9th November 2006
While we all know Burpy as plain old Burpy, to the rest of the world he is ‘Wilbur, the celebrity pig’. So why is he a celebrity? Because on the 26th of November 2006 as a tiny six week old piglet, Burpy, aka, Wilbur, walked the red carpet at the Royal Theatre in Melbourne with Hollywood star Dakota Fanning as special guests at the world premier of the movie Charlotte’s Web. Wilbur’s photo was in the Herald Sun being cuddled by Dakota; he was mobbed at the after party by adoring fans, and he even graced the news services that night.
Now such instant fame might have gone to many a pig’s head – but not Burpy. He realized how lucky he was to have been plucked from obscurity to become a star… because you see, Burpy is no different to any other pig – except that he was getting to lead the life that all pigs deserve.
For the next year and a half, while Burpy could have been wallowing in his new found fame at Edgar’s Mission and not done another day’s work, he chose differently. Realizing he had a personal mission to embark upon he chose to meet as many people as possible and remind them of the important message contained in the story of Charlotte’s Web.
Charlotte’s Web is the classic story of loyalty, trust, and sacrifice. The little girl, Fern, played so beautifully in the movie by Dakota Fanning, is one of only two living beings who sees that Wilbur is a special animal as she raises him, the runt of the litter, into a terrific and radiant pig. As Wilbur moves into a new barn, he begins a second profound friendship with the most unlikely of creatures – a spider named Charlotte – and their bond inspires the animals around them to come together as a family.
When the word gets out that Wilbur’s days are numbered, it seems that only a miracle will save his life. A determined Charlotte – who sees miracles in the ordinary – spins words into her web in an effort to convince the farmer that Wilbur is “some pig” and worth saving.
Do you know what the most important and powerful line that Wilbur cries out in that movie is? “I want to live!” He had just found out that he was going to be killed for Christmas dinner. And you see, it didn’t make sense to Wilbur. He had so much to do, so much to experience, he had friends he wanted to grow old with! And he couldn’t understand why anyone would want to hurt him. But Wilbur was a lucky pig – because his friends joined forces to save his life and in doing so made a whole town realise what remarkable living beings pigs are – rather than only thinking of what remains when there life is ended – pork, ham or bacon.
This wonderful movie and the words of author E.B White – gave a voice to what so many farm animals would say if they could speak in a language that we can understand. “I want to live”. “I can’t understand why you would want to hurt me”. “Living is just as important to me as it is to you!”
But the most important message that Wilbur tries to get people to understand, and the message of the story of Charlotte’s Web is, that animals feel joy and sorrow, pain and fear, in the same way that we do – and – they respond to kindness – in the same way that we do.
Today, a rather larger version of that tiny piglet who captured the hearts of people all around the world lounges about the farm living the life of Riley and making choices, his choices. What a lucky pig!! Oh, and why Burpy? Well, because at the time Burpy came to Edgar’s Mission, we actually had another pig named Wilbur living here and as pigs are so smart and quickly learn their names, we didn’t want to confuse them. Hence the shortening of Wilbur. It was actually shortened to just Bur, but when the little fella ate too much he would burp!