Plain Lying Tales

Image of Jack the Giant-Killer from Cardiff Castle | Source

We had great trouble once, because of the loss of the best hen we ever had. The poor thing had broken her leg through some mishap not long before we lost sight of her, but I had made a sort of wooden leg for her and she was all right again. We lost her suddenly one day. Nobody had seen her. We gave up all hopes of ever seeing her again, thinking that a fox had got hold of her, as they often do. Some weeks later, however, I got news of her from Llandyrnog (a village some ten miles distant). I went there, and sure enough, I found the hen, on the top of a hayrick. She had twelve fine chickens. Each of them had a wooden leg.

We also lost a sow, a black one, the like of which there was not in the country, from which we expected a litter soon. We searched and asked the neighbours whether they had seen the sow, to no purpose. It was as if it had been swallowed by the earth. Some weeks later, I was going through the woods, and I saw a litter of fine pigs, eating acorns under an oak. The acorns were dropping down from the tree, and the little fellows running about and gobbling them up neatly. This made me look up, and upon my soul, what should I see there, shaking the branches, but the black sow.

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‘In this exemplary collaboration between medical science and imagination, lives preserved in official records, in the language and diagnoses of their times, are restored not just to light, but to humanity and equality. This anthology is a resurrection.’

Philip Gross