Dårum wroten swynen altyd in de mudder / That is why pigs always grub in the mud

Sassisk

Sagen, legenden, märken, fåbels – et givt en bült termen vöär al dee vorskydene vortellingen uut de folklore. As religioonweatenskopper bin ik vornåm an de loup med eyn genre: de myte. En myte is en vortelling üm goden, en, tja, goden, dee vindet eyn en bült in religionen. Doch?

Sou enkel is et doch neet. Et givt, eyrstens, swårheyden med de term ‘goden’. Wat is en god eyglyks? En bült lüde prakkeseyert vlot üm en weasen in Himmel med almacht. Süks en weasen vinden wy in kristendum, joudendum, en islam, mor neet souvölle dårbuten. Goden binnen sik oft med en heyle bült, en neet altyd is et düdlik, dat eyn dervan machtiger is as al dee andren.

Dårby kümt ouk vansülv dat et konsept ‘goden’ neet good in elke kultuur past. Kulturen künnen swår komplekse kategorysearingen toleggen up et supernatuurlike, en geit et neet good of, üm eyn ard weasens ‘goden’ to nömen, en andre neet. Neamen wy byvübbeld de Chinesiske kulturelle sfear. De Chinesiske term, dee oft as ‘god’ in engelsk öäverset wurdet, is shen. Shen binnen weasen dee en funktsioon binnen de himmelske büråkråtsioon hebben, tosåmen med en salaris en de macht, wetten af to dwingen. Tja, når en variatsioon up de Tabula Smaragdina: as beneaden, sou ouk boaven.

Disse shen binnen doch wårlik neet de hougste weasens in: derboaven stån de unstarvliken, perfektsionearde mensken; en dårboaven givt et de bodhisattvas, lüde dee de howgenåmde buddha-natuur tokreagen hebbben, et nirvāṇa ingån binnen. Dårmed is et neet enkel, üm disse weasen boaven de goden (shen) now töt ‘goden’ to maken, dår et eyglyks perfektsionearde lüde binnen. En sülvs med al dat is disse heyly hierarchy neet vast, en givt et en soad variatsioon in de konseptualisatsioon in China, süms sülvs binnen eyn en desülvde gemeinskop (David Jordan, God, Ghosts, and Ancestors: Folk Religion in a Taiwanese Village (1972), s. 38-40).

Good, as et konsept ‘goden’ problematisk is, dan wurdt et neet enkel, üm töt en algemeine beskryving van et konsept ‘myte’ to kommen. Der binnen heyl wat kloke lüde dee med dat konsept an de loup waren vöär my. Dat binnen under andre de groute amerikaanske folklorist Alan Dundes en de wat unnüre religioonsweatenskopper Mircea Eliade. Beident nümmen myten as vortellingen üm de kreatsioon van de wearld en alle andre fenomeanen (Alan Dundes, Sacred Narrative: Readings in the Theory of Myth (1984), s. 5; Mircea Eliade, The Sacred and the Profane (1957), s. 95). Myten vortellen how of wearld ‘up aerde’ kwam; how of lüde höär leart üm vuur to maken; how bisten höär in de natuur vorspryden, generatsioon nå generatsioon.

Ach ja, dit is best en skyre beskryving van myte. En bült vortellingen, dee wy gaern myten nömen willen, vallen under disse definitsioon. Et sköppingsvorhål uut Genesis 1, byvübbeld, of de myte van Prometheus, dee vuur van de goden ofpakked. Mor villicht wurdt der now ouk to vöäle såken en myte, lykas de volgende vortelling. Wy vinden disse vortelling döärch heyl Nedderland in al val, en villicht ouk in Düütskland. Folkloristen nömen de vortelling ATU 2025 de vlüchtende pankook, of süms ouk SINUR 65A Wårüm et swyn altyd söökt. Disse vortelling ken ik sülv vornåmlik uut Grönn en Ostfreeskland. Uut disse bornen sel ik hyr disse vortelling nåvortellen:

“Boerin is aan ‘t pankoukbakken. ‘t Komt heur ien ‘t zin dat ter gain stroop ien hoes is. Zai op run om stroop te hoalen. ‘t Vet wordt glèn, pankouk springt oet paan. boerin komt krekt weer ien hoes en wil hom gripen, mor ken hom nait kriegen.”

E.J. Huizenga-Onnekes, Het boek van Minne Koning (1930), s. 76

Pankook geit wyder, mor ouk dår vindt hee en bült gevår:

“Buten kump dän Pannekouken ‘n Hase tomöüte un sech: ‘Pannekouken, wor wuß du hentou?’ Do sech de Pannekouken: ‘Ick bün ‘n oalt Wief ut de Panne sprungen, säß Dörskers de Däle entloppt un di, Hase Quicksteert, will ick uk noch entloopen!’”

Gottfried Henßen, Volkserzählungen aus dem westlichen Niedersachsen (1963), s. 35

Et geit pankook good – heyl wat bisten weyt e an to untsnappen. Up et end hev e an en heyle lyst lüde en bisten untsnapped:

“Do kump ‘n Wolf tomöüte un röpp ‘Hei, Pannekouken, wor wuß du hentou?’ Do sech de Pannekouken: ‘Ick bün ‘n aolt Wief ut de Panne sprungen, säß Dörskers de Däle entloppt, Hase Quicksteert entloppt, Voß Dicksteert entloppt, un di, Wolf Wittärs, will’k uk noch entloopen!’”

Gottfried Henßen, Volkserzählungen aus dem westlichen Niedersachsen (1963), s. 35-36

In Grönn binnen de nåmen van de bisten wat anders, mor eyglyks seen wy dår etsülvde:

“Kwam hom n kou tegen en zee: ‘Pankouk, pankouk, wat löpst toch haard!’ ‘Ik bin t wief-pief, hìn-pìn, kat-pat en hond-pond ontlopen, wat wolt die kou-pou mie kriegen?’”

Kornelis ter Laan, Humor in Grunnegerlaand (1947), s. 73

Ouk skyr: in beident de versioon van Ter Laan (Grönn) as Henßen (Ostfreeskland) givt et håst en formule: en röp, en seg, en sou wyder. En konjunktyv (vorbindingswoord, neet as verb) med en verb, mor geyn pronomen.

Good, et geit heyle tyd good med pankook, mor dan kümt der en swyn:

“Den komt hom ‘n swien tegen. Swien rokt pankouk en het ter zin aan, moer pankouk zegt tegen swien: ‘ik ben boerin ontloopen, vos ontkomen, hoes ontknepen en ik ken die ook nog wel ontrunn.’ ‘Luster doe mie dat ais aan linkerkaant,’ zegt swien, want swienen vreten over ain hörn.

‘Nou dat is goud’; pankouk is zo dom, gaait aan aner kaant, lusters hom dat ien ‘t oor. Swien bit ter gauw ‘n hörn oet en nou ken pankouk nait meer hobbeln. ‘Nou zek die wel kriegen,’ zegt swien, mor pankouk kropt ien grond. En dou is swien begund te vrouden noa de pankouk, en noa dei haalve pankouk doar vrouden nou nog ale swienen noa.”

E.J. Huizenga-Onnekes, Het boek van Minne Koning (1930), s. 76-77

Düs, beste lüde, up disse wyse is et natuurlike gedrag van en swyn in de wearld kommen. Dee skyre pankook hev e prüüved, mor dee is gauw deep grund in kropen, en dår söken noch altyd al dee andre swynen nå.

Med dee definitsioon van Dundes en Eliade is dit vansülv en myte: et vorklårt how of en seaker natuurlik gedrag töt stand kommen is. Mor hebben wy hyr now dan wårlik en myte? Elken mål, dat ik disse ‘myte’ as myte vortel, dan kryg ik teagenstand: dit is en komiske vortelling (kyk ouk en mål når de titel van Ter Laan syn bookske, Humor in Grönnegerland), neet sou seriös, dat kin doch geyn myte weasen?

Elken mål bin ik med höär öävereyns: dit is geyn myte, en de definitsioon van Dundes en Eliade doon geyn good recht an disse vortelling. Dit is en etiologiske sage: en vortelling üm de oursprong van wat dan ouk, dee neet altyd seriös to neamen is. Ney, vöär en myte moten wy doch en seriöse vortelling hebben, eyn dee centrål steit in en kultuur. En vortelling, dee as wår seen wurded (William Bascom, “The Forms of Folklore: Prose Narratives,” (1965), s. 4-7).

En wårlike myte is neet van history of de realität to underskyden. In unse tyd nömen wy en myte oft en unwåre vortelling. Et is en myte, as et neet wår is. Dat is vansülv neet de techniske bedüding. Vöär folkloristen en religioonsweatenskoppers geit et üm dee narratyven, dee as kern van en kultuur seen wurden, en wår of wy unse identität an vorbinden. Dat gav et as funktsioon vöär tydstyden haer, mor ouk in unse tyd. De myte van ‘et gode westen’, wår of geyn armode is en elkeneyn vry leaven kan. De myte van et tolerante Nedderland, of et precyse en pünktuelle Düütskland. Såken dee wy oft as eyrste an butenlanske gasten vöärholden, mor dee en bült komplekser binnen in realität. Myten binnen neet van en wyd vurdgån vorleaden, mor van ale tyden.

English

Sagas, legends, fairy tales, fables – there are a load of different terms for all these different folkloric stories. As a scholar of religion, I am chiefly concerned with one genre: myth. A myth is a story about gods, and, well, gods, these are definitely found a lot in religions. Right?

Unfortunately, it is not that simple. First of all, there are difficulties with the term ‘gods’. What is a god actually? Most people’s thoughts will immediately dwell upon an almighty being in Heaven. This kind of being is found in Christianity, Judaism, and Islam, but not that often elsewhere. One finds gods often gathered together in multitudes, and it isn’t always clear whether one of them is more powerful than the others.

Another point is that the concept of ‘gods’ does not fit well in every culture. Cultures are known for their complex categorisations of the supernatural, making it problematic to call certain beings ‘gods’, while others are derived of such a label. Let’s take the Chinese cultural sphere as an example. The Chinese term often translated as ‘god’ in English is shen. Shen are beings with a function in the heavenly bureaucracy, which is accompanied by a salary and the power to enforce laws. Just like it is (approximately) found in the Tabula Smaragdina: as below, so above.

These shen are, however, not really the highest beings in the bureaucracy: above them are the Immortals, perfected humans; and above them are the bodhisattvas, people when attained Enlightenment, who entered nirvāṇa. Even considering that, it is not easy to label these creatures above the gods (shen) as ‘gods’, since they are actually perfected human beings. And even with all this the hierarchy is not that solid, and a lot of variation in the conceptualisation is found in China, sometimes even within one and the same community (David Jordan, God, Ghosts, and Ancestors: Folk Religion in a Taiwanese Village (1972), p. 38-40).

Thus, if the concept of ‘gods’ is problematic, then it is not easy to come to a general description fo the concept ‘myth’. There have been smart people before me who meddled with that concept before me. Among them are the great American folklorist Alan Dundes and the rather shady historian of religion Mircea Eliade. Both defined myths as stories about the creation of the world and all other phenomena (Alan Dundes, Sacred Narrative: Readings in the Theory of Myth (1984), p. 5; Mircea Eliade, The Sacred and the Profane (1957), p. 95). Myths narrative how the world came into being; how people were taught to make fire; how animals spread themselves over nature, generation after generation.

Yeah, this is a pretty neat description of myth. A lot of stories which we would like to call myths are included in this definition. The creation story in Genesis 1, for example, or the myth of Prometheus, who stole fire from the gods. But perhaps now too many things become a myth now, including the next story. We find this story throughout the Netherlands in any case, and perhaps also throughout Germany. Folklorists call the story ATU 2025 The Fleeing Pancake, or sometimes also SINUR 65A Warum das Schwein immer sucht (why the pig is always searching). I am most intimately familiar with this story from the Groningen area and Ostfriesland. I will recount this story using those sources:

“The wife of a farmer is baking pancakes. The suddenly realizes she has no syrup, so she leaves to get some syrup. The fat turns blazing hot, and the pancake jumps out of the pan. The wife of the farmer quickly enters the house again and wants to grab the pancake, but she cannot catch him.”

E.J. Huizenga-Onnekes, Het boek van Minne Koning (1930), p. 76

The pancake goes onwards, but he is met with a lot of danger:

“Outside the pancake runs into a hare, who says: ‘Pancake, pancake, where are you going?’ The pancake answers: ‘I jumped out of the pan of an old lady, outran six flailers on the flailing floor, and you, Hare Quick-Scut, I will outrun as well!’”

Gottfried Henßen, Volkserzählungen aus dem westlichen Niedersachsen (1963), p. 35

The pancake is doing well – he manages to escape many animals. In the end this has grown into a full-blown list:

“Then he meets a wolf who calls out ‘Hey little pancake, where are you going?’ The pancake responds: ‘I jumped out of the pan of an old lady, outran six flailers on the flailing floor, I outran Hare Quick-Scut, Fox Bushy Brush, and you, Wolf White-Arse, I shall outrun as well!’”

Gottfried Henßen, Volkserzählungen aus dem westlichen Niedersachsen (1963), p. 35-36

In the Groningen area the names of the animals are different, but still in form quite similar:

“He encountered a cow which said: ‘Pancake, pancake, you’re running so fast!’ ‘I outran the wife-pife, chicken-picken, cat-pat, dog-pog, and you, cow-pow, think you can catch me?’”

Kornelis ter Laan, Humor in Grunnegerlaand (1947), p. 73

Also nice: in both the versions from Ter Laan (Groningen) and Henßen (Ostfriesland) something of a formula can be identified: en röp (one calls), en seg (one says), and so on. A conjunctive (connective word, not a verb) combined with a verb, while the pronoun is lacking.

Good, for a long time everything went well with our pancake, but then a pig enters the scene:

“Then the pancake meets a boar. The boar smells the pancake and wants to eat him, but the pancake says to the boar: ‘I outsped the wife of the farmer, I escaped the fox, I escaped the house by a pinch, and I can still outrun you too.’ ‘Please repeat that again at my left side,’ the boar answers, because boars eat [their food] from one corner [of their mouth].

‘Well, that is all right’; the pancake is so stupid and goes to the other side, and he repeats it in its ear. The boar quickly takes a bite out of a corner of the pancake, and now the pancake cannot stumble along anymore. ‘Now I will get you,’ the boar says, but the pancake burrows itself into the earth. And since then the boar has started grubbing into the earth, looking for the pancake, and still all boars are grubbing for that half pancake nowadays.”

E.J. Huizenga-Onnekes, Het boek van Minne Koning (1930), p. 76-77

In this way, dear people, did the natural behaviour of pigs come into this world. It tasted that delicious pancake, which quickly scurried deep into the earth, and each and every pig is still looking for that other piece.

Using the definition of Dundes and Eliade, this is certainly a myth: it explains how a certain natural behaviour arose. But is this story really a myth, though? Each time I tell this ‘myth’ as a myth, I encounter resistance: this is a funny story (see also the title of the book of Ter Laan, Humor in the Groningen area), not a serious tale, so then I can’t be a myth, right?

Each time I agree with them: this is no myth, and de definition of Dundes and Eliade don’t do full justice to this story. This is an aetiological legend: a story about the origin of whatever, but which is not always taken seriously. No, it is only a myth when the story is taken seriously, and is of central significance within a culture. A story that is seen as true (William Bascom, “The Forms of Folklore: Prose Narratives,” (1965), p. 4-7).

A true myth cannot be distinguished from history or reality. In our era we consider a myth to be a false story. Something is a myth when it is not true. This is not the technical usage of the term, of course. Folklorists and scholars of religion consider myths to be those narratives that are central to a culture, on which our identities are dependent. That was its function aeons ago, but also in our day and age. The myth of ‘the good West’, where there is no poverty and everyone can live freely. The myth of the tolerant Netherlands, or the precise and punctual Germany. These things that are the first we tell to our foreign guests, but which are way more complicated in reality. Myths are not from a far-flown past, but of all ages.

Dårum wroten swynen altyd in de mudder / That is why pigs always grub in the mud

Spookplåtkepråt

Üm et måken van de foto

Eyrst wul ik når Waddenvarkens gån üm disse plåt to måken, mor et kwam der neet van. Glüklik har ik en plåt van eyn blyd swyn van stadsbüerin in Doetinchem en nog eyn olde plåt med flink wat mudder uut Grönn. En sou was disse plåt möyglik!

Spooky Spectral Speculations

About creating the picture

At first I wanted to visit Waddenvarkens (a happy, free range pigs farm in the north of Groningen) to make this picture, but I did not get to that. Luckily I had a picture of a happy pig at the Stadsboerin (literally: City Farmgirl) at Doetinchem and an old picture with a lot a mud from the north of the Netherlands. And so this picture was possible!

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