 PM on December 2, 2017 [3 favorites]


Looks pretty dark to me; especially looking up at the sky. A matt-black drone would be pretty hard to spot until it got right up to the goat.
posted by acb at 1:37 PM on December 2, 2017


When the goat burns down, we all know acb did it.
posted by hippybear at 1:40 PM on December 2, 2017 [1 favorite]


Also there's only like 6h of daylight there now, that's a lot of dark hours in which to engage in firey tomfoolery.
posted by poffin boffin at 1:40 PM on December 2, 2017


update google translate tells me the word i should use is "busstreck"
posted by poffin boffin at 1:42 PM on December 2, 2017 [1 favorite]


Wasn't Buss Trek the failed Swedish SF TV show from the 60s?
posted by hippybear at 1:43 PM on December 2, 2017 [6 favorites]


When the goat burns down, we all know acb did it.

Damn!
posted by acb at 2:06 PM on December 2, 2017 [1 favorite]


Every year I cheer for the goat to make it. Team Gävle Goat!
posted by Kattullus at 3:10 PM on December 2, 2017 [7 favorites]


Me, too, Kattullus. Now that I'm moving back to Sweden, even more so. I think the folks who burn down the goat are buttheads. There, I've said it.
posted by Bella Donna at 3:12 PM on December 2, 2017 [6 favorites]


I always root for the goat. Always. Even while the live stream plays in a background window and I wonder if I'm going to see it go up in flames while I'm watching.
posted by hippybear at 3:23 PM on December 2, 2017 [2 favorites]


If the goat makes it, what does that portend? Like, is there some Lovecraftian type shit that goes down somewhere in the world?
posted by nubs at 3:27 PM on December 2, 2017


Go Go Goat!
posted by GenjiandProust at 3:34 PM on December 2, 2017 [2 favorites]


If the goat makes it, what does that portend?

A lower-than-normal year of arson in Sweden.
posted by hippybear at 3:40 PM on December 2, 2017 [12 favorites]


How old is the camera they're using on the website? The crappy dynamic range (i.e., any lights being blotches of #FFF white) suggest a consumer webcam from the early 00s.
posted by acb at 4:40 PM on December 2, 2017


Wait, what? You want them to update their "it only reffeshes ever 15 seconds or more" webcam???
posted by hippybear at 4:51 PM on December 2, 2017


At least if the framerate is that low, they could take a few exposures and tonemap them into a HDR image.
posted by acb at 4:55 PM on December 2, 2017


I suggest you content the city council or whomever runs the webcam. MetaFilter can't help you with your complaints.
posted by hippybear at 5:02 PM on December 2, 2017 [4 favorites]


There are two guards and a dog under the goat now, are they always close by? Or is this a special checkup? I guess it is about bar closing time on a Saturday night in Sweden. Go Goat! Live until Monday!
posted by dness2 at 5:28 PM on December 2, 2017 [1 favorite]


Two drones, first one with hot grease or pitch, second one with flares.

Or just one drone with thermite.
posted by leotrotsky at 5:39 PM on December 2, 2017


No burning the Goat! Don't give 'em ideas!

(and quit blowing your alibis!)
posted by angeline at 5:46 PM on December 2, 2017


Are fireworks in the hands of non-professionals legal in Sweden the way they are in the UK (and the way they're not in Australia)? I have no idea if a barrage of shooting stars aimed horizontally may be a workable substitute for a flamethrower when the target is a straw goat, though it seems potentially plausible.
posted by acb at 5:57 PM on December 2, 2017


I'm pretty sure roman candles were used to take out the goat at some point.
posted by hippybear at 6:25 PM on December 2, 2017


why do people set it on fire?

To demonstrate conclusively that they are the reason we can't have nice things.
posted by flabdablet at 6:41 PM on December 2, 2017 [7 favorites]


I only know of it from the internet so it's not in my tradition yet I'd quite like to see the Gävle Goat for real one year. Before the burning happens. And maybe during, since I'm there and all.
posted by I'm always feeling, Blue at 7:04 PM on December 2, 2017 [1 favorite]


I'm pretty sure roman candles were used to take out the goat at some point.

The Romans never got that far north, although one of their enemies noted “The Romans burn a goat and call it peace.”
posted by GenjiandProust at 7:52 PM on December 2, 2017 [3 favorites]


It's the happiest, most heart-warming time of the year! Will it survive? Will it be taken out by a flaming bobsled? Will I get a full month of my favorite game (Which spectators are discussing how they'd take it out?)?

Last year (or 2 years ago? Time has slid together like a puddle), it survived to go on a tour of China after the season.

I really liked the picture on the twitter feed of the pre-assembled goat (so much I posted in the sq thank you thread!).
posted by julen at 8:30 PM on December 2, 2017


Also, if you don't do it, chances are, somebody else will, so what are you waiting for?

I am exactly this miscreant. If my town erected a giant straw goat for the first time, it would never occur to me to torch it. But if long tradition had shown that the goat was going to burn regardless then, dammit, I would want to be the one holding the match.
posted by 256 at 9:37 PM on December 2, 2017 [2 favorites]


The Local has a rundown on the 5 oddest attacks on the goat. One of them done by an American tourist with Swedish "friends" who gave him some bad information supposedly.
posted by Bella Donna at 10:00 PM on December 2, 2017 [1 favorite]


Will it be taken out by a flaming bobsled?

*freezes*

Ummmm, BRB, I have some shopping to do.
posted by Ender's Friend at 9:11 AM on December 3, 2017 [1 favorite]


To demonstrate conclusively that they are the reason we can't have nice things.

We're not talking about the Library of Alexandria here - I'm pretty sure the Goat's purpose for existing is to burn up with a beautiful light and flame.

We just can't agree on when this should happen.
posted by sebastienbailard at 12:46 PM on December 3, 2017 [1 favorite]


IIRC, most rubbish within transport distance of Sweden is incinerated, generating electricity (Sweden's waste incineration system is so efficient that they import waste from abroad). I'm guessing that that would be the ultimate fate of the handful of Gävle goats that survive to the end. In which case, the goat will burn anyway, though if nobody intervenes and it happens as the system says it should, it will be a lonely end for it, with nobody getting joy from its flames (though some people getting electricity). So the choice is really: rational, quintessentially Nordic bureaucratic efficiency, or atavistic, pagan festivity.
posted by acb at 2:34 PM on December 3, 2017 [1 favorite]


I'm pretty sure the Goat's purpose for existing is to burn up with a beautiful light and flame

I feel the same way about Christmas trees, but that doesn't give me the right to pop over to your place and set fire to your living room.
posted by flabdablet at 4:40 PM on December 3, 2017 [1 favorite]


https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Straw_man
A straw man is a common form of argument and is an informal fallacy based on giving the impression of refuting an opponent's argument, while refuting an argument that was not presented by that opponent. One who engages in this fallacy is said to be "attacking a straw man".
posted by sebastienbailard at 5:21 PM on December 3, 2017


We're not talking about the Library of Alexandria here - I'm pretty sure the Goat's purpose for existing is to burn up with a beautiful light and flame.

We just can't agree on when this should happen.


I bet it's really nice go outside on a cold winter night once a year, get together with the members of your community and have a bonfire. That sounds great, I would look forward to that. That sounds even better to me than some dude who really wants to yell "First!"
posted by ActingTheGoat at 6:27 PM on December 3, 2017 [3 favorites]


We just can't agree on when this should happen.

I generally think that Solstice night is the appropriate night for large fires.
posted by hippybear at 9:13 PM on December 3, 2017 [2 favorites]


Apparently as a preventative measure the Goat blocks you on twitter if you tweet 🔥 at it.
posted by sebastienbailard at 11:56 PM on December 3, 2017 [10 favorites]


Within the last hour he/she/it* tweeted an image showing fireworks in the background. The picture probably foreshortens things, but are they* just trying to get it over with? - And they* replied (in English?) to their own tweet "Fireworks are okey from far distance. And I trust my crew"

*The twitter account is in the Goat's own voice, and I'm unsure of what personal pronoun the Goat prefers.
posted by achrise at 11:05 AM on December 4, 2017 [1 favorite]


Tom Scott has a video about the goat; last year's thread.
posted by yuwtze at 2:36 PM on December 4, 2017 [1 favorite]


The twitter account is in the Goat's own voice

What I'm wondering is: if/when someone does succeed in igniting the goat, will the Twitter account acknowledge it? If so, what will the tone be like: will it be something like “Is it suddenly hot in here” followed by “Ow, my legs!”, or something more frivolous like “Hey baby, I'm smokin' hot! #litlikeagoat”?
posted by acb at 5:12 PM on December 4, 2017


The picture probably foreshortens things, but are they* just trying to get it over with?

And now they seem to have cranked the gain on the camera to the point where the goat looks incandescent.
posted by acb at 9:47 AM on December 5, 2017


Yeah, it's confusing... every time I check back in I think "wait, is it on fire??"

Also, I think a powerful laser (or large magnifying glass) would be a fun way of getting things started this year...
posted by Grither at 10:51 AM on December 5, 2017


This tweet conversation just makes me smile.

"Goat otay?"
"Goat okay."
posted by chainsofreedom at 9:47 AM on December 10, 2017 [2 favorites]


The Guardian has a 20-minute documentary about the goat and those who would burn it (represented by an anonymous voiceover and footage of someone making fire arrows). Also, the choice of music, by Swedish psychedelic rock band Goat, is inspired.
posted by acb at 6:49 AM on December 15, 2017


THE GOAT SURVIVED!
posted by merriment at 7:06 AM on December 30, 2017 [8 favorites]


« Older “We are in a golden age in HIV vaccine science.”   |   although my voice was very unlike the soft music... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments