It’s V.E.T. day for the cat, there’s a blizzard blowing outside and the Internet is down. Although I am writing this at noon my time by candlelight, I’ve no idea when it will arrive in cyberspace… So while I am cut of from the collective, I’ve thrown another log on the fire, stirred my cauldron and picked up a book, a gift given to me by a very good friend before I left Edinburgh. It’s a book of Scottish Traditional Tales, so that I wouldn’t forget my time in Scotland, and those of you who know me, know how much I love folklore…So gather around.
I let it fall open, the candle flickers and page 50 begins “Once upon a time…” great! It’s all about a miller and his pregnant wife. She is craving liver in the middle of the night (can anyone say zombie apocalypse?) and sends him into town to buy some. Well, the shops won’t be open for hours and the miller, wanting to please his wife but also wanting to get some sleep, cooks up a cunning plan. Remembering that a corpse has very recently been buried in the graveyard, he digs it up, removes the liver, takes it home and cooks it. Perfectly reasonable. The wife is unaware of the origins of the liver and gobbles it up! Later on, the miller goes to work and there’s a knock at the door. It’s the corpse. Obviously. So she asks it why it looks rotting and why it’s entrails are hanging out and where oh where has its liver gone (again, don’t you love the logic of folktales?) And ‘It’ shrieked, “you ate it” and tore her to pieces, naturally. The End.
Part of me thinks this is a little unfair – the woman had no idea she had consumed the liver of a dead corps, her husband the miller, dug up the corpse, removed the liver, cooked it up in the middle of the night and fed it to his pregnant wife… Great guy… I know, I know, cautionary tales keep us on the straight and narrow, teach through gruesome and grizzly stories what not to do. In this case, eat dead humans. I can see the value of this in the light of CJD (mad cow disease), Ebola and a whole host of other bad things, like becoming a zombie, a vampire or just a common or garden cannibal. And clearly, ignorance is no defence! Which is why the wife, ignorant of her crime was torn to shreds.
However, what really struck me is the section of the book this tale was in – Children’s Tales. Teach ‘em early…