Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Tiny Shriner III: Pigs Edition

In honor of my dissertation's final chapter, on pigs, here's a set of piggy links. I've mentioned this on the blog before, but you might still want to watch out for potentially anthropophagous pigs. The police say that there's no proof the pigs ate human flesh; but they're not entirely sure. While it wouldn't have been entirely fair to the pigs, the police might have looked to the pseudo-Egbert penitential, which explains, "Si porcus, vel gallina vel cujuscunque generis animal de corpore hominis ederit, vel sanguinem ejus biberit, occidatur animal, et detur canibus" (if a pig, or a cock, or any other kind of animal has eaten from a human corpse, or drank its blood, let the animal be killed and given to the dogs). Alternately, if they were feeling more humane, the police could have consulted the Adomnan penitential: "Caro suilla morticinis crassa vel pinguis, ut morticinum quo pinguescit refutanda est. Cum vero decreverit et in pristinam maciem reversa, sumenda est" (The flesh of a swine grown fat from [eating] carrion should be rejected like the carrion on which the swine grew fat. However, when the swine has lost weight and returned to its former leanness, let it be accepted [for eating]).

Pigs were probably the most dangerous domestic animals of the Middle Ages. Don't let down your guard: pigs do tend to gang up on people. In 1379, three sows rushed to help their piglets murder little Perrinot Muet; Mars sends pigs to "freten the child right in the cradel" (Chaucer CT I 2019) and perhaps he also inspired the pigs in a recent case in Norfolk in which a "51-year-old man was knocked over by a sow at a Norfolk farm, prompting the rest of the herd to attack him" or in another case in Serbia, in which "A farmer's home in northern Serbia was destroyed in a blaze caused by three pigs that broke out of their pen, walked into the living room and knocked over the TV."

The foundation of the common medieval punning alternation between porcus and corpus dates at the latest to Aristotle's observation on the similarity between porcine and human anatomy. More recently, a poster for a torture horror film, Hostel II, has come under fire because of its bloody representation of flesh. No harm, explains the designer; it's just a picture of wild boar meat. With that in mind, purchasers of meatballs made from human fat may want to check that they're not being cheated.

If I've whetted your appetite for pork, you may want to look at this dubiously sourced article on zombie pigs or you may wish to look into a future stocked with meat tubes (here and here and also in Oryx and Crake) or, if you're feeling more gentle, you may just want to satisfy your cravings with a pork-flavored postage stamp. If you're feeling really gentle, you may want to become a hog breeder.
Breeding pigs commercially is an art. I talked to a man who had one of the most successful records for breeding sows out there and he told me things no one's ever written in a book as far as I know. Each boar had his own little perversion the man had to do to get the boar turned on so he could collect the semen. Some of them were just things like the boar wanted to have his dandruff scratched while they were collecting him [locution sic]. (Pigs have big flaky dandruff all over their backs.) The other things the man had to do were a lot more intimate. He might have to hold the boar's penis in exactly the right way that the boar liked, and he had to masturbate some of them in exactly the right way. There was one boar, he told me, who wanted to have his butt hole played with. "I have to stick my finger in his butt, he just really loves that," he told me. Then he got all red in the face.
(from Animals in Translation, 103, a peculiar, chatty book that I might write about in the next few weeks)


Jeffrey Cohen said...

Porcus/corpus indeed ... do you get the feeling that the hog breeder really enjoys his work?

Karl Steel said...

I just wonder how it was that he discovered the individual preferences of his boars. Actually, no need to wonder. Easy enough to figure out. Let Hodain have his fun.

I'm reminded of hallucinogen-secreting frogs. You want to get high? Lick a frog. Simple enough, but how could such a thing have been discovered? Just keep licking things until something finally kicks in?

Dr. Virago said...

Simple enough, but how could such a thing have been discovered?

I've wondered the same about all sorts of alimentary pleasures, but especially coffee, chocolate, and lobster. In the first two instances, there's a *lot* of processing to get from the original state to the edible one; in the second instance, who thought, "I bet there's good meat in that sea bug!"

Anyway, back to the original post, I'm showing this to Bullock, who has an obsession with all things pork. Maybe it'll at least put him off his fantasy of raising pigs on that land that we haven't yet bought in the neighboring state.

And I have to get around posting the pictures of the lovely, bristly "heritage" pigs we saw at a living history museum over Thanksgiving.

Karl Steel said...

DV: I've wondered that about olives, especially. They're absolutely central to ancient Mediterranean civilization, but it's no simple matter to make an olive edible or to get its oil. I suppose I could read around on it: nah.

But isn't Bullock, like you, a fan of Deadwood? I haven't seen it, but--being an academic--I've read about it, and I understand it features anthropophagous pigs. Any animal that could just walk into someone's house and methodically knock over his TV (which is how I imagine it) is no animal to be taken lightly. That said, I've just read that young male pigs are probably the most dangerous, and they tend to calm down if an older boar is around. So, let Bullock have his pigs; just make sure you mix them adequately to decrease their danger.

RE: heritage pigs. Funny that, as the "heritage" here is the Western Pig, or, at least, the pig prior to the 18th century, which the Chinese Pig began to become the predominant domestic pig in Europe. Prior to that, domestic pigs in Europe are every bit as hairy and scary looking (long legs, arched back, etc.) as our usual imagining of wild pigs. Look at any calendar sequence in any book of hours for the Winter Months. The modern domestic pig, the sleek, short-legged, pink, enormous animals, is an import. With all that in mind, I wonder if calling the bristly pig a "heritage" pig is the best idea....