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Pigs Is Pigs : Down the Rabbit Hole to discover a turn of the last century tale

Pigs Is Pigs by Ellis Parker Butler (cover of book)

Stumbling around in my big vat of research, I encountered a reference to, Pigs is Pigs. I thought it was a cute title so I looked it up.

Ellis Parker Butler, the author, penned almost 2000 short stories and 30 novels in his day but is likely most famous for his short story: "Pigs Is Pigs” was originally published in 1905 in the American Illustrated Magazine. It was so popular it was republished in book form in more than one edition. Here's the cover of an edition which featured lovely illustrations from Paul Carruth.

Illustration by Paul Carruth of two guinea pigs from Pigs Is Pigs
Illustration by Paul Carruth

The tale firmly set in the era of railroads. The story goes: a bureaucratic stationmaster insists on getting the livestock rate for a shipment of two pet guinea pigs, but while waiting, the guinea pigs start proliferating as guinea pigs tend to do. I love this historical satire making statements on railway rules. It was fresh and relevant for the period where train travel and train freight were of the moment.

In 1954, Disney made it into a short animated moviewhich I have to say is adorable. if you have seven minutes to spare you’ll be in the know about this esoteric tale.

Photo of Ellis Parker Butler from wikipedia/LOC.
Ellis Parker Butler

I suspect, like me, you may also find the idea is startlingly similar to the Star Trek tribbles story "The Trouble With Tribbles". But that was written by a different author sixty-two years later. There are also similarities to Robert Heinlein's 1952 Martian flat cats in The Rolling Stones, though I haven't read it—have you?

I think it's a great reminder that no idea is ever entirely new. The tribbles and the Martian cats were incredibly novel ways to look at proliferating creatures in their time as well. Interested in reading? Here's a free online text and audio version of Pigs Is Pigs at Lit2Go. Enjoy!

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