They Always Eat the Boy

Post to Twitter

Why do they always eat the boy?”  That was the (not-really-serious) question my witty colleague Sasha Greenawalt whispered to me when someone mentioned the case of  Regina v. Dudley and Stephens,  14 Q.B.D. 273  (1884), that staple of first-year Criminal Law casebooks.  Sasha pointed me to a long string of shipwreck/cannibalism cases and noted a common thread: who gets eaten in the end.  Reality-as-metaphor?  Crim Law Feminist Law Profs, please weigh in.

-Bridget Crawford

Share
This entry was posted in Law Teaching. Bookmark the permalink.

0 Responses to They Always Eat the Boy

  1. rootlesscosmo says:

    Well, why do we generally prefer a young pullet to an old rooster? But see also:

    THE YARN OF THE “NANCY BELL”
    by W. S. Gilbert

    ‘Twas on the shores that round our coast
    From Deal to Ramsgate span,
    That I found alone on a piece of stone
    An elderly naval man.

    His hair was weedy, his beard was long,
    And weedy and long was he,
    And I heard this wight on the shore recite,
    In a singular minor key:

    “Oh, I am a cook and a captain bold,
    And the mate of the Nancy brig,
    And a bo’sun tight, and a midshipmite,
    And the crew of the captain’s gig.”

    And he shook his fists and he tore his hair,
    Till I really felt afraid,
    For I couldn’t help thinking the man had been drinking,
    And so I simply said:

    “Oh, elderly man, it’s little I know
    Of the duties of men of the sea,
    But I’ll eat my hand if I understand
    How you can possibly be

    “At once a cook, and a captain bold,
    And the mate of the Nancy brig,
    And a bo’sun tight, and a midshipmite,
    And the crew of the captain’s gig.”

    Then he gave a hitch to his trousers, which
    Is a trick all seamen larn,
    And having got rid of a thumping quid,
    He spun this painful yarn:

    ” ‘Twas in the good ship Nancy Bell
    That we sailed to the Indian sea,
    And there on a reef we come to grief,
    Which has often occurred to me.

    “And pretty nigh all o’ the crew was drowned
    (There was seventy-seven o’ soul),
    And only ten of the Nancy’s men
    Said ‘Here!’ to the muster-roll.

    “There was me and the cook and the captain bold,
    And the mate of the Nancy brig,
    And the bo’sun tight, and a midshipmite,
    And the crew of the captain’s gig.

    “For a month we’d neither wittles nor drink,
    Till a-hungry we did feel,
    So we drawed a lot, and accordin’ shot
    The captain for our meal.

    “The next lot fell to the Nancy’s mate,
    And a delicate dish he made;
    Then our appetite with the midshipmite
    We seven survivors stayed.

    “And then we murdered the bo’sun tight,
    And he much resembled pig;
    Then we wittled free, did the cook and me,
    On the crew of the captain’s gig.

    “Then only the cook and me was left,
    And the delicate question, ‘Which
    Of us two goes to the kettle?’ arose
    And we argued it out as sich.

    “For I loved that cook as a brother, I did,
    And the cook he worshipped me;
    But we’d both be blowed if we’d either be stowed
    In the other chap’s hold, you see.

    ” ‘I’ll be eat if you dines off me,’ says Tom,
    ‘Yes, that,’ says I, ‘you’ll be,’–
    ‘I’m boiled if I die, my friend,’ quoth I,
    And ‘Exactly so,’ quoth he.

    ‘Says he,’ Dear James, to murder me
    Were a foolish thing to do,
    For don’t you see that you can’t cook me,
    While I can–and will–cook you!’

    “So he boils the water, and takes the salt
    And the pepper in portions true
    (Which he never forgot), and some chopped shalot,
    And some sage and parsley too.

    ” ‘Come here,’ says he, with a proper pride,
    Which his smiling features tell,
    ‘ ‘Twill soothing be if I let you see,
    How extremely nice you’ll smell.’

    “And he stirred it round and round and round,
    And he sniffed at the foaming froth;
    When I ups with his heels, and smothers his squeals
    In the scum of the boiling broth.

    “And I eat that cook in a week or less,
    And–as I eating be
    The last of his chops, why, I almost drops,
    For a wessel in sight I see!

    * * * * * * *

    “And I never grin, and I never smile,
    And I never larf nor play,
    But I sit and croak, and a single joke
    I have–which is to say:

    “Oh, I am a cook and a captain bold,
    And the mate of the Nancy brig,
    And a bo’sun tight, and a midshipmite,
    And the crew of the captain’s gig!”