A short story that I wrote for Yule this year.
The Yule Hog
Henry was a very large pig. Pigs can be sizeable, but Henry had a glandular issue that made him keep growing. He was only a piglet but was already enormous. The farmer looked at him as if measuring for a Holiday dinner. The other pigs warned him. If he didn’t lose weight, the farmer might choose him to eat.
Henry started to exercise and ate less than the other pigs, but still continued to grow. He was only a year old but was now being called a Hog. He wanted to do something besides eating, sleeping, and rolling in the mud. Henry wanted to be useful and he understood what fate awaited him if he stayed at the farm. He dreamed of running away and finding his place in the world.
He was snuffling around the window near the farmhouse when he overheard a girl asking about the yule log. The mother told her that a yule log is used to keep loved ones warm during the winter cold.
That’s silly, thought Henry. A log keeps nobody warm. I must have heard her wrong. She must have meant a yule hog. I would be excellent at keeping things warm.
“That’s it,” he said. “That is my purpose. I will be a yule hog and keep things warm. I wonder what sort of training you should go through to become a yule hog? I will ask the dog. She seems to understand more than the rest of the animals about the humans.“
He waited for the dog to come outside and when she raced onto the lawn, he approached her.
“Hello Dog.” Said Henry. “I am hoping to become a yule hog. Do you know about yule hogs or do you remember somebody who might?”
“I don’t know any yule hogs, Henry. You could check with the Raven. She lives nearby and sees much from the sky. If yule hog training existed, she would know it.”
The dog gave Henry directions and then began digging a hole. Henry thanked her and gave her a bone. He took a few bites of food and walked into the forest to begin his mission. He was determined to find the wise raven, but it was getting dark. He found a pleasant clearing with proper grass and leaves for bedding. He shuffled around several times, calling out to any creatures that might be underground. He listened carefully before settling in for the night.
He woke later to a soft sniffling. He opened one eye and found a small field mouse leaning against his side. It looked so tiny it must be a child.
“Why are you crying little mouse, and where are your parents?” The mouse jumped. He thought he was leaning against a giant, bristly, rock. He relaxed when he saw that Henry did not want to eat him.
“I lost my family and I am so cold. The forest is dangerous for mice. I might be eaten by owls, snakes or foxes. I’m shaking with fear and I want to hide for the night. I am afraid if I do, I might freeze.”
“I am on a quest to become a yule hog,” said Henry. “I will keep you warm and safe throughout the night.”
He brushed grass and twigs into the curve of one of his legs and nodded to the mouse.
“Don’t be afraid little mouse. I am a very warm hog and I am too big to be afraid of owls, snakes or even foxes. You will be safe with me. In the morning, you can find your family.“
The mouse climbed into the brush and was soon snoring.
The moon was overhead when soft footsteps crept nearby.
“Who is there?” Asked, Henry.
“I am a mere squirrel.” said a voice to the side of him. “You need not trouble with me. I am old and may not survive the night. A fox found my burrow and may catch me soon. I am too tired to build a new home, but if I stop without a burrow, I will freeze.”
“I’m not afraid of a fox, owl or snake,” said Henry. “Would you care to hide with me? I am in training to become a yule hog.”
“What is a yule hog?” Asked the squirrel.
“A yule hog keeps their friends and family warm and safe throughout the night.”
“That sounds wonderful.” Said the old squirrel.
“You can sleep next to my stomach, by my back legs. Why don’t you bring some of those leaves over to cover you?”
“Thank you, I will.” Said the squirrel. “You are kind and generous.”
Soon the squirrel was sleeping against Henry. It was not long though before he became aware of sniffing and the careful tread of something larger. Henry sniffed and caught a musky odor he recognized.
“Is that you, fox?”
“It is, and you are a pig. Shouldn’t you be sleeping in a barn?”
“I am a hog,” said Henry. “A yule hog in training”.
The fox did not like admitting that he didn’t understand and replied.
“I wish you luck. Have you seen a thin old squirrel? It came this way.”
“I cannot remember.” Lied Henry. “If I had, I would be obligated to give shelter, warmth, and protection. As a yule hog, I would be cross with any creature that tried to harm it.”
The fox sniffed the air, looked put upon, and left. Henry was huge, even for a hog and the fox was not a foolish animal.
The moon was low in the sky when Henry woke again. He heard the small cries of two field mice calling out in the darkness.
“Shhh,” said Henry. “Creatures are sleeping here. There is also a fox nearby and you sound like you are just the right size morsel for him.”
“We are searching for our son.” Said the taller of the mice.
“He separated from us earlier. We were avoiding a snake and he ran.” The smaller of the mice shook a little as she spoke to Henry.
“We are so scared for him. He could be in great danger.”
“I met a mouse child earlier tonight. If you’ll promise to be quiet, you can check to see if he is yours. You can sleep the rest of the night at my side. I will keep you warm and safe, for I am training to be a yule hog.”
“What type of training do you need to be a yule hog?”
“I am not certain,” said Henry. “I must ask the raven when I find her.”
The mice crept to Henry’s side and checked on the child. They squeaked with joy to find it was their boy. They settled in next to him and slept in a ball together under the twigs.
Henry woke in the morning, careful not to move any of his legs or to roll. His guests for the evening had left. He wished he had said goodbye to them. When he stood to leave, he noticed they had left several gifts for him. His favorite was a small piece of bark with a hole and a vine wrapped through it. On the bark was a crude picture of a pig with heat coming from him. Henry placed the vine around his neck and gathered the other gifts.
He never found the raven. Each night he slept where the creatures of the forest might wander. He made his bed there and sheltered any who needed it. Each morning he moved to a different location. When he came upon farms, he spoke to the hogs who seemed discontent. He taught them the responsibility of having a large, warm body. He showed them how they could become yule hogs themselves.
Henry spent the rest of his life performing the duties of yule hog. His warmth finally ran out on a snowy evening. He opened his eyes to find that his spirit had left his body. He squealed to see that his favorite necklace was still around his neck as a spirit. He had worn it since his first day as a yule hog. He looked up and noticed a man with the antlers of a giant stag kneeling before him.
“I am Cerrunnos, Lord of the Forest. You have spent your life looking after my smallest creatures and you have taught others to do the same. You were the first yule hog, and you will ever be first among yule hogs. Follow me and look after those who need warmth and protection forever more.”
Henry felt such a serenity and kindness from this being that he followed without question. Henry grew larger and larger with each step. When he arrived at the Glade of Cerrunnos, he was a giant boar with dangerous tusks and a huge warm body. He stayed in the glade and looked after the creatures of the forest. It is said even today when the first snows fall, the creatures of the forest pay homage to the great yule hog.