Flying Pigs

Dame Carcas

Pursuing the porcine theme, I recall a couple of weeks spent slumming it in the city of Carcassonne, and being much amused by the legend of Dame Carcas, which goes something like this: In 760, Pepin the Short (love those medieval sobriquets), King of the Franks, re-conquered most of southern France from the Saracen invader. But Carcassonne held out. There was a long siege. The enterprising Dame Carcas, widow of the Lord of the castle, devised a strategy to save the city. She fed the last remaining pig with the last remaining sack of grain and had the unfortunate beast tossed from the ramparts, to indicate to the besieging army that food was plentiful within the city walls. According to the Carcassone city council’s tourist office pamphlet: “the astonished assailants concluded that the inhabitants still had enough food in stock to stave off famine and weren’t about to surrender any time soon. And so they gave up and quickly lifted the siege. Dame Carcas rang all the bells of the city all day long to celebrate the victory. Legend has it that Dame “Carcas sonne” (Dame “Carcas rings”) is where the name of the city came from.”

The only other incident I know relating to an airborne pig takes place in Graham Greene’s short story ‘A shocking accident’, in which an English schoolboy, Jerome, is summonsed to the study of his housemaster, Mr Wordsworth, to be told that his father has had a terrible accident. Assuming, wrongly, that his father has been shot – Jerome worships his father and has fantasised a life for him in the British Secret Services – he is disappointed to discover that he met with a rather more exotic end:

‘Did they shoot him through the heart?’

‘I beg your pardon. What did you say, Jerome?’

‘Did they shoot him through the heart?’

‘Nobody shot him, Jerome. A pig fell on him.’ An inexplicable convulsion took place in the nerves of Mr Wordsworth’s face; it really looked for a moment as though he were going to laugh. He closed his eyes, composed his features and said rapidly as though it were necessary to expel the story as rapidly as possible. ‘Your father was walking along a street in Naples when a pig fell on him. A shocking accident. Apparently in the poorer quarters of Naples they keep pigs on their balconies. This one was on the fifth floor. It had grown too fat. The balcony broke. The pig fell on your father.’

Mr Wordsworth left his desk rapidly and went to the window, turning his back on Jerome. He shook a little with emotion.

Jerome said, ‘What happened to the pig?’

I am sure there must be third airborne pig, somewhere in history or legend or literature, but cannot bring it to mind. If anyone knows what it is, please do post.





5 Comments on “Flying Pigs

  1. Hay una película maravillosa que se llama “Cuando los chanchos vuelen”(Le cochon de gaza, Francia-Bélgica- Alemania / 2011) / Dirección y guión: Sylvain Estibal / Fotografía: Romain Winding / Edición: Damien Keyeux / Música: Acqualactica y Boogie Balagan / Dirección de producción : Albrecht Konrad / Elenco: Sasson Gabai, Baya Belal, Myriam Tekaia, Gassan Abbas, Ulrich Tukur, Khalifa Natour. Pero no me acuerdo de chanchos literarios en este momento.


  2. According to the old Wikipedia, in 1909 John-Moore Brabazon, 1st Baron Brabazon of Tara (not a relative of mine), “as a joke to prove that pigs could fly, (he) put a small pig in a waste-paper basket tied to a wing-strut of his aeroplane. This may have been the first live cargo flight by aeroplane”.


  3. If somebody could read in Spanish, here is a link to a very interesting history about the pig, from Antiquity until now :

    And by the way, in Barcelona exists a beer called Cerdos Voladores (“Flying Pigs”). You can check here:
    It said that is brewed by Barcelona Beer Company and that it has a style similar to the India Pale Ale (IPA). Cheers!


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