Tuesday, July 03, 2007

The Fairest of Them All


Oil painting inscribed: This sow took the prize at the R.A.S., Battersea.
signed: John Vine of Colechester,
dated: 1862.

That is one fine pig.

I like pigs.

After doing a quick mental review of pigs in literature, I've decided my affection must be a lingering juvenile effect: imprinted by visits to my grandfather - which always began by a tour of his various barns and outbuildings to see the newest red calves and the latest curly-tailed litter.

This little pig went to market (squeal), The Three Little Pigs, Piglet, Porky Pig, the oracular pig in The Prydain Chronicles, Miss Piggy... such kiddie lit refrains tended to reinforce my liking for pigs.

Adult literature, on the other hand, sharply reverses this bucolic view.

The cozy pastoral country with its comfortable, intelligent, wallowing creatures transforms into a dark and noisome wood inhabited by sounders of grunting, pawing, feral tuskers only slightly less dangerous than saber-toothed tigers.
Negative proverbs and hoggish metaphors abound.

Scoundrels and lard-assed nasty bitches are described as posessing porcine features and piggy little eyes.

And how many novels have you read where either the hero or the heroine confronts the villain and dramatically proclaims "You swine!"

I still like pigs though. Especially smoked.

23 comments:

writtenwyrdd said...

It is a funny dichotomy, isn't it? I think Hen Wen the oracular pig is my favorite pig from literature.

But I think I've observed a trend in literature, starting a couple of hundred years ago: If something is perceived as scary, we minimize it by creating jolly and roly-poly imitations that make the tots giggle with delight. Pigs, fairies, Caspar the friendly ghost, etc. C.S. Lewis did it in Narnia. We do it with Disney and other cartoons. But if you look at the really old stories, these figures are not so nice. There is blood and gore, death and pain. And the happiness is not the same that we expect in today's 'happily ever after' dreams.

And not to forget clowns: Former demons. Seeing as kids often are creeped out and scared by clowns, this tactic doesn't seem to work as well as might be hoped.

Ric said...

Pigs? Napoleon in Animal Farm, the pig's blood in the climax of Carrie, the pig eyes peering through the windows of the Amityville Horror.

Pork is much more common than soul eyed cows, horses are rarely portrayed as evil, ah, summer musings.

Smoked is clearly best.

Bernita said...

Another "peg"..er... pig that I'm very fond of, appears, though briefly, in the Belgariad series, Written.
A lot of truth in your observation. May arise from the societal extension of childhood, when children were no longer expected to be adults at puberty, and sometimes before.
I wonder if the generational reverse to the fear factor is also true: creatures we were taught to fear as children - wolves, for example, as in Little Red Riding Hood and the Three Little - have become sexy were beasts.

Bernita said...

Definitely a lot of bad PR going on, Ric.

Seeley deBorn said...

I wonder if anyone would ever dare to try the were-pig on for size.

Bernita said...

The problem with were pigs, Seeley, is that they tend to rush into the sea.

spyscribbler said...

I like pigs just fine, as long as they're not cut up and cooked. :-) The thought of eating pork just makes me think yuck!

But they're cute creatures. :)

Dave said...

Drat, the shameful truth is out!
My secret, private, hidden room located off the subbasement and around the corner from my wine cellar has a shrine, not a big one, mind you just a little one, to PIGS IN SPACE.

Bernita said...

"cut up and cooked"....Mmmmm, finger lickin'....

Hamming it up, I suppose, Dave.

writtenwyrdd said...

were boar sounds like a possibility. But not were skunk.

raine said...

How DO you come up with these posts?? Lol!

The movie "Babe". Babe, the heroic, who knew he was destined for greater things and refused to be...er, "pigeon"-holed.
And the piggies down the road from my grandma's house were quite intelligent and friendly.

People, however, are often a different matter...

Bernita said...

I think so, Written, and there's "historical" support, re the tale of the Pollard Brawn ( Boar) that ravaged the countryside near Bishop Aukland, possibly a real animal that just grew with the telling.

How do?
Are you sure you want to know?
I have long admired that... portrait, Raine - especially since most of the genre involves prize horses, dogs, etc.
Then in one of my rare bouts of glueTube (TV) recently I saw a horrible advertisement for condoms with hogs singing to a girl in a bar. The simpery male human actor almost made the pigs look more attractive, and my mind meandered from there.

Charles Gramlich said...

The painting makes me think this might be the original Pigzilla. I like pigs myself, to eat that is. Porkchops is one of my favorite meals. My dad always made this great smoked sausage that I would come close to killing for today. But I did enjoy pigs in literature, especially the opposites seen in Charlotte's Web and Animal Farm.

Bernita said...

She's a truly bodacious sow, Charles.
Lot of pejorative words and interesting phrases linked to hogs though.

Jon M said...

I like pigs too, but I can't eat a whole one!

Bernita said...

Jon, that one would feed a family for some time.

Sid Leavitt said...

'Especially smoked.' I ham a fan.

Gabriele C. said...

Hmm, smoked ham, Holsteiner Landschinken....

For a writer, the wild variant is more fun. Ask Alamir. Or better, don't ask him, he might teach you a few curse words you didn't know yet - in Gothic and Latin. :)

Bernita said...

Sid...restrain yourself.

M'dear, you have no idea how many exceedingly naughty words I know in a number of languages.

LadyBronco said...

I was going to say something witty until I read your comment about the hogs and condom commercial...

I have seen it, and every time it's on, I cannot stop laughing until well after it's over! My poor husband just sits there with an adorable grin on his face as he watches me try to stop laughing.

Prashanth said...

Well, Empress of Blandings is one fond memory for me, to be sure. Orwell's Animal Farm is one interesting farm, as it were. As well as Burt Hirschfeld's Father Pig.

Nice post.

Bernita said...

Lady B, that has to be one of the most stupid commercials I've seen in a long time.

Thank you, Prashanth!

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