Who Is Nietzsche's Zarathustra?

"Circle" is the sign of the ring that wrings its way back to itself and in that way always achieves recurrence of the same.

Accordingly, Zarathustra introduces himself as an advocate of the proposition that all being is will to power, a will that suffers in its creating and colliding, and that wills itself precisely in this way in eternal recurrence of the same.

With the above assertion we have brought the essence of Zarathustra to definition-as we say at school. We can write the definition down, commit it to memory, and bring it forward whenever the occasion calls for it. We can even corroborate what we bring forward by referring specifically to those sentences in Nietzsche's works which, set in italic type, tell us who Zarathustra is.

In the above-mentioned episode, "The Convalescent," we read (314 ): "You [Zarathustra] are the teacher of eternal return...!"And in the Prologue to the entire work (section 3) stands the following: "I [Zarathustra] teach you the overman."

According to these statements, Zarathustra the advocate is a "teacher." To all appearances, he teaches two things: the eternal return of the same and the overman. However, it is not immediately apparent whether and in what way the things he teaches belong together. Yet even if the connection were to be clarified it would remain questionable whether we are hearing the advocate, whether we are learning from this teacher. Without such hearing and learning we shall never rightly come to know who Zarathustra is. Thus it is not enough to string together sentences from which we can gather what the advocate and teacher says about himself. We must pay attention to the way he says it, on what occasions, and with what intent. Zarathustra does not utter the decisive phrase "You are the teacher of eternal return!" by himself to himself. His animals tell him this. They are mentioned at the very beginning of the work's Prologue and more explicitly at its conclusion. In section 10 we read:

When the sun stood at midday he [Zarathustra] looked inquiringly into the sky-for above him he heard the piercing cry of a bird. And behold! An eagle soared through the air in vast circles, and a serpent hung suspended from him, not as his prey, but as though she were his friend: for she had coiled about his neck.