A Melanesian Myth.
This story is from Myths & Legends of Fiji and Rotuma. A students’ Edition and a collection of stories and illustration by A.W Reed and Inez Hames.
This story was written as it would be told by an orator at the fireplace in Melanesian societies. So imagine you are sitting in a Melanesian village and an orator (usually a male) will be telling this story. I have added my own illustration below.
Vegetables cooked in earth oven (umuu or mumu) are fit for men and gods only when placed in baskets with succulent steaming meat, rich and layered with fat, (bel gris in Tok Pisin). Then a man may take taro, yam or greens in one hand and a piece of meat in the other, and feast as though he were a god. In those days, the only challenge is to find an animal that can be steamed or roasted to provide enough meat for hungry men to eat. Man (as in human) decides, birds and rats are far too small.
“Let’s ask the gods”, man said.
Men gathered and started up the mountain to make their request to the gods. They were accompanied by fish, reptiles, animals, birds, and insects, all curious to hear the gods’ response.
The gods, who also love good food, were in good mood and welcomed the strange query from mankind. The gods inspected the gathering. Birds and other lives cowered and withdrew into the shadows so the gods would not see them nor pick them.
One of the gods reached out and caught a rat by the scruff of its neck and held it up. With arms and legs waving into empty air, a terrified rat cried: “Not me! Not me! Please not me! I am too small. I’m all bones and I taste horrible – please let me go!”
“Yes, the rat is too small – we need a larger animal” a man said.
“What about pig?” one of the gods suggested. “Now there’s a fine animal for you; rich and savoury.”
The pig was pulled before the gods by his short tail, and shivering before the gods, he squealed: “I’m too big! You could never fit me in one of your food basket.”
“Perhaps you are right Pig”, one of the gods said. “But you may be wrong”. Then the god instructed man: “Fill up a basket and put the pig on top so you can see what he looks like on top of the serving.”
The protesting pig was put into the basket. His legs fitted inside the basket comfortably, but his snout stuck out at one end and tail out the other end.
The pig gave a broad smile and said smugly to man: “What did I tell you?”
The rat who had escaped earlier, ran forward and quickly twisted the pig’s tail into a neat swirl and tucked it into the basket.
Pig still had a smile on his face. “You’ve got my tail, but you will never get my snout inside, it is too long.”
Worm rigged himself upright until he was balanced on his coiled tail.
“What is it Worm?” a god asked.
“Please, if we break the pig’s snout we could bend it up and then he should fit into the basket”, the worm said.
And that was what they did; which explains why Pig has a turned up nose and spends so much time digging up the ground in search of worms.