I hope you didn’t find the new posting schedule too jarring (and I’m sure I’m flattering myself in thinking some of you might have), but I really did have a great time with last installment’s category – exoplanets are just really, really cool. This week we’ll be going just about as far from exoplanets as you can, with an entire category devoted to donkeys in fiction. I’m actually a big fan of categories like this one, that take a seemingly random thing and build clues around it. I find they can open up a new way of looking at a topic – you’d probably never have thought about all the donkeys you’ve met in culture until you see a bunch of them thrown at you at once, like we get here.
Jeopardy! category: PIN THE TALE ON THE DONKEY (28-05-2014)
$200 clue: Clover, a horse in this Orwell book, asks Benjamin the donkey to read her their sixth commandment
The gist: The two horses, Clover and Boxer, are the kind, loyal muscle of the operation, but they’re a bit lacking in brains.
That’s why Clover needs to get someone (or something) to remind her what the pigs had written as the sixth commandment on the side of the barn in George Orwell’s Animal Farm. The sixth commandment (of the seven), as formulated by the pigs Snowball and Napoleon, was “No animal shall kill any other animal.” Clover, who knew the ABCs but couldn’t read, asked Benjamin the donkey, the oldest, wisest, and most cynical animal on the farm, to read the commandment to her in case she had forgotten it. Napoleon the pig had used his trained dogs to enact a purge of dissident-minded animals, and the animals were worried that he might have broken his own commandment in doing so. But when Muriel the goat reads it again (after Benjamin, in his usual way, said there was no point and refused), they find the commandment actually reads “No animal shall kill any other animal without cause.” Although none of them can seem to remember the final two words being there before, they ultimately decide it must have been there since the pigs are, as they all knew, much smarter than them, and they would never go against their own commandment. Ultimately, the last four of the commandments would be amended, and the first three reduced to the pithy “four legs good, two legs better” once the pigs adopted a human-style bipedal walk, until the luxury and indolence of the pigs set them apart from their comrades forever.
Clover and Boxer, the gentle giants who pledge their unthinking loyalty to the pigs, were Orwell’s caricature of the Russian working class who were conscripted by the Bolsheviks to oust Czar Nicholas II from the Russian throne and institute a Communist regime. Orwell, a socialist himself, nonetheless didn’t have much respect for the Russian masses – the horses are not only dumb but also blindly loyal, such that they’re not only not smart enough to see down the road the pigs are leading them on but also unwilling to let themselves look down it. In the end their myopia would lead Boxer, who had been Napoleon’s most loyal and most productive worker, to a (ahem) sticky end.
The clue: If it’s an Orwell book and there’s animals involved, it couldn’t be anything but Animal Farm, and of course it is. The inclusion of the author’s name makes it much more a question about his works than it is about knowing the book’s minor characters, which is why a lesser-known donkey like Benjamin is appropriate for a $200 clue.
In Jeopardy!: Searching “animal farm” turns up too many clues to look through; searching “animal farm Orwell” gives a more manageable 21 regular clues and one FJ! clue. The splits are about even between the clue mentioning the book and asking for the author and vice versa. Needless to say, animals are mentioned pretty frequently, usually pigs, and Napoleon appears more frequently (nine) than Snowball (six). The commandments and “four legs” and “two legs” are also mentioned a few times, and references to communism (like “comrade”) also show up. If you see any of those, you’ll know which it is – it’s not too easy to mix it up with 1984 with clues like these. Plus, it’s a pretty short read – why not just give it a shot yourself?