Sardinian Pig Finger Game

“It is something that you do with children, with the fingers on one hand and uh, the thumb is the pig. And the other fingers are, ‘one killed the pig’, ‘the other one umm well after you kill the pig you have to pass it on the fire to burn the…the hair, its kind of a strong hair, and then finally the ring finger ate it. But then little pinky who told everyone, you know, spilled the beans, and then he didn’t get any. In Sardinia it goes like that, touching the finger. (The informant repeated this little rhyme in Sardinian). And this is in Sardinian which is the language of the island of Sardinia and the variety that I speak, not very well, but the one that I uhh learned through my maternal grandparents is the variety called Locudorese that is in the north. So I remember my grandmother, Antonina, um you know, playing with us and doing this thing. And it is very Sardinian because you know, that’s what people used to do when propane was scare, was to fatten the pig, typically around Christmas umm they killed it and of course they didn’t throw away anything because they made, you know, prosciutto, sausage, the ears, the feet, everything was used. And umm so this is the process. The fact that after you kill it, you know, the pig has this kind of this strong hair that you have to burn so you pass the pieces of meat on a fire. And it gives off a terrible smell, like when you accidentally burn your nails, because it is basically that same kind of substance. But you have to do it otherwise you can’t eat the meat.”

As the informant stated, he learned this game from his grandmother as a young child. The game relates to the traditional cooking in the region of Sardinia where he grew up. Folklore is born from culture, and eating is very important to a culture, so it makes sense that there are children games that deal with food and eating. The informant placed a lot of  importance on the process of burning the hair. Possibly this is because he remembers the distinct smell and the unique process, or because it is a foreign idea to me, as the collector, so he spent extra time on it. He also said later that the reason that the pinky-finger didn’t get any meat was because he spilled the beans about the feast, and when people hear about someone cooking pig in the village, that person has to share. This demonstrates the community ties of a small village such as the one where the informant grew up. They would share meals because such luxuries (like pig) were rare.  He says that this was a game he played when he was very young. It allowed him to bond with his grandmother, reaffirm his local cultural traditions, and partake in childhood games. Playing with the fingers instead of the toes allows the game to continue into later childhood, because it is less weird for someone to touch your fingers than your toes.

This little finger game reminds me of a similar game we play with babies and children. The version I remember goes, “This little piggy went to market, this little piggy stayed home, this little piggy had roast beef, this little piggy had none, and this little piggy went wee wee wee all the way home”. And instead of touching the fingers, starting with the thumb, you touch the toes, starting with the big toe. This game reminds me of playing with children and making them giggle. The pinky seems to be a funny finger/toe, always getting into trouble or doing something silly. The game also helps children connect with their bodies, which they need to do in the early stages of life. I think it’s interesting that the Sardinian version talks about cooking pigs, while the version I know talks about buying beef at the market. It reflects the difference in culture, because here we rarely cook our food from scratch, while that is more common in rural Sardinia. It should also be noted that the informant said the Sardinian version, but I didn’t want to attempt to spell (or misspell) his words phoenetiallay. However, I included his  translations.