for the Three Little Pigs fairy tale are below. Sources have been cited in parenthetical
references, but I have not linked them directly to their full citations
which appear on the Three Little Pigs Bibliography page. I have provided links back to the Annotated
Three Little Pigs to facilitate referencing between the notes and the tale.
1. Once upon a time when pigs spoke rhyme
And monkeys chewed tobacco,
And hens took snuff to make them tough,
And ducks went quack, quack, quack, O!: Early recordings of fairy tales often include a short verse at the beginning and/or end of the tale. The verse either provides a moral, usually at the end of the tale, or sets the tone of the story, usually at the beginning of the tale. This rhyme lets the reader/listener know the narrator doesn't believe the story is true, except perhaps in a different time and place when animals behaved more like humans. The rhyme also gives the story a lighthearted tone which continues throughout the story despite the death of two of the pigs. Return to place in story.
3. Three little pigs: This story uses the classic number three found in many fairy tales. Most variations of the tale also employ three animals. You can learn more about variations of the tale on the Tales Similar to The Three Little Pigs page.
In this version, and most versions of the tale, the pigs are not named. One notable exception is the tale recorded by Andrew Lang in his Green Fairy Book. In his Three Little Pigs, the pigs have names and a birth order: "The eldest of the little pigs was called Browny, the second Whitey, and the youngest and best looking Blacky." In Lang's version, the youngest pig is the smartest and most industrious. This is in contrast to many modern interpretations which often portray the oldest pig as the smartest and most industrious.
The number and/or pattern of three often appears in fairy tales to provide rhythm and suspense. The pattern adds drama and suspense while making the story easy to remember and follow. The third event often signals a change and/or ending for the listener/reader. A third time also disallows coincidence such as two repetitive events would suggest.
The reasons and theories behind three's popularity are numerous and diverse. The number has been considered powerful across history in different cultures and religions, but not all of them. Christians have the Trinity, the Chinese have the Great Triad (man, heaven, earth), and the Buddhists have the Triple Jewel (Buddha, Dharma, Sanga). The Greeks had the Three Fates. Pythagoras considered three to be the perfect number because it represented everything: the beginning, middle, and end. Some cultures have different powerful numbers, often favoring seven, four and twelve. Return to place in story.
4. Seek their fortune: Fairy tale characters, especially the male characters, leave home to seek their fortune at the beginning of fairy tales. In other words, the characters are leaving their families and homes behind in hopes of earning their own livings as adults for the first time. Many fairy tales are coming of age stories. Return to place in story.
5. A bundle of straw: Straw is a plant fiber, usually stalks of certain species of grain, used for making baskets and hats or as animal fodder (WordNet). In the past straw was also used to refer to nything proverbially worthless; the least possible thing; a mere trifle. Geoffrey Chaucer (ca.1343-1400) once wrote: "I set not a straw by thy dreamings."
Straw is often a key ingredient in brick making, the substance which stands up against the wolf's attack. Return to place in story.
6. To build a house: Shelter, along with food and clothing, is one of the basic needs for survival. The pigs require adequate shelter from the elements and more importantly predators as the story will show. Return to place in story.
7. Wolf: The wolf is a common fairy tale villain, perhaps most famous for this tale and Little Red Riding Hood. Other versions of the tale offer other animals as the predator with a fox as the second most popular choice.
While Disney has influenced the continuing popularity of several fairy tales, its influence on The Three Little Pigs is perhaps one of the strongest. While the pigs were not the stars of a feature length film, they were given their own cartoon short in 1933 as part of Disney's Silly Symphonies. The cartoon predates the earliest Disney full-length fairy tale film, Snow White, by a few years. The cartoon, which included the song "Who's Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf?," became a success during the Depression, inspired people to overcome the "wolves" in their lives--poverty, starvation, unemployment, etc.
The wolf also figures prominently in other parts of British folklore, such as the traditional children's game, "What's the Time, Mr. Wolf?" Return to place in story.
8. Knocked at the door: The knocking at the door adds a bit of comedy. The wolf is essentially knocking to be admitted to eat the pig in its own home. Return to place in story.
9. Little pig, little pig, let me come in: The following dialogue between the wolf and the pigs is repeated three time and it is the most popular element of the story. The lines, or similar versions, have become part of popular culture in many societies, referenced in advertising, humor, and other mediums. The lines can be used to encourage audience participation. Return to place in story.
10. No, no, by the hair of my chiny chin chin: The first two pigs may be foolish about their building materials, but they know a mortal threat when they see it. They do not intend to become the wolf's next meal voluntarily.
In the endnotes for this tale in English Fairy Tales, Joseph Jacobs writes: "As little pigs do not have hair on their chinny chin-chins, I suspect that they were originally kids, who have. This would bring the tale close to the Grimms' 'Wolf and Seven Little Kids'" (Jacobs 1890). Return to place in story.
11. Then Ill huff, and Ill puff, and Ill blow your house in: The modern classic, The True Story of the Three Little Pigs by Jon Scieszka explains the huffing and puffing as the wolf's affliction with a cold.
12. Ate up the little pig: In the earliest versions of the tale, the pigs pay for their ignorance and laziness with their lives. Later versions often spare the pigs' lives. Either they run away to stay with the pig in the brick house or they are cut from the belly of the wolf at the end of the story, similar to some versions of Little Red Riding Hood. In Andrew Lang's version, the youngest pig rescues his brothers from where they are captured after defeating the wolf. Return to place in story.
13. A bundle of furze: Furze is a "very spiny and dense evergreen shrub with fragrant golden-yellow flowers; common throughout western Europe," especially Great Britain (WordNet). Most modern versions of the tale replace furze with sticks or twigs. Return to place in story.
15. Well, he huffed, and he puffed, and he huffed and he puffed, and he puffed and huffed; but he could not get the house down: The wolf's huffing and puffing provides suspense and/or comedy depending on how the story is presented. This scene is usually comical in illustrated and animated versions of the tale. Return to place in story.
16. Little pig, I know where there is a nice field of turnips: Many later versions of the tale skip this section of the story. The story is then resumed with the wolf climbing down the chimney. Note that the wolf is using two of the pig's elemental needs for survival to try to catch him, first his home and then his food. Return to place in story.
17. I have been and come back again, and got a nice potful for dinner: This pig is a trickster, similar to Jack in Jack and the Beanstalk. He continually outsmarts the wolf and thus saves his own life. He continually outsmarts the wolf in their next encounters, mostly with ingenuity but with a little bit of luck added. Return to place in story.
18. Apple tree: Pigs are often cooked whole and served with an apple in their mouths. Perhaps the wolf has visions of a similar meal. Return to place in story.
19. Shanklin: There is a small town of Shanklin on the Isle of Wight. The poets Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and John Keats both loved the town and found inspiration in its scenic setting. We do not know why Shanklin is referenced in the story and if this particular Shanklin is the intended town. Return to place in story.
20. This afternoon: Their previous two appointments have been in the early morning. Note the wolf's reluctance to wait yet another day for his meal. Perhaps he hopes moving their next meeting to an earlier time will prevent the pig from outsmarting him. Return to place in story.
21. A butter-churn: A butter churn is a vessel in which milk or cream is stirred, beaten, or otherwise agitated (as by a plunging or revolving dasher) in order to separate the oily globules from the other parts, and obtain butter (New Lexicon Webster's Dictionary). Return to place in story.
22. Told him how frightened he had been by a great round thing which came down the hill past him: Joseph Jacobs' references a similar plot device in an Indian (India, not Native American) tale, titled "Lambikin," which appeared in Wide-awake Stories (1884) by Flora Annie Steel and R. C. Temple. In the story, "the Lambikin gets inside a Drumikin, and so nearly escapes the jackal" (Jacobs 1890). Return to place in story.
23. Get down the chimney: This wolf is not Santa Claus. He is not welcome in the pig's house and is not smart enough to anticipate a warm reception of a different kind. Return to place in story.
24. A blazing fire: In times past before stoves and central heating, fireplaces and chimneys were used for cooking food in most homes, not just for warmth. Return to place in story.
25. Ate him for supper: Pigs are not very discerning in their eating. The irony of this story is that the pig ends up eating the wolf. The prey eats the predator which is not the normal order of life. However, the story serves as inspiration to the underdog. Return to place in story.
26. Lived happy ever afterwards: Happily ever after belongs to the pig with wits and industry. The wolf and the other two pigs, however, are dead and will not be living happily ever after in fairy tale fashion. Return to place in story.