The pig’s doom: Animal butchery, gender relations, and a new solution for Durham Proverb 10


Durham Proverbs
Old English

How to Cite

Wade, E. (2020). The pig’s doom: Animal butchery, gender relations, and a new solution for Durham Proverb 10. SELIM. Journal of the Spanish Society for Medieval English Language and Literature., 25(1), 187-192.


The Old English and Latin Durham Proverbs are famously obscure. Durham Proverb 10 describes a man sitting on a pig; the man jokes that what happens next is up to the pig. Scholars have read this as a possible marital joke, since the man is called a ceorl or maritus ‘husband’, yet this article suggests that the context is that of pig butchery. Medieval art frequently shows pigs being butchered by a man sitting on top of them to hold them down. Moreover, they often show the butchery performed by a man and a woman, suggesting that this proverb was a reference to an activity that a couple performed together, rather than a sexist commentary on marriage.


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