Not law at all this one – there doesn’t seem to be much new good law at the moment, it is a dry January. So I thought I’d share with you this little bit of weirdness, which I went from never having heard of at all to hearing from three separate sources in six weeks (Dave Gorman, No Such Thing as a Fish and a book called Forgotten Science)
Each of them had a slightly different take on it, and as I was taken by the story, I thought I’d like to share it with you.
As you’ll know, lots of products use illustrations of animals to sell their products – from glossy-coated labradors on pet food to comedic chickens on pengest wings to inappropriately friendly tigers selling you over-sugared breakfast cereals originally devised to stop people masturbating. But here is a question (which will be a bit marred if the image that you see is the product in question, so I’ll put a filler image in)
What food product decided to advertise its wares with a picture of a dead lion – and not just any dead lion, but a dead lion surrounded by bees? (and more importantly WHY?)
Okay, enough padding. Anyone seen a food product that uses on its packaging a corpse of a lion surrounded by bees? You probably think that you haven’t, but I bet you have and just never noticed it. I bet there’s a tin of it in your house now. Here it is
What the actual flipping heck, Tate and Lyle? Who puts a dead lion on their product? And Golden Syrup has no connection to bees. Golden Syrup (insert your own Donald Trump joke here) is just made out of sugar, not honey.
You may have spotted the wording too (not just ‘partially inverted refiners syrup’ which is less appetising than something you want on the front of your tin) but “out of the strong came forth sweetness”
That’s a Biblical reference, and the explanation as to the tin is just that like most well-known products, it was invented a long time ago, and like most extremely successful businessmen in olden times – paying nuff respect to God for the privilege and wealth you had gotten is just something that went down at that time.
This was a riddle told by Samson (yep, the guy with the hair and the strength and the murderous rages) at a wedding – he told the riddle and said that if anyone guessed it he would give them lots of linen, but if anyone didn’t, they would have to give him linen. They all tried to solve the riddle, which was this
“Out of the eater, came forth meat, and out of the strong came forth sweetness – what is it?”
(Now, even though you already KNOW that the answer is a dead lion and bees related, you still can’t get it, so it is no surprise that Samson soon stood with a smile and said “Stop your grinnin’ and drop your linen” – thus predating Hudson out of Aliens by thousands of years)
Samson had come across the corpse of a lion on his way to the wedding (when I say ‘come across’ I mean, having earlier killed the lion on a previous walk, he saw the body, because Samson) , and seeing bees around it, had observed honeycomb within the lion and eaten it and he saw that it was sweet. This is not a fair riddle, because it involves not so much solving something with logic, lateral thinking and knowledge of the world and the facts given, but just having to have been within Samson’s mind. This is the sort of solution that Mark Gattis and Stephen Moffat would have rejected as being too unfair and stupid for the finale of Sherlock. Oh also by ‘meat’ he meant ‘food’, so that’s also cheating along the lines of having had character centred flashbacks where the character somehow confuses a red setter with a ginger schoolboy…
The wedding guests don’t react well to the riddle, what with it not being a riddle, and this leads to an awful lot of murdering and revenge murdering and revenge revenge murdering. It’s not a heartwarming tale, to be honest.
Then this is the bit I got from Forgotten Science, which added a whole new layer to things, frankly. People in the past did genuinely believe that bees spontaneously emerged from dead creatures, and lions were as good as any.
Here’s the poet Virgil
A portent they espy: through the oxen’s flesh,
Waxed soft in dissolution, hark! there hum
Bees from the belly; the rent ribs overboil
In endless clouds they spread them, till at last
On yon tree-top together fused they cling,
And drop their cluster from the bending boughs
And here’s Shakespeare
“‘Tis seldom when the bee doth leave her comb/In the dead carrion.” (2 Henry IV; iv. 4. 79-80.)
So by past, I don’t mean just Biblical times, but for ages and ages after that – in fact, the bees creation story of them emerging spontaneously out of dead animals wasn’t debunked until 1894
(1894 to find out that bees are made by bees having sex with other bees is a bit shocking, but elsewhere in the book I learned that it wasn’t until the mid 1600s that anyone proved that women don’t have testicles. It is somewhat weird that the expression we use to simplify sex education to young people is to ‘tell them about the birds and bees’ when the sex life of bees was so totally mysterious)
In essence, nobody ever saw bees having sex, so they must have magically appeared (the same sort of thing happened with geese – nobody ever saw geese mating, or baby geese or goose eggs, so they assumed that geese were hatched at sea, and from that deduction obviously that they hatched from barnacles on the side of ships, hence barnacle geese.
If you were watching early 19th century Sherlock the plots would have been even weirder than today’s outlandish stupidity)
Added to that, people had seen bees come out of corpses of animals, hence proof. In 1894 a Russian entemologist named Osten-Sacken posited that what people thought were bees were actually a simila-looking insect called drone flies and yes, flies do come out of the corpses of animals, but not by magic, but by flies laying their eggs in rotting meat. Weirdly, even after people dissected male bees and found their penis, they still persisted with the emerging spontaneously out of lions account. We had to rely on a blind beekeeper named Francois Huber to find the body of a Queen bee with many many snapped off male bee penises inside her (yes, the male bee dies after it is snapped off, which may be a mercy) to solve this mystery.
I also learned from Forgotten Science that one of the first clamours for a film to be banned in Britain was for a 1930s film called “The Cheese Mites” which involved nothing more racy than a man examining a lump of cheese with a powerful magnifying glass – which sounds ridiculous, but I never want to watch that film and am happy to consume cheddar in blind ignorance.
So not only was Samson’s riddle unfair, but it wasn’t even accurate. He might have seen some insects emerge from a lion corpse and mistaken them for bees, but there would have been no honey.
Who would have thought that that tin with the rather sticky lid in your larder held so many digressing stories?
(I’m also reminded that one of the first bits of blogging I did, many years ago (elsewhere) was about the belief that Vipers made treacle, so there’s a strong correlation between sweet sticky stuff that comes in tins and rampant oddness – see also the Boston Molasses Disaster)