Gather round, my children, and be honest with Aunty Amy: who among you has not wondered what happened to all the poop on Noah’s ark?
Well, my dears, Aunty Amy can assure you: there is no snigger-inducing theological or biblical-historical question you can ask that has not already been considered by a serious medieval author. So make yourselves comfortable – you, little Suzie, stop pinching poor Johnny; and you there, give Katie her teddy back. Right, everyone comfortable?
The story of the CRAPOCALYPSE ON THE ARK. The very true, absolutely historical story of the CRAPOCALYPSE ON THE ARK, which was written down by Matthew Paris, and was told to him by a bloke who had it told to him by a fella who had it told to him by some guy who heard it from Mohammed, and he knew about it because it was a story Jesus told. No, wait, Jesus didn’t tell it: he thought no one would believe him, so he resurrected Japeth son of Noah from a clump of mud, and he told all the people about the CRAPOCALYPSE ON THE ARK.
So you can see it’s a very reliable, utterly historical story, the story of the CRAPOCALYPSE ON THE ARK.
Once upon a time, it rained for forty days and forty nights, and Noah and all his family including Japeth (henceforth, Noah et al) and all the animals were on the ark floating around aimlessly on the flood. They had plenty of food with them, stored down one side of the ark; and all the animals lived down the other side.
Soon the Ark began to tilt to one side – there wasn’t enough grain on the grain side, and too much poop on the animal side! They were facing a disaster! A Crapocalypse! A veritable Cacastrophe!
So Noah et al did what any sensible sailor would do: shovelled the poop overboard and redistributed the cargo. No, wait, they didn’t. They did what good Old Testament faithful do: they prayed and made sacrifices. And God gave them very sensible, sound advice. Always trust God with your nautical problems.
God said unto them: build an altar made of mixed camel and human poop, and make sacrifices upon it, and help will come. So they did. They built an altar out of poop and made sacrifices upon it.
And when they had finished making sacrifices, the altar exploded and out of it sprung a sow, who proceeded to scatter poop everywhere – most usefully, off the Ark.
Yay! No more poopocalypse!
But now Noah et al have a different problem: they have a rampaging sow. And sows are unclean animals. Should they throw it overboard? No, they decide: this sow is a gift from God. Our own special and blessed crap-destroying sow.
This was a mistake. God punished them. He sent them a MOUSEPOCALYPSE: the sow sneezed out mice, and the mice ran all over the ark eating all the grain, and the beams of the boat, and all the sailing tack.
Noah et al whined to God that this was unfair, and they were very sorry about keeping the sow, and could he make the mice go away please.
So God gave them very sensible advice: get a hammer, and go into the animal pens, and find the lion. Hit the lion on the head with the hammer – but hit him gently – and help will come. So Noah et al got a hammer, and went and hit the lion gently on the head with the hammer.
And the lion vomited up a herd of cats, who ate all the mice.
And they all lived happily ever after.
Yes, Suzie? What do you mean, what happened to the lion? I don’t know what happened to the lion. He lived happily ever after, I guess.
Katie? No, I don’t know what happened to the sow. I guess they threw her overboard, because look what happened last time they didn’t throw her overboard.
The cats? Johnny wants to know about the cats. Well, I can tell you what happened to the cats: absolutely nothing, because cats are masters unto themselves.
Is that it? Everybody happy now?
Oh-ho, the sceptic in the back doesn’t think a sow can be formed out of mixed camel and human dung! Well, my precious little sceptic, Matthew Paris thought about the Ark Poop Problem before you did, and he thought of that too. It is perfectly possible and logical – because God would only perform logical miracles, of course – to form a sow out of mixed human and camel dung. Pigs, as everyone knows, are human on the inside and quadruped on the outside, so basically half human and half camel. And they love dung. Perfect sense.
And before you get any more questions in your little head: dung is basically earth, and everyone knows mice live in holes in the earth, so there were mice inside the sow. And lions, lions vomit cats all the time, because cats are basically tiny lions.
Logic. You can’t argue with it.
I found this story in an English translation of excerpts from the Chronica Majora, in Blackwoods Edinburgh Magazine Sept 1820 (I think?), with no translator attribution that I can find. It’s on page 609 in this googlebooks file. I was looking for sow symbolism / visions / analogies to go with and explain the one in the Grisandolus Episode of the Suite Merlin (English). Anyone who knows of sows specifically associated with female lust and/or bad queens, gimme a shout.
I really like the practical logic gone into this story. In John Pryor’s crusade history classes in undergrad we spent an inordinate amount of time thinking about his favourite conundrum at the time, ‘Why was it possible to transport horses by ship to the siege of Acre but it hadn’t been before that?’, and a classmate who owned a horse gave him his very favourite research paper ever: a systematic calculation of how much horse poo would weigh, balanced against how much the horse ate and drank, and calculations as to whether it would be more efficient to keep the poop as ballast or take extra barrels to fill with water and replace the grain-weight.
Of course, by practical logic, I mean someone’s thought about poop, but not about ships or ballast. Or mucking out animal stalls. So only marginally practical logic.