Fables, like mythology, are used to transmit traditions, beliefs and rites from one generation to another. The word “fable” comes from the Latin verb “to speak” or “fari” because fables are part of our oral tradition, just like the Homeric poems, the Iliad and the Odyssey were part of the Greek oral tradition. And often these fables or tales have great power in their sung or spoken versions. Likewise, The Orange Pig as a spoken work has great beauty and power.
We will attempt to analyze The Orange Pig as an allegory in terms of its conveyance of a moral theme or lesson (as in Aesop’s Fables); in terms of animals used to represent human society (as in Orwell’s Animal Farm); characters that personify an idea (as in Pilgrim’s Progress); and the metaphorical device of intervention of the supernatural to reflect an idea or belief about the real world (as in C.S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia). We will also look at the structure of the story as it applies to this form of literature.
Allegories, fables or myths often involve a journey or quest. The characters usually represent archetypes (see C.G. Jung on “archetypal images”) of good and evil or wise and foolish. We have the orange pig going on a quest to the mountain in line 20, but not merely a quest: but also a quest when “the moon was full.” So here we have a clear opposition of the sun and moon, night and day, dark and light. The orange pig represents the earth-bound ignorance of a higher plane of existence; he represents an absence of supernatural knowledge; he represents the limitations of existence on the farm; he represents the pedestrian present. The repetitive use of “trotters” to describe his legs forces us to understand how prosaic he is and bound to the earth; shy of the sky and sea. He meets the “long wolf” in line 25. The long wolf is an archetype for wisdom, the supernatural, the mythic past, the higher plane of existence.
Nietzsche wrote about dreams and said that “in our dreams we pass through the whole thought of earlier humanity…the dream carries us back into earlier states of human culture, and affords us a means of understanding it better.” (cited by Jung in Psychology and Religion, paragraph 89 as noted in Joseph Campbell’s The Hero With A Thousand Faces, p. 18)
The Orange Pig, as we find out in line 331, revisited the mythic past in a dream or in madness – a classic use of metaphor. His dream afforded him and us a better understanding of his former place or position in the real world (at the bottom of the mountain, bound by his pen and his limited view of the world) as compared with the view held by the wolves on top of the mountain, with an unlimited view of his universe – see lines 228 – 235. Line 321 acknowledges that wisdom, if attained, will be known only in the light of day. And in his encounter with the wolf, he learns of the sky and sea, knowledge imparted by the wolves who inhabit a higher plane of existence.
As we know from an examination of fables, The Orange Pig is in fact a very good example of the use of animals in a story which involves the supernatural and a moral lesson. One moral lesson is expressed directly in line 319: “There was that risk that came when you tried to change your life.”
But there are other metaphorical lessons in this story, namely: the standing stones as legacy of a mythical past, having some magical power and hold on the present-day inhabitants of the hill fort; the differences in outlook embodied in the pigs of different colors – or perhaps the colors representing the differences in opportunity or vision of the creatures trapped in their raiments. See lines 17-18. Lines 62 – 66 tell us that “in circumstances like this…we must all account for ourselves, our actions, our motives.”
There is the lesson of faith vs. fear: lines 290 – 292. “What need is there for fear then?…Those who run with death like a friend in the night have no cause for fear. Fear is only what enters where faith itself has died.” The passage about fear and faith resonates most strongly with this commentator.
We would argue that there are other moral lessons in The Orange Pig: as in Plato’s allegory of the cave where people ascribe forms to the shadows, the orange pig ascribes a kind of divinity to the wolves in his dream. That ascription is as close as he will get to heaven (on the mountain). The philosopher when freed from the cave can understand his true reality. The pig can understand the miserable nature of his reality once he has traveled to the mountain. When the sun rises in line 331, the pig, like the prisoner dragged from the cave, can no longer see the things he believed to be true the prior night in the moonlight. Line 302 tells us “It is here in the moonlight things are shown truly.”
The abundance of lessons and commentary on the lower vs. higher planes, permitted vs. forbidden places (see lines 30-31 and 67-72), and the incomplete nature of one sex without the other (lines 263-268) all echo the myths and fables of Western literature.
See the discussion of creation myth in Joseph Campbell’s The Hero of a Thousand Faces p. 278. “He was unhappy. That is why people are not happy when they are alone. He wanted a mate.”
The long wolf’s visitation of the orange pig in his sty (line 118) certainly evokes the myth of Leda And The Swan (and perhaps Yeats’ version of the myth as allegory for Maud Gonne and her surrender to Irish nationalism). Then we have a tribute to W.B. Yeats in line 329-330 in that the black wolf says “in that sea we will all dance until the center is regained…” See Yeats’ “The Second Coming” in which he writes “Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold.” Yeats also uses metaphor and bird images in this poem to tell us about Modern Europe. Yeats claimed to have received his vision of history from spirits much as the orange pig does from the wolf spirits. But we digress.
Fables usually invoke repetition and patterned language and strong use of imagery – The Orange Pig does exactly that. The structure of the fable or allegory has a beginning, a complication and a resolution. Two characters meet, an event occurs, and they go their separate ways having learned a lesson about life. The storyteller and the reader both know that the point is not character development and that the events did not really happen. They share an understanding that the moral lessons are the points – the dialogue exists to develop the lessons. We see that in lines 182 – 232.
The events in this story are several: the pig’s initial attempt to climb the hill; the first meeting with the wolf; the dead bird’s falling from the tree (which has meaning for the wolf but not for the pig); the wolf’s visitation at the sty; the pig’s eventual climb to the mountain; the wolves’ imparting wisdom to the orange pig.
Yet another moral lesson is provided in lines 277-279 which also explains the bird’s falling from the tree at the moment the wolf needed a meal. The “black wolf” says “All is provided.” “Once a month the moon comes full to the hill. It never forgets.”- Line 277.
See also line 288: “All is provided.”
The long wolf demonstrates the differences between himself and the farmer in his attempt to stand on his hind legs; the black wolf does so when he tells the pig about the farmer’s having shot the females. The point here is that the humans have not accounted for their actions nor their motives. They tried to destroy the divine but they failed to destroy faith and hope.
As in Animal Farm, class and status disparities exist between the green and orange pigs –but not between the gray, black and orange wolves. Line 249: ‘under the moon we are all the same colour.” As in The Chronicles of Narnia, animals talk, magic is everywhere and we find ideas borrowed from classical mythology. Lines 325-328: inheritors of legacy; kings from the long-dead past. As in Pilgrim’s Progress, the orange pig journeys from his home place to that which is to come – a mountain top. Christian meets Evangelist who offers him the place of deliverance. The long wolf similarly offers the orange pig deliverance from the farm – offers to take him to the sea, and does show him the sky. And in a reverse tribute to The Three Little Pigs, where the wolf tries to trick the pigs and the pigs outsmart him, in The Orange Pig, we have the wolves imparting wisdom to the pig.
In conclusion, the abundance of lessons, the structure and the beautiful use of allegorical language all qualify The Orange Pig as a fine example of fable or parable, and is one of the finest stories read by this commentator in a long time. The language is simple and elegant. The allegory is abundantly clear. The author is a very fine writer.
The Orange Pig– Amen