My Pig Book
Persistence, persistence, persistence...
Having nothing better to do Piggy went out rummaging in the forest and came upon Sniffy's garden. It was a warm day and Piggy was chasing off the flies that persistently sunbathed on his ears, back and tail. He wasn't quite sure why the flies liked him so much. He had taken a long and thorough bath in the mud pool earlier and felt as fresh as a newborn piglet. Piggy didn't know many songs but he hummed on three notes that he liked. None of them belonged together in a tune but Piggy didn't know that. When he came up to Sniffy's garden he stopped and inspected the clean white fence. [May, 2008 - one of the first drafts I can find of this story]
My pig book has now been following me over 15 years. To begin with, I hated fables as a child. I had to become an adult before I began to, very reluctantly, enjoy fables. Yet, a fable has latched onto me and won’t let go. Today I am letting you have a glimpse of my pig story. I’ve tried most methods to release this pig book out into the world, and since it’s a very persistent pig story with a mind of its own I have lost all ideas of how to push it out of the gates.
Perhaps, if I let Piggy and Sniffy look at you, they will rush out and somehow, soon, finally find a home in the book where they belong. They have lived in my computer for years now, and as I mentioned before, they’re teenagers. Teenagers get rebellious, so let’s see what happens when I give them a bit of air.
Yes, over the years I have sent out query after query and received rejection letters. I even translated part of it to Swedish to see if a Scandinavian publisher would be interested. They were not. I also applied for a stipend (several times) from a Swedish-Finnish cultural society so I could continue the work on this story that is so deeply rooted in the forests and fields of my Swedish-Finnish childhood. I must be a terrible stipend applicant. I am not, on the other hand, a person who gives up that easily. That’s why the pigs and I are here today to tell you about them. They keep bugging me about it - they want to move to a book instead of living in a computer.
Yes, I am very aware that most modern publishers hate fables. Talking animals are a big no no. Unless they are wizard animals and magic is involved, in which case they may be acceptable.
Piggy began to realize that the inner pig was a different pig in all pigs. Piggy was getting less anxious about living in a real cottage instead of under a juniper bush. He had begun to feel an unusual and light feeling inside, and sometimes days would go by without him feeling worried or scared when the sun set and it was time to rest. In the forest that time had always been the most dangerous time, and Piggy never slept well in the forest. He always had to keep watch, just in case a wolf or something else that liked pigs would come by. But he was used to it. Now he slept in a bed, inside a house that had a lock on the door. [July, 2021]
My talking animals are not wizards. They cannot perform magic. They live analog lives in real animal bodies but with a Wind in the Willows twist. Some of them live in houses and can talk to each other. They have feelings and fears. There are hints of humans in their world, but they are rarely mentioned. They think deep thoughts and deal with difficult and sometimes quite scary topics such as death and destruction but also love and beauty. They deal with real life.
Talking animals and complex themes that dig deeper than most middle grade novels seem to mean that regular publishers will not touch this story. It’s a fusion of themes from old fairy tales, classic novels, and childhood memories. It’s the childhood adventures and things deeper in the human mind that sometimes are found standing on a mushroom cap with a small pine needle in his hand, loudly proclaiming that he is the Lord of the Pip-Sqweeks!
I was a voracious reader and quickly jumped over certain age-appropriate books because they were too boring. This resulted in me reading Stephen King in 5th grade. I completely skipped over most classics, something I regret very much and have since had to play catch up in my adult years.
Sniffy said: "I know I am... peculiar in many ways. But if you set up a farewell feast, well, in my humble opinion you better do it well. And this! This is a feast well done!" Sniffy held up a glass of rhubarb beer and they toasted to that.
Then Piggy said: "This is not only the best farewell feast I have ever seen or attended or about to attend, it is attended by two excellent friends who met by that fence over there," he pointed with his glass toward the portion of the fence where they had met, "and may that friendship last forever, no matter what! Here is to friendship, to our farewell feast, and to..."
Piggy knew he had to find one more word but what could he say to crown this speech? He paused and thought, and when he couldn't wait any longer he blurted out:" and persistence!"
Sniffy was stunned. He sat still and just stared for a moment and then he held his front legs wide and slowly began to clap them together while keeping a very stern face.
"That! That!" Sniffy managed to expel in between his claps. "That was the best speech I have heard! That!" [July, 2021]
This odd couple of pigs, one comfortably dirty and the other anxiously clean, are driven by wolves from a cozy cottage into a dangerous forest. Their inner pigs grow as they learn to find moments of joy, humor and strength even when evil and danger are present.
The Scandinavian concepts of hygge or the Swedish mysa have a gritty, no-nonsense flipside that Finns call sisu, a type of resilience and stoic determination. Persistence. The pigs will have to draw on all the sisu they can when their hygge lives are destroyed. The pigs’ world is something like the Finnish Moomin Trolls meet Animal House meet Grimm meet Girard — perhaps?
Piggy is dirty and carefree, but homeless since early childhood when a wolf pack chased him away from a pig farm where he recently had become an orphan. He has to learn to survive alone in the wild forest. A pig who sleeps alone under a juniper tree and has built up a sort of inner defense mechanism which allows him to avoid feeling too worried.
His anxious, squeaky-clean pig pal, Sniffy, lives in a perfect little cottage which he never wants to leave. Sniffy was brought there by his aunt in an attempt to rescue him from becoming a '“prized pig.” Sniffy takes great care to worry about small things such as keeping his bright white overalls clean while gardening.
The odd couple form a friendship and live together in Sniffy’s hygge cottage. A wolf pack, led by Piggy’s childhood nemesis, burns down the cottage and chases the pigs into the dangerous and unknown forest. There they are forced to search for a new home while surviving away from all the comforts they had in their cottage. They meet creatures along the way who lie, cheat and even kill.
A bit about Sniffy & Piggy on Instagram if you’d like to see my creative process.
Sniffy falls into a great depression in the wild forest. It completely shuts him down for a long time while Piggy has to go back into survival mode and take command. Sniffy knows only comfort and security. He knows there is a beautiful white picket fence that keeps him separate from all dangerous things on the other side. He knows his carrots will grow, and his cottage will cover him from rain. Without these he is lost.
Piggy knows the forest, but he’s also become used to living the comfortable life in a cozy cottage where dangers are far away like distant thoughts. Eventually the pigs are taken hostage by the wolves and terrible things happen. This is when Sniffy finally seems to find his inner pig again:
Honey was plentiful in a nearby meadow, and the pigs made a deal with some bees. Sniffy told the bees of a garden that they were going to plant one day, and that the bees were welcome to move there and stay there for as long as they liked.
The bees were excited about this and made a deal with the pigs to share some honey even though the garden that the pigs spoke of had not even been created yet.
The bees were optimists. Sniffy was grateful. The garden was Sniffy's secret dream. He had it all planned out.
All this time in the forest, ever since they saw the great fire engulf the cottage and the precious garden, Sniffy had begun to grow a new garden in his mind. And, he added this dream as a chapter in his unwritten memoir. Then the garden had grown into a dream, and now Sniffy knew that it would happen one day.
That is what Sniffy told himself, and what kept him going from day to day when everything around him was awful and terrifying and hopeless. He did not tell anyone about the garden he dreamt of, except to the bees. Not even Piggy knew about it. [July, 2021]
Piggy, spent most of his formative years sleeping under a juniper tree, after a traumatic childhood on a pig farm. He never had a comfortable night’s sleep until he met Sniffy and was invited to live with him. His mind is always ready for danger and he’s built a protective layer of a carefree mindset to help him cope with it all. To Piggy this new life of comfort was almost sacred. He approached it as if it could vanish in a whim. Because it can. And it does.
Sniffy liked to read while eating, and Piggy liked to look at the third billboard. The one with the secrets written on it. "3 Secrets to Success..."
"Persistence, persistence, persistence."
Piggy thought it was an error. That someone had written the word three times. He knew a little about jokes, and finally had come to realize that this must be Sniffy's type of humor. But he never dared to ask Sniffy about it. It had taken him a few weeks before he figured out what the word "persistence" meant. He had looked it up in a dictionary and read:
noun \pər-ˈsis-tən(t)s, -ˈzis-\
: the quality that allows someone to continue doing something or trying to do something even though it is difficult or opposed by other people
: the state of occurring or existing beyond the usual, expected, or normal time" [July, 2021]
Would you like to read this book? Is it time for Sniffy & Piggy to move into a paper book? Please add a comment or hit the like button if you enjoyed (or didn’t!) this pig tale!