Three Little Pigs

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Three little pigs and their mother sow
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The third pigs builds a house of brick
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The wolf lands in the cooking pot

Three Little Pigs is a fairy tale featuring talking animals. Published versions of the story date back to the late 18th century, but the story is thought to be much older. The story was assured its place in world's folklore thanks to an immensely popular 1933 Walt Disney animated cartoon.


Plot summary

Mother Pig sends her three little pig children out into the world to live on their own.

The first little pig builds a house of straw, but a wolf blows it down and eats the pig. The encounter between wolf and pig features many phrases that have become common:

One day the big bad wolf came and knocked on the first little pig's door and said "Little pig, little pig, let me come in." And the little pig answered "No, no, I won't let you come in, not by the hair on my chinny chin chin." "Well," said the wolf, "then I'll huff and I'll puff and I'll blow your house in." So he huffed and he puffed and he blew the house down and ate the little pig.

The second pig builds a house of sticks, has the same conversation with the wolf, and meets the same fate.

The third pig builds a house of bricks. The wolf cannot huff and puff hard enough to blow the house down. He attempts to trick the third little pig out of his house, but the pig outsmarts him at every turn. Finally, the wolf threatens to come down the chimney, whereupon the third little pig boils a pot of water into which the wolf plunges. The little pig cooks the wolf and eats him.

The phrases used in this story, and the various morals that can be drawn from it, have become enshrined in western culture.

In recent years the story has often been "softened" from its original version, and no longer has the wolf or the pigs eating each other.


Printed versions

The tale has several similarities with "The Wolf and the Seven Young Kids" (the "kids" being young goats) included in Grimm's Fairy Tales (Kinder- und Hausmärchen, or Children's and Household Tales) by Jakob Grimm and Wilhelm Grimm, a collection which was first published in 1812 and had several revisions and additions till 1857.

The tale of the Three Little Pigs and the Big Bad Wolf was included in Nursery Rhymes and Nursery Tales by James Orchard Halliwell-Phillipps, first published around 1843, and seems to have become popular during the late 19th century. Variations of the tale appeared in Uncle Remus: His Songs and Sayings in 1881 and Nights with Uncle Remus in 1883, both by Joel Chandler Harris, in which the pigs were replaced by Brer Rabbit. The story in its arguably best known form appeared in English Fairy Tales by Joseph Jacobs, first published in 1898 and crediting Halliwell as his source.

The Disney cartoon

Today, the most popular version of the story is an animated short film produced by Walt Disney and directed by Burton Gillett, Three Little Pigs, first released on May 27, 1933 by United Artists. The short introduced names for the pigs: Fifer Pig (with the voice of Dorothy Compton), the one who played the flute and build the straw house; Fiddler Pig (Mary Moder), who played the fiddle and built the stick house ; and Practical Pig (Pinto Colvig), who played the piano only after he built his brick house and felt safe in it. The latter proved his ability to stay ahead of both his brothers and the wolf, in taking authority over his brothers, defeating the wolf and playing a practical joke on his siblings. The voice actor for the Wolf was William Bletcher.

The movie was phenomenally successful with audiences of the day, so much that theaters ran the cartoon for months after its debut. A number of theaters added hand-drawn "beards" to the movie posters for the cartoon as a way of indicating how long its theatrical run lasted.

Among animation historians, Three Little Pigs is considered to be the first cartoon where the characters display individual, unique personalities; as opposed to simple "good guys" and "bad guys". The straw and stick pigs are frivolous and care-free; the brick pig is cautious and earnest.

One sequence in the cartoon, which showed the Big Bad Wolf dressing up as a caricature of a Jewish peddler, was excised from the film after its release and replaced with a less offensive sequence, with the Wolf pretending to be the Fuller Brush man instead.

The original song composed for the cartoon, "Who's Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf?", was a best-selling single. When the Nazis began expanding the boundaries of Germany in the years preceding World War II, the song was used to represent the complacency of the Western world in allowing Hitler to make considerable acquisitions of territory without going to war.


Disney produced several sequels to Three Little Pigs, though none were nearly as successful as the original. The first of them was The Big Bad Wolf, also directed by Burton Gillet and first released on April 14, 1934. All four characters of the original film returned along with two new additions: Little Red Riding Hood and her grandmother, originating from a different folktale which also featured a wolf as the villain. The plot was fairly simple. Practical Pig is seen building an extension to the shared residence of the three pigs.

The added space is presumably needed as the residence was originally intended for a single occupant. Meanwhile, Fiddler and Fifer Pig offer to escort the Red Riding Hood to her grandmother's residence. Against the advice of Practical, the trio attempts to follow a shortcut through the forest. They encounter the dressed-in-drag Wolf and barely evade capture. He proceeds in running ahead of them to the residence of the old woman. The Wolf places her in a closet and then awaits her grandaughter to arrive. The young girl soon does but also enters the closet with the assistance of her grandmother. Then Fiddler and Fifer Pig alert their brother to the situation. Practical arrives and soon manages to sent the Wolf running by placing hot coals and popcorn into his trousers. The short contained several gags but at the time failed to repeat the commercial success of the original. Modern audiences have found it entertaining enough but still inferior to its predecessor.

The moderate, but not blockbuster, success of the further "Three Pigs" cartoons was seen as a factor in Walt Disney's decision not to rest on his laurels, but instead to continue to move forward with risk-taking projects, such as the multiplane camera and the first feature-length animated movie. Disney's slogan, often repeated over the years, was "you can't top pigs with pigs."

The Li'l Bad Wolf was a character in Disney comic books. He was a constant vexation to his father, the Big Bad Wolf, because the little son was not actually bad. His favorite playmates, in fact, were the three pigs.

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