Piggy in the Middle

Depending upon your height as a child, you may remember with fondness or frustration the game Piggy in the Middle in which children throw a ball to each other and a child standing between them tries to catch it.

This popular game, also called “keep away”, “monkey in the middle”, or “pickle in a dish”, is played by children worldwide.


What is not so well known is an alternative meaning of

Piggy in the Middle

Which of these three definitions is correct?

(a) to be the second-born of three children, or

(b) to be in a difficult psychological situation, or

(c) to be in a group situation surrounded by members of the opposite sex.


The heroine of the following story provides the answer:

The Moneylender’s Bargain

Many years ago in a small Indian village, a farmer had the misfortune of owing a large sum of money to a village moneylender. The moneylender, who was old and ugly, fancied the farmer’s beautiful daughter. So he proposed a bargain.

He said he would cancel the farmer’s debt if he could marry his daughter. Both the farmer and his daughter were horrified by the proposal. So the money-lender suggested that they let providence decide the matter. He told them that he would put a black pebble and a white pebble into an empty money bag. Then the girl would have to pick one pebble from the bag.

– If she picked the black pebble, she would become his wife and her father’s debt would be forgiven.
– If she picked the white pebble she need not marry him and her father’s debt would still be forgiven.
– If she refused to pick a pebble, her father would be thrown into jail.

They were standing on a pebble strewn path in the farmer’s field. As they talked, the moneylender bent over to pick up two pebbles. As he picked them up, the sharp-eyed girl noticed that he had picked up two black pebbles and put them into the bag. He then asked the girl to pick a pebble from the bag.

The girl seems to be in a dilemma, for neither taking a pebble, nor exposing the money-lender as a cheat would solve the deeper problems of canceling the debt or avoiding marriage or prison for her father.

The girl put her hand into the moneybag and drew out a pebble.

Without looking at it, she fumbled and let it fall onto the pebble-strewn path where it immediately became lost among all the other pebbles.

“Oh, how clumsy of me!” she said. “But never mind, if you look into the bag for the one that is left, you will be able to tell the colour of the pebble I picked.”

What a clever girl, and what a lovely example of how creativity can resolve seemingly “impossible” problems. Thinking outside the box (or in this case, outside the moneylender’s money bag) can sometimes help when we find ourselves being “piggies in the middle”.