That’s Some Pig

From the time we learn the words abracadabra or open sesame, we know that words can be magic. When adults tell children to “say the magic word,” meaning please or thank you, children see the cause and effect of magic words.

Certain books use words in a way that work magic on us, making them live on inside us for the rest of our lives.  Just thinking about these books can be magical.  Robert Frost’s poetry. Jeffrey Masson’s When Elephants Weep. Poems by Gerard Manley Hopkins and John Donne. Harriet Arnow’s The Dollmaker. King Lear.

Sometimes naming even seems to work some magic on the recipient of the name. When I called my orange cat Macavity, after the T.S.Eliot master criminal cat, I might have inadvertently caused him to steal all my earrings.  One of my tuxedo cat’s middle names is Jellicle Jill, and like Eliot’s Jellicle cats, she dances all night. In the morning I find her toys strewn around the house.

Even one word can resonate with magic.  For me a word which reverberates with magic is radiant–and all because of E.B. White and his children’s classic Charlotte’s Web. When I first read that Charlotte spun out that word in Wilbur’s pen and saw how Wilbur lived up (key word in this sentence is “up”) to it, I could never see that word the same again. Think of Wilbur who jumps and spins in the air to prove he’s radiant.  He begins to feel radiant from the inside. Then Mrs. Arable gives him a buttermilk bath, so that he looks radiant to others. But he was always radiant–he just had to find that quality within himself and act upon it.

I’ve been reminded of Wilbur every morning by the label on my new face cleanser by Burt’s Bees: Radiance. I feel akin to Wilbur, being an average Jenny like most of us are (Average Joes and Jennies) and how nice it is to try to live up to the radiance that bottle offers.  Then I think of how terrific Wilbur discovered he could be, but how humble he stayed.  After all, it was Charlotte’s hard work that allowed him to discover all that he could be–all that he could live up to.

When Charlotte wrote that Wilbur was some pig she was saying Wilbur really was a good soul, and that all pigs can be such. Her description of Wilbur connects back with Mrs. Arable’s comment on the very first page: “‘Some pigs were born last night.'” [my italics] All those pigs had the potential when they were born to be more than they were, just as Wilbur did.

Although it’s nice to have a good friend like Charlotte as a helper, all of us average Joes and Jennies can live up to the magic words we find in our lives. You might find yours in the Bible or in a novel or a play. You might find yours from the mouth of a friend or stranger.

As you age, you might add more and more magic words to your treasury. For me, “That’ll do, pig,” from the movie Babe layered on “some pig” in my memory bank. These words resonate with appreciation for the effort we put into our daily lives. Our hard work makes our lives glow radiantly as we try to live up to our potential.


Filed under Creative Nonfiction, Essay, Nonfiction, Writing

23 responses to “That’s Some Pig

  1. Ah, the pig. Your words brought back some good reading memories. I like the way you weave in titles and authors to give a heads up to what we might be missing. Fun article, thank you.

  2. I was always moved by that book, too. It echoed the feelings of isolation and loneliness, followed by acceptance, and moving forward in life. Plus, it would be SUPER cool to have a spider write special messages for you. I think I’d like – Hey Babe or Brilliant.

    • Luanne

      How about Hey Brilliant Babe? Haha, I would love to have a spider write special messages for me. Maybe we should write them to each other and sign them “xo Charlotte.”

  3. That was a fantastic book on many levels. I remember asking my grade one/two class if they thought the animals really talked to Fern, and every last one of them believed that they did. Very effective writing on E.B White’s part. So in the same way, I think the lessons in the story would stick in those young minds. I hope they all live up to their radiance.

    • Luanne

      Such a phenomenal book. I think it’s one of the most “perfect” children’s books. I’m pretty sure I agree with your students that the animals really did speak–at least to each other!

  4. This is a beautiful post Luanne! What a lovely way to describe the effect that a single word can have on us. My special word, of late, is “luminescent!” Thank you for that! 🙂

    • Luanne

      Aw, I’m so glad to hear it’s luminescent, Dawn! No thanks necessary! I read your email . . . I so hear you.

  5. Great post – so true, and a book that had such an impact on me as a child, and which strangely I’d almost forgotten about! Thanks for bringing it back to life for me 🙂

  6. What a beautiful thoughtful post, filled with charm and beauty… loved the way you led us through your thoughts
    It took me years to read When Elephants Weep after I bought it… and when I did I cried my eyes out … ( Geoffrey Masson came to to live on a beach here in Auckland )
    Oh , and how I loved Babe- watched so many times with my grandchildren… ‘that’ll do pig’ indeed!!!!

    • Luanne

      Valerie, thank you so much for your kindness–it means the world to me, coming from you. Yes to When Elephants Weep! One of those books I will never ever forget. And Babe is not only one of my favorite movies, but if I was told that I could only watch one movie again in my life, I am sure I would choose Babe. A masterpiece. Oddly, the book is not nearly as good.

  7. Wonderful post, Luanne! (Oh, your tuxedo kitty is good at entertaining herself too? Our Maxine cracks us up when she plays with one of our throw rugs 🙂

  8. How I love your reflections on the pig and on the power of naming! I’m reading words that remind me of yours lately, by Madeleine L’Engle in “Walking on Water.” She talks about how powerful and important naming is, how it actually does call things into being. So powerful.
    And yes, radiant — what a fantastic word. Such great anecdotes about your cats, too. 🙂 Darling.
    Luanne, as always, I enjoy your words and am so appreciative for your kind encouragement on my blog!

    • Luanne

      Ashley, I love your posts! I’m so glad you enjoyed this one and hearing about my kitties haha. I like to grab any excuse I can find to talk about them ;). I’ve read excerpts from L’Engle’s book, but now you’re making me want to read it in its entirety.

  9. Fun post on power of words, names, titles! I’d love to know – where do you get your images… I love the Charlotte’s web book image. So classic!

    • Luanne

      The majority of images I’ve used on this blog have been my own, but I do use others, often looking for Wikipedia images which are free to use. I also use a lot of Amazon images and link to the books. that’s what this Charlotte’s Web image is.

  10. I loved the book and have read it to my children and grandchildren, too. I like the way E. B. White is able to weave magic with simplicity. There are not a lot of details needed and no “boring” parts. I like the lesson Charlotte teaches us in the “power” of what words we choose to say. So positive an impact on so many children’s lives. I was glad Ashley suggested a Madeline L’Engle book for I do so love “A Wrinkle in Time” due to the ones who are like futuristic fairy godmothers watching over the children in their adventures. It is hard to explain how those memories made an impression on me, but there was such warmth in her chosen words. I read the book, “The Yearling,” chapter by chapter my first year of teaching Language Arts to sixth graders. They were disappointed when a sub would come in for a day and NOT read it! I would have them put their heads down on their desk after lunch. At the end of that year, they would line up and feel my baby “bump” move and then I would read. I have since read about the author’s (Rawlings) own life. Fascinating!

    • Luanne

      Oh, what a wonderful experience for your students! Those are the most special experiences at school! I haven’t read Rawlings’ bio. Maybe I should!

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