Today it was a tussle between the Empress of Blandings and the Earl of Emsworth. The pig won.
If you are a Wodehouse fan, you don’t need an introduction to the Empress of Blandings. To those who are not fans (Blasphemy! How can you not be one?), the Empress of Blandings is a pig, a Berkshire sow to be exact, born in the imagination of my most favourite author ever, the inimitable P.G.Wodehouse.
We first meet the Empress in the story Pig-hoo-o-o-o-ey. Her keeper Cyril Wellbeloved has been locked up in the local police station and the pig missing him refuses sustenance much to the worry of her owner the woolly-headed peer, Lord Emsworth. How could he not, considering that he has entered the Empress in the ‘fat pigs’ class in the Shropshire Agricultural Show and expects her to come home with the trophy much like parents of some children! Enter James Belford, the aspiring suitor for Angela’s (Lord Emsworth’s niece) hand. With his technique of pig-calling, he persuades the Empress to partake of her required calories and thus saves the day. The Empress goes on to win a medal and the lovers are united.
From then on we find Lord Emsworth obsessed with the Empress of Blandings. Or maybe it was Wodehouse who was obsessed with her for we find her playing big and small parts in subsequent Blandings stories. The books she makes an appearance include Summer Lightning (1929), Heavy Weather (1933), Uncle Fred in the Springtime (1939), Full Moon (1947), Pigs Have Wings (1952), Service With a Smile (1961), Galahad at Blandings (1965), A Pelican at Blandings (1969) and
Sunset at Blandings (1977).
Lord Emsworth likes nothing better than to stand and gaze at the Empress feeding, much to the disgust of his sisters. Her chomp-chomp is music to his ears and balm to his soul. The more she eats, the fatter she gets, and what more is needed for a pig that is to be entered in the fat pigs class? But there’s a snake in Lord Emsworth’s garden. Not literally, though I am not sure there weren’t some snakes in the Blandings garden, but those the gardener would have taken care of and needn’t concern the Empress, Lord Emsworth or us.
Anyways, this snake that I speak of is Sir Gregory Parsloe, the Earl of Emsworth’s neighbor who also has a pig and is bent on it winning a medal at any cost. Kidnapping of pigs and wooing away of pig men is littered throughout the books. Of course, sometimes the Empress is stowed away by ‘insiders’ so as to influence Lord Emsworth to either sign a cheque or give blessings to a union when the suitor is considered ‘unsuitable’ according to any one of the Earl’s snooty sisters, all of whom without exception dislike the Empress intensely. Imagine the plight of the Earl of when one of them takes into her head that the Empress is too fat and needs to diet.
You have to read the tales in the master writer’s words to enjoy the stories to the hilt. You will find yourself giggling, quietly laughing to yourself, guffawing, even rolling on the floor laughing out loud while reading. What’s more, you will remember some of the passages later on and walk around with a grin on your face that brightens up your whole day. But most of all you will want to stand next to Lord Emsworth and watch the not-so-little piggy-wiggy (more like a balloon with a nose, ears and a curly tail) feeding contentedly from the trough.
©Shail Mohan 2022