The Goatman is an important character in The Unnameables. He provides most of the comic relief, and also kicks off the crisis that puts Medford at risk but eventually improves his life.
The Goatman has horns and hooves. He wears a purple robe, and walks with a staff. He eats the table linens. He can call down the wind, but he can’t control it.
Where did the ideas behind the Goatman come from? Three answers are below. Two are true and one is a lie. A signed copy of The Unnameables to the first poster to guess the lie.
1. My partner Rob Shillady invented Medford Runyuin as a cartoon character when he was just graduated from art school, and added the Goatman as a sidekick. The Goatman idea supposedly came from the Elizabethan narrative poem The Faerie Queene, even though I refuse to believe Rob read any part of it. In the poem, a group of goatmen (satyrs) rescue the heroine, and their leader helps her reach paradise. In Rob’s version, the Goatman and his people live in a fantasy world with a bunch of naked nymphs. I conducted a nymph-ectomy before stealing the character for my book.
2. My partner Rob Shillady spent part of his childhood in Washington, D.C., where there has been a persistent urban myth about the Maryland Goatman. This goatman supposedly lives in the woods of Prince George’s County and stalks lovers’ lanes. (At least one of his stories borrows from the urban legend about “The Hook”). Some tales identify him as just a crazy old man, but others insist he is part-human, part goat, the result of government genetic experiments. These tales resonated with Rob, and he cleaned them up to create an entertaining sidekick for Medford.
3. In college, I read Friedrich Nietzsche’s The Birth of Tragedy, which says that Greek tragedy is the perfect art form because of the way it combines the Apollonian and the Dionysian. (Meaning, roughly, order and chaos, the Greek god Apollo being an orderly character compared to the fun-loving, wine-soaked Dionysius.) Many years later, my faulty recollection of Nietzsche pitted Medford and his society (the Apollonian) against the Goatman (the Dionysian).
This is an early version of the Goatman, out for a flight with the original (adult) Medford and the dog who accompanies the Goatman. (The dog—here and in the book—is based on the late, lamented Saffron, who was Rob’s roommate before I joined the household.)