The Three Little Pigs is of course a tale familiar to us all–the story of …er… three little pigs who go out into the wide world, in search of ‘their fortune’, and end up building houses for themselves, each with different material–straw, sticks, and brick. But two of the houses get blown down by the wolf, while the third pig manages to build a strong enough house to withstand the wolf’s strength (breath?). In some versions, the first two pigs are eaten by the wolf while in others, they escape and hide in the brick house with their brother, all three saved in the process. The story has appeared in verse form as well as prose. There are also several retellings (as I learnt from good old wikipedia (here)), including a jazz version dating back to 1953 by Al ‘Jazzbo’ Collins (here), and a parody in 1989; even a ‘reverse’ version in a book in 1992, The Three Little Wolves and the Big Bad Pig where it is the wolves who build houses and the pig who does the blowing down.
But the version I’m writing about today, is one I came across by chance, and fairly recently too, is one in verse by Roald Dahl. And being by Dahl, the story of the pigs isn’t just the usual story we know (any of the versions), but has his own little twist at the end, very much on the lines of ‘The Walrus and the Carpenter’ from the Alice books (at least that was what I was reminded of when reading it). [Just a small warning: This post is not spoiler-free.] This version appeared in Revolting Rhymes in 1982, which features six poems, each a parody of a fairy tale.
Dahl’s version begins with praise of pigs in general, as creatures that are ‘noble…clever…courteous‘ (Emsworth in disguise?). But as he says,
'However, Now and then, to break this rule, One meets a pig who is a fool.'
Something like the first of our three little pigs who made his house out of straw. Dahl’s version retains the words of the version I originally heard/read (can’t remember which) where the wolf says
'Little pig, little pig, let me come in!'
'No, no, by the hairs on my chinny-chin-chin!'
'Then I'll huff and I'll puff and I'll blow your house in!'
And of course, the wolf does just that. But in this version, the poor little pig does not escape and ends up as the wolf’s meal, well, part of it, for even though the wolf feels bloated, he isn’t quite satisfied, moving along till he finds to his surprise another little house for pigs, this time, one made of twigs. Two little pigs now in his tummy, it is bulging, yet he ‘adore[s] indulging‘. And
So creeping quietly as a mouse,
The Wolf approached another house,
A house which also had inside
A little piggy trying to hide.
But this house was a different challenge altogether, for while the wolf blew and blew, the house stayed ‘as good as new‘. Incidentally, the poem doesn’t actually mention that this one was made of bricks, but of course, we know that already! But here, the wolf also doesn’t try to make his way down the chimney as he does in some versions, where he ends up getting killed in the process for the pigs light a fire underneath. But he doesn’t give up either. This wolf here is rather ‘modern’ , and decides instead to go and fetch some dynamite. The piggie immediately picks up his telephone (yes, he has one of those) and calls for help–who else, but Little Red Riding Hood, who has had experience dealing with wolves before. Red Riding Hood is busy washing her hair at the moment, but promises to come when it is dry.
The wolf is standing with ‘eyes ablaze‘, and sharp teeth ‘yellowish, like mayonnaise‘, spit ‘dripping from his jaw‘. Miss Riding Hood has arrived as promised and in a flick of her eyelids, draws a pistol and fires a shot, hitting once more ‘the vital spot‘. The wolf is dead, and the pig, peeping through the window yells, ‘Well done, Miss Riding Hood‘.
So you would think ends our little story, but that isn’t quite it, for as Dahl tells us (and the poor piglet), that ‘Young Ladies from the Upper Crust‘ aren’t to be trusted, so now when we see Miss Riding Hood, one finds that she
Not only has two wolfskin coats, But when she goes from place to place, She has a PIGSKIN TRAVELING CASE.
So the poor piggie in this version ends up as unlucky as his brothers, not in the wolf’s stomach but unfortunately, most likely in Miss Riding Hood’s, with his skin turned into her travelling case!
And so ends our three little pigs’ tale, with Dahl’s little twist, which I definitely didn’t see coming. And one I won’t forget easily either. As I wrote earlier, it reminded me a little of the ‘Walrus and the Carpenter’, where the Walrus and the Carpenter take the oysters for a walk to give them a treat, but of course, we know where the poor oysters end up, though the Walrus does shed a few tears, while his has his meal. Miss Riding Hood too, somewhat similarly is all eager to help the pig, but at the end… Dark it may be but it was still an enjoyable version, though one feels rather sorry for the poor third pig.
Have you read this version before? What did you think of it? Any other ‘Three Little Pigs’ stories, adaptations, versions that you’ve read, heard, or seen and enjoyed? Which ones? Or do you simply prefer the ‘original’ tale? Looking forward to your thoughts and recommendations!
A detailed analysis of the poem, including on rhyme and syntax, use of capitals, word-usage and such is here.
I have previously written on another Dahl poem, The Ant-Eater (here)