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Whose Pig? or The Fecund Sow

These are the opening paragraphs in my Wessex Tales story, ‘Whose Pig?’  At the end of an especially  hard winter, two starving peasants emerge from their huts at dawn to find a large, pregnant sow. Who owns her? The men almost come to blows. ‘Whose Pig?’ is set on Okeford Hill above Shillingstone in the Late Stone Age, some forty-five hundred years ago.

Once upon a Neolithic time there dwelt two farmers side by side in a gather of huts on Okeford Hill. This was certainly a former site of long-term settlement. Modern Ordnance Survey maps mark two great pits, eighty feet long and perhaps twenty feet deep—as ‘British Village’ or ‘Ancient Camp’ .

Whose Pig?

Bluebells on Shillingstone Hill. They bloom in April beneath the canopy of bare trees, beech, ash, oak and nut-bushes. When the trees’ leaves emerge in spring and shade the ground, the bluebell flowers disappear. Photograph: Marilyn Jane Peddle, April 24, 2011

These families lived on the sunny side of the hill, the side that thanks the morning sun by warming before noon, and growing grain, and nuts—and alderberries, too—and generally making life a good deal better than it might otherwise be.

If you stand at the site of this camp forty-five hundred years later and look towards the morning sun, on the finest of days you may spy a bright glimpse of a far-away sea, where the sunlight, cavorting on waves, looks to landsmen like great pools of fire. If you look in the same direction of an evening, with the sun at your back, you might just detect the white cliffs of an island beyond a grey sea. You can watch the white cliffs of that island (the Isle of Wight) turn pink during sunset and die with the sun.

And those were the only two ways in this lifetime these peasants would ever see sea.

Source: ‘Whose Pig?’, the second story in Wessex Tales, Volume 2