Friday, November 12, 2010

The Three Little Pigs

The Silly Symphony based on this story is probably the most successful film Walt Disney ever made. At a time when animated shorts ran only a few days, weeks at the most,it ran for months, often times longer than the feature film it was playing with. One theatre owner put fake beards on the pictures of the pigs out front of the theatre to show how long they’d been there! The theme song “Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf?” was the studio’s first hit song and it made a weary nation laugh in the face of a Great Depression. So successful was this cartoon, that it spawned three sequels: The Big Bad Wolf, Three Little Wolves and Practical Pig. It was while accepting the Academy Award for this cartoon that Walt referred to the statue as an “Oscar.” Before then, it was just an industry nickname for the award. After that, everyone started calling it the Oscar.

nce upon a time there was an old sow (that’s a lady pig, kids) who had three sons. The oldest boy was named Hank, and he was lazy and loved to eat. The next oldest was Henry, and he was vain and loved to flirt with girl pigs. The youngest was Huey, and he was smart and kind and hard-working and he loved his family very much.
Well, Hank, Henry and Huey lived with their mother for many years. Until finally, they were old enough to go out into the world and make lives for themselves. Hank and Henry resisted, but Huey was enthusiastic. They all set out with a little money they had saved to make their fortunes. Huey suggested they pool their assets and work together, but Hank and Henry wanted to be on their own.

They knew the first thing they would need was someplace to live. And since this is a fairy tale, they couldn’t just find a real estate agent (and, really, why would they want to?), so they had to build their own houses. Hank spent most of his money on food, so by the time he had to buy building material, all he could afford was straw. Henry spent a lot of money on nice clothes to attract girls, so all he could afford were a few bundles of sticks. Huey, however, saved his money diligently, so he was able to buy bricks and mortar.

Hank and Henry built their houses in no time at all and decided to visit their brother to see how he was doing…and to gloat about being so far ahead of him. When they saw that he had only built one wall in the time it took them to build their whole houses, they laughed and teased him. But Huey didn’t care.

“Your houses may have taken less time to build,” he said, “but they won’t last as long. One good windstorm and you’ll both be homeless.” But his brothers ignored his warnings and went out to play in the sun, swim in the lake…and meet girl pigs.

But while they were out in the woods, goofing around and eating, someone was watching them. A pair of eyes that were greedy and hungry. A pair of eyes that longed for a pork dinner. It was a lone wolf who licked his chops at the sight of those plump, juicy pigs. He leapt out of the trees and snarled. Hank and Henry, of course, ran as fast as they could, which wasn’t terribly fast because, let’s face it, they’re pigs. But Hank got to his house fast and locked the door behind him. The Wolf pounded on the straw door with his paw.

“Little pig, little pig!” he said. “Let me come in!”

“Not by the hair of my chinny-chin-chin!” said Hank. This was an old pig adage that had been handed down from pig to pig to pig over many generations. It was, of course, completely lost on the wolf which infuriated him. And if you think it's a stupid expression, ask yourself what the heck a "kit and kaboodle" are.

“Then I’ll huff and I’ll puff and I’ll blow your house in!” The Wolf could just as easily have pushed somewhat hard and the house would’ve collapsed just as easily. But, he saw how flimsy the house was and saw an opportunity to get in a cheap joke. So he took a deep breath and blew with all his might. In seconds, the straw house collapsed and Hank was without a home. He ran as fast as he could, wishing he hadn’t had that third liverwurst sandwich, and got to Henry’s house just in time.

And, again, The Wolf knocked on the door.

“Little pigs, little pigs!” he said. “Let me come in!”

“Not by the hair of  our chinny-chin-chins!” said Hank and Henry.

The Wolf groaned at the phrase, still not understanding, but knowing that it probably meant “no.” “Then I’ll huff and I’ll puff and I’ll blow your house in!” This time it took two deep breaths, but the house fell down and Hank and Henry were again exposed. Running even faster than as fast as they could they arrived at Huey’s house just as he was putting on the finishing touch: a horseshoe over the door. But when he saw his brothers running toward him with a wolf on their heels, he opened the door quickly and invited them in and, instead of hanging the horseshoe, he decided to put its luck to practical use and threw it at the Wolf.

This time, the Wolf was too angry (and in too much pain) to do the whole “chinny-chin-chin” bit so he just screamed in pain and banged on the door, which was locked tight. “Okay!” he yelled. “You asked for it!” And with a deep breath and two full lungs, he huffed and puffed and snuffed and scruffed and ruffed and whuffed until he’d had enuff.

The house would not blow over.

“See?” said Huey. “I told you my house was sturdier. Now, don’t worry. The wolf can’t get in now. We’re perfectly safe.”

And so it seemed. For the rest of the day, the Wolf tried to find a way in while the pig brothers played backgammon. But the doors and windows were shut and locked. The house was too well built to be knocked down with anything less than a battering ram, and even then it would have to be a pretty big one (plus they might not have been invented yet. “Once Upon a Time” is pretty vague, hard to tell exactly what had and hadn’t been invented. These are just some of the problems you face when you’re in a fairy tale)

Finding himself unable to break in, he thought he would employ some kind of deceit or tickery. He tried an old wolf standby: sheep’s clothing. This does not mean he borrowed a jacket and tie from a sheep, rather it was clothing designed to make him look like a sheep. That’s a common mistake, so don’t feel bad if you were confused. Anyway, he put on his sheep pelt and knocked on the door.

“Who’s there?” asked Huey from inside.

“No one really,” said the Wolf in his meekest voice. “Just a poor little lamb who has lost his way.” (Evidently, the Wolf went to Yale) “Will you let me come in and get warm?”

“If you’re really a poor little lamb, let me see your hands.” Well, the Wolf had forseen this, so before he had knocked on the door, he’d covered his paws in flour so they would like white and fluffy. He put his hand in through the mail slot and the pigs saw that it was white and fluffy, very much like a sheep’s hand would be.

“Well, I guess it is a little lost lamb,” said Hank.

“Let’s let him in!” said Henry.

“No!” said Huey. “It’s not a little lost lamb, it’s the wolf!”

“But it sounds like a lamb,” said Henry.

“And it looks like a lamb,” said Hank.

“Yes,” said Huey. “But what does it smell like?” Pigs are known for having very keen senses of smell and one good whiff was all it took. “Flour! You are the wolf. And you’re not coming in. Not by the hair of my chinny-chin—”

Stop saying that!!” growled the wolf. Now he was really angry and more determined than ever to get inside this house. Then the answer came: the chimney! So, cackling at his own ingenuity, he climbed to the top of the roof…which of course, the pigs heard from inside. It wasn’t long before they figured out what was going on…actually, it wasn’t long before Huey figured it out. Hank and Henry actually did take quite a long time and, in fact, they thought it might be Santa Claus.

Eventually, Huey convinced them it was the Wolf, so they took a big pot and put it in the fireplace. They filled it with water and lit a fire beneath. Soon they had brought it to a rolling boil. Meanwhile, up on the roof, the wolf licked his chops again and slid down the chimney…right into the boiling water!

He yowled and howled and screamed and ran around the room trying to cool himself off. Huey opened the front door and the Big Bad Wolf ran screaming into the woods, never to be seen by any pig again (though there is evidence to indicate that, after being dismissed from his wolf pack in shame, he did make trouble for a little girl in a red cape, but that’s another story).

And that’s how Hank and Henry Pig learned not to cut corners and to take pride in their work. They also learned that not even a big bad wolf can hurt you if you’ve got family by your side.


If You Liked My Story, You Might Enjoy:
  • Three Little Pigs (1933) See introduction
  • “Faerie Tale Theatre” (TV) Starring Billy Crystal, Fred Willard, Doris Roberts and Jeff Goldblum
  • “Muppet Classic Theatre” Old VHS release introducing Miss Piggy’s brothers, Andy and Randy Pig, in this timeless story

Next Week:
"Tang--" I mean, "Rapunzel"

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