The past is another country (except the people there still speak Greek and you can drink the water).
"So, what’s it like being back, then?"
I placed a tentative hoof onto the rocky ground of Aeaea, unsure how to respond to Sibyl’s question. Excitement and nerves were arm wrestling in my heart, and it was a toss-up which would win. It’s not easy putting a jumble of feelings like that into words. Luckily the gods have blessed me with an uncanny ability to find the perfect turn of phrase:
"A little freaky."
You could hardly blame me. The island of Aeaea was the only place in the civilized world where I might be turned from a pig back into the fine figure of a man I had once been. It was hard to think about anything else.Throughout the voyage here, I had lovingly built up a mental picture of my new life as a reinstated member of the human race. I’d find myself a nice little island and open up a pie shop, and then I’d lead a nice quiet life with absolutely no dangerous adventures.
Hold on a sec -- you do know I was a pig, right? When I said that I put a hoof on dry land, that wasn’t some fancy-pants poetic metaphor. It was a real hoof on the end of a real pig’s leg, namely mine.
Don’t go thinking I was just any old pig, either. I was the one-and-only PIG WHO SAVED THE WORLD! (For full details, go and ask your village storyteller to recite the first set of PIG SCROLLS. Then, if you want to send me a postcard as a thank-you for your continued existence, go right ahead.)
Homer clambered off the ship next.The young poet waded gingerly ashore, holding his sandals in one hand and the hem of his tunic in the other. He gave the wooded interior of the island a wide-eyed stare, no doubt cooking up some la-di-da poetic description of the trees that lined the beach and how foreboding they looked.
Admittedly, there was something a bit unnerving about the darkness through those trees.
"So . . . where’s Circe’s palace?" Homer asked breathlessly.
"Through the dark, creepy forest, then turn right at the nightmarish dead tree stump."
Sibyl was still on board, waiting to confirm plans with Captain Simios, who was currently yelling lots of nautical instructions to the crew. They hopped to it, dropping anchor and tying knots and doing many other things of a technical, maritime nature that I won’t describe here, not because I don’t understand them; I just don’t want to take up valuable scrolltime going into unnecessary detail. So that went well.
While she waited, Sibyl called down to me and Homer: "You should gather some of that plant you told us about, Gryllus.What was it? Moly.We’ll need some, and we should leave some with Captain Simios too. Just in case things don’t go according to plan."
I responded with the no-nonsense nod of a can-do pig.We were on the island of Circe the enchantress, after all, and there’s no telling what someone like that will do. Though she wasn’t one of the actual Olympians, Circe was a divine immortal; she was capable of powerful magic, and she wasn’t afraid to use it. A little green plant called moly was the only thing that could protect a person against her powers, so it made sense to stock up.
"Shake a leg, Homer," I said. The pimply teenage epic poet followed me up the beach to the outer edge of the woods. We had to go in a little way past the tree line, but we kept the ship in sight at all times.
"Here’s some." I thrust my snout at a clump, and the young poet knelt and pulled the plant up.
"How do you know this stuff works, anyway?" the pale lad asked.
"It was the god Hermes," I explained. "He came and told my old captain, Odysseus, all about it."
The usual spark ignited in Homer’s eyes. He got this way whenever there was talk of immortal gods and legendary heroes. If you ask me, that boy needed to get out more.
"Then what?" the epic poet urged me.
I did my best to put him off with a few monosyllabic grunts, but the memories of my first visit to this island came crashing back.
Of course, I had been human when I first trod these shores -- a member of Odysseus’s crew.We had been on our way back to Ithaca from the Trojan War when we landed here, lost and in need of fresh supplies. Our heroic leader organized a party to explore the island’s interior. I could still picture the captain’s rugged face as he growled, "Might as well take Gryllus."
I manfully ignored the groans from the rest of the scouting party. (Hurtful as they were, these came as no surprise. I had always been more of a heroic outsider than a team player, more lone wolf than social animal. Or, in the words of my first-grade teacher, I "didn’t play well with others.") So that’s how I ended up tramping to the middle of the island, even though my military record specifically said that I was excused from such duties on account of flat feet.
It was a long, hard walk. But just as I was urging the group to listen to reason and turn back, the land leveled off and we stepped into a clearing.We found ourselves gazing at a sumptuous palace set back in tastefully maintained grounds, and there were wild animals everywhere -- bears, lions, stags, that sort of thing -- all just wandering around.The beasts made a lot of noise when they spotted us, but none attacked.
That’s when Circe emerged from the front door. . . .
Excerpted from The Pig Who Saved the World by Paul Shipton. Copyright © 2007 by Paul Shipton. Excerpted by permission of Candlewick, a division of Random House LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.