Alison Uttley’s Sam Pig rediscovered
I’ve been away on an extended holiday in the United Kingdom for the last few weeks and I can safely say that I haven’t thought about much about books, with one exception. We stayed at my mother’s house and in the spare room I found one of my favourite childhood books – the Sam Pig Storybook by Alison Uttley.
My mother read that book to me. I loved it. I was given that particular copy in 1972 when I was four years old by one set of grandparents. That copy, a 1971 paperback, was very beaten up (by me). The cover was almost completely ripped off and I had doodled on lots of the illustrations. I felt rather shamed when I looked at the damage I had caused as a stupid little boy.
However, that didn’t stop me reading the book to my children during the holiday. If you don’t know Sam Pig, then you should get to know him. These stories are from a different age when farmers got around in a horse and cart and haymaking was done by hand.
Sam lives in a house with his brothers, Bill and Tom, and his sister, Ann Pig and Brock the Badger is their wise and careful (and slightly magical) guardian. Ann mends things and Bill and Tom do the cooking and gardening. Sam Pig can talk but not all humans can understand him. Farmer Greensleeves, the village policeman, the Irish cook in the ‘Big House, and the plumber are all encountered on his gentle adventures.
Sam, who mostly messes about and plays his fiddle, gets on well with Sally the Mare and also the scarecrow, who in one story goes off on holiday to Blackpool when Sam takes his place in the field. My favourite story is Sam Pig Visits the Big House. The Big House is not a prison but the place where the wealthy folks live. Sam is nosy and watches the cook making a Christmas pudding, he falls into the bowl and ends up being chased down the road by the cook and the maids who think the pudding has developed magical qualities.
The stories are charming and my children loved them too. And yet Uttley was, apparently, a bit of an old battleaxe. She hated her ‘rival’ Enid Blyton and was considered to be a ‘controlling’ woman. This Guardian article has more about this author’s dark background.