Standing on your own two feet may be perfectly possible for us, but learning to do so, can be a hard lesson. For some, of course, this is neither physically nor metaphysically possible, so we must be always grateful for what we have. However, what would you do, if you had three legs?
Francesco A. Lentini was born in 1884, in Rosolini, Sicily, into a poor family with twelve siblings (seven sisters and five brothers). Lentini, may not be a name you instantly recognise, but he became an internationally famous 19th century showman who enthralled audiences across the world for over forty years. His stage name was The Great Lentini, and he worked with every major circus and sideshow including Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show, and Barnum and Bailey. As an artist, he was so well respected by his peers, they referred to him, as "The King.” Long before Elvis Presley was even a twinkle in his grandfathers’ eyes.
Like Elvis the Pelvis , both were born twins, and their twin brothers sadly died at birth. Unlike the King of Rock ‘n Roll, Francesco had a parasitic twin. (sometimes known as a vanishing twin). This is a rare condition where twin embryos begin developing in the uterus, but for one reason or another, the cells do not fully separate, and one embryo develops at the expense of the other. The parasitic twin is incompletely formed and totally dependent on the body functions of the normal fetus, or autosite. Lentini’s parasitic twin was still born but remnants were attached at the base of his spine and consisted of a pelvis, a rudimentary set of male genitalia and a full-sized leg extending from the right side of his hip. There was also a small club foot protruding from its knee.
The absence of antibiotics meant surgical separation was impossible and the child was left to grow up a freak. Fortunately, as often happen in these days, Francesco was welcomed into the theatre and became a child performer, using his third leg to amaze Victorian audiences by kicking a football across the stage. He was billed as the Three-Legged Football Player and proved a very popular attraction. By the time, he was an adult, his normal legs were slightly different in length with his extra leg several inches shorter than both. The showman would often be heard to muse, “Despite having three legs, I still don’t have a pair to stand on”. Away from the stage Francesco led a normal life and was married with four children. He lived to the grand old age of 82 and of course was the inspiration for ‘Jake the Peg’.
By chance, the symbol for the Isle of Man (in the Irish Sea), is the Tree Cassyn which is Manx Gaelic for three feet. The circlelike insignia, Three Legs of Mann is thought to represent the sun and its daily passage across the heavens Consequently, it is associated with pagan sun worshipers and the emblem has been found engraved on ancient monuments and prehistoric burial mounts from Mexico to Japan and many other places in between. The Old Celtic Legend, tells of the Isle of Man first ruler, Manannán, who defeated invaders by transforming himself into the three legs and rolling down the hill to repel the intruders, By the 17th century, the Manx people celebrated this by minting coins with the three legs and the Latin motto, "Quocunque Jeceris Stabit" [ quo-kun-q Jekeris Stabit] which means "Whichever way you throw, it will stand". By the 18th century, the three legs of man became almost ubiquitous as the favoured tattoo for seafaring men navigating the high seas.
If the Great Lentini left us a legacy (or should it be? Leg-I-see), or the moto “Whichever way you throw, it will stand" has significance to us today. Then, it must be, always use your given talents, no matter what these may be, and remember, any disadvantage can and will, be overcome by standing on your feet. (59)