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This Guy Died This Year: Shrek, The Unshearable Sheep

There is only meaning in life if there is revelation in death. Billions of generations have come and gone, and most are meaningless for the purposes of the living if we can't take some sort of lesson from their brief time on earth. It's why we scour the obituaries and mourn the famous and infamous and successful and unfulfilled. Surely from an account of their lives we can glean some advice or blueprint for making the most out of our own. Intuitively, when a great man or woman dies, we think: What does this mean for me?

Shrek the sheep taught us all that if you really, really don't want to do something, you don't have to.


It's an insultingly simple maxim, and yet one that's drilled out of our mental arsenals by the time childhood is through. But sheep aren't beholden to the rules of so-called civilized society, and they are happier for it. There are no formalwear occasions, or 'no loitering' signs, or prostate exams, or any of the million things life thrusts upon us that we'd rather not do. Sheep go about eating, shitting and fucking without a care in the world, and when Shrek died in June, he left behind 16 years of pure id.

Shrek didn't want his hair cut. A free range sheep living in the south of New Zealand, he had apparently avoided the flock's annual shearing by hiding in a cave each spring. For six years. For six years, he didn't heed the farmer's call, nor mind the disapproving looks of his freshly shorn mates, nor give in to the sweltering heat. If Shrek didn't want his wool shorn, then goddamnit, nobody was going to shear Shrek's wool.

When he was finally tracked down in 2004, covered in 60 pounds of fleece, Shrek instantly became a star. He had his first shearing live on national television, but unlike Samson, he retained his power. There was a children's book, and a charity auction of his pelt, and a trip to meet the Prime Minister, and an estimated $100 million in publicity for the nation's export industry, and he remained a celebrity to the end. (Being the most famous sheep in New Zealand is like being a supermodel in America: half the country wants to fuck you.)


But death waits for no sheep. Shrek was put down this year at 16 year of age, toward the back end of his breed's life expectancy. New Zealanders mourned and his owner remarked that "he taught us a lot." Those teachings will have to be Shrek's only legacy—he was a wether, or castrated sheep. No little Shreks to carry on their father's clarion call to revolution.

So we choose to remember him not as that skinny, shorn abomination that he was forced to become in later days (nor as the overly gristly mutton he probably became after that). Rather, Shrek will always be to us as he appeared to his owner, that fateful day in the cave when he was discovered: "He looked like some biblical creature," the farmer said. Then, fittingly, an epitaph from the Book of Job:

Behold now Behemoth, which I made with thee; he eateth grass as an ox. Lo now, his strength is in his loins, and his force is in the navel of his belly. He moveth his tail like a cedar: the sinews of his stones are wrapped together. His bones are as strong pieces of brass; his bones are like bars of iron. He is the chief of the ways of God.


Don't do what you don't want to do.

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