The legend of the smothered chicken of Greaselbow has been told and retold for over a thousand years. The core details seldom vary. In the rustic backwater of Greaselbow, a child, usually but not always an orphan, is settling in to its cot one wild and windy night when it senses an unusual lump under its pillow. Lifting the pillow, the child finds a chicken, often but not always a Vanburgh chicken, which has expired due to smothering. The child picks up the chicken by one of its feet, and chucks it out of the bedroom window. The instant it is let go, the chicken springs to life, utters a shrill squawk, and hurtles heavenward. When the child returns to bed, it finds the pillow vanished, replaced by a large egg. The child climbs into the egg – somehow – and the shell then closes around it.
Interpretations of the legend by folklorists have tended to concentrate on the egg and the child, but of more interest is the smothered chicken. That is particularly the case if one has a penchant for poultry. And which of us does not? Well, you might counter, there are plenty of people who don’t give a fig about poultry. Even keen egg-eaters, who rarely let a breakfast go by without scoffing an egg or two, might be utterly uninterested in the provenance of their eggs, id est poultry of one kind or another.
This is a lamentable state of affairs, and is the reason I carry a pillow with me whenever I am in the vicinity of someone eating eggs.
“Oi!”, I shout, “Where did those eggs come from?”
Unless I receive a full and frank reply, acknowledging the eggs’ origins, I bundle the egg-eater to the ground and smother them with the pillow. Oh Lord, save us and protect us, for we know not what we do.
That was a Thought For The Day by the Reverend Joost Van Dongelbraacke, vicar prebendary of St Bibblybibdib’s.