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Sunday, December 6, 2009

A Lesson From the Three Little Pigs


My daughter loves the Three Little Pigs, so much so that I've even been treated to a re-enactment of the story in Home Depot's door department. Multiple times.

Something I noticed when reading her Disney version of the story is that the ending is watered down from what I remember as a kid. The big, bad wolf climbs down the chimney, touches the scalding water in the kettle and zips back up to the roof. He runs into the forest and the three little pigs never see him again. They all live happily ever after.

The Leap Frog version is even more sedate. In that one, the wolf goes down the chimney and simply doesn't like the water (it's not even hot this time) and leaves.

Excuse me? What the heck happened to the pigs cooking up the wolf and eating him? And since when did all three pigs get to live? In the version I remember Pig #1 and Pig #2 get eaten up, a tasty treat of ham and bacon for that naughty wolf.

When I was at Barnes & Noble the other day I checked some of their print versions just to make sure that the macabre side of me wasn't rewriting a children's classic. I wasn't. The old-school 70's versions end with Pig #3 as the sole survivor of the pig-wolf massacre.

And you know what? That's the version I like. I bought it for my daughter so now she has the full gamut of Three Little Pig endings.

So what does this have to do with writing? A little drama isn't a bad thing- we humans crave it. You just have to make sure you don't go overboard. If the Three Little Pigs had turned into cannibals and started eating each other I would have closed the book. I have to draw the line somewhere, right?


Do you have violence in your novel? How much? Which version of the Three Little Pigs do you like best?

22 comments:

Terresa said...

We have a Disney version of the 3 little pigs that I read and listened to as a young girl (green cover, cute cartoony pigs, houses & wolf). I love the part when the wolf blows at the brick house until he turns blue. And then falls into the boiling pot and his bum turns bright red. Serves him right that naughty wolf.

Yes, I have some violence in my novel, but it's still brewing around in my head and just outlined. Gritty stuff, adds to the overall plot movement I think.

Matthew Delman said...

There's one scene in SON OF MAGIC that one member of my crit group wanted me to tone down because it was too violent/gross (the hero astral-projected into the aftermath of an undead attack and watched one of the creatures rip a dead body apart). I excused it by saying that what would make a contemporary person vomit and what would make a 14th Century-esque farmer whose seen a heckuva lot of blood and guts vomit are two vastly different things.

I like the original Three Little Pigs best, especially because I tend to have issue with Disney's treatment of fairy tales to begin with.

Valerie Geary said...

Must say... I somehow missed the true version of the Three Little Pigs... hmmmm.... Still, my lack of a violent childhood does not dissuade me from violent scenes in my writing. I like mayhem. Lots of it. :P

Shannon O'Donnell said...

Truthfully, I like them all, but I think your take on it is dead-on right! The original was meant to teach a lesson about the value of hard work paying off! :)

Bethany Mattingly said...

I like the true version best. Something just seems off when it's told differently...My books have some violence in them. Most of the time it's not physical though, more hidden and secret with disastrous plots. :)

Abby Annis said...

I like the original version best, though I won't get into my reasons here. It would be a very long ranty comment that has nothing to do with writing. I say good for you for getting her the original. :)

Anyway. Yes, my novel has violence, and it's central to the plot. It's not my favorite thing to write, but it wouldn't be believable without it, and frankly, I think it would be pretty boring. Great comparison!

Bane of Anubis said...

This sort of thing makes me want to rant... the PCization of America.

Paul Greci said...

Yes, my novel has some violence in it. It's realistic YA set in a school for kids who have exhausted all their other school options.

And the three little pigs, I'll take the original.

Susan R. Mills said...

I definitely like the older version. The other versions are too 'happily-ever-after' for me. And, yes, I have a little bit of violence in my completed ms. Not too much, but enough.

L. T. Host said...

I think a lot of today's world is too busy "protecting our children" in regards to media, as the popular mantra goes. But protecting them from what, exactly? I think it's worse to grow up in a utopian world and then find out that it's all wrong when you strike out on your own, than it is to learn the truth of how things aren't always happy-ever-after at a younger age.

I know there are arguments for both sides, and obviously there are limits to how I feel, but children are miniature adults for most of their youth, not babies, and I think that we owe them a better education in how the world really is.

Ok, like Bane, this topic makes me want to rant :) But I will stop there with the affidavit that my opinion will likely change once I actually have children. Human children, that is.

Stephanie Thornton said...

I'm glad I'm not the only one who wants to rant. I toned down the first draft of this post to keep the rant out. :)

The author of Where The Wild Things Are, Maurice Sendak, made me laugh in a recent interview he did. The interviewer asked Sendak what his response was to people who said the new movie is too scary to take their kids to.

His answer? "I'd tell them to go to hell." :)

He then went on to elaborate, saying life is scary and kids shouldn't be sheltered from being scared. I'd have to agree. I don't want my daughter cowering in a corner, but I don't want her thinking life is all flowers and butterflies either.

Bethany Mattingly said...

ha ha I love his answer but I don't think I'd have the guts to say it that way. I do agree with him and you.

Amalia T. said...

Augh! I know! The old fairy tales and folk stories have been so watered down. We had the original version, with the dead wolf and the dead pigs, but my dad altered it when he read it to us, because it scared me when I was little-- he made the other pigs survive, I think, and I don't think they ate the wolf. But he definitely died. When I got older, and wasn't afraid, he read us the real thing.

I have a GREAT scene of violence between Thor and Loki in my book, among others. And Helen definitely has violence in it, violence to her and the overhanging threat of the war that's coming. Poor Helen. I have some pretty violent characters, I think, and some of them don't control themselves very effectively.

Natalie said...

That's awesome Stephanie. I read all the original Grimm's fairy tales a few years ago--they are GRUESOME, but good. A little violence never hurt anyone (at least in fiction :).

Laura Martone said...

I'm with everyone else here. I love the original fairy tales - in all their violent glory. I'm twisted that way. Like Bane, I could easily get started on a rant about revisionism... but I'll refrain.

Disney is one of the worst culprits, though. Look at The Little Mermaid - if memory serves, she turns into seafoam in the original version. Sad perhaps - but a better moral lesson about trying to change yourself for someone else... and being careful what you wish for.

As for my novel, alas, I have no violence that I can think of - despite my fierce love for horror stories and crime thrillers. Perhaps that's a problem that I need to see to.

Jennifer Shirk said...

That's interesting! I remember the version where the smart little piggy was left alive and well. :) I like that. Too bad for his brothers, though.
No violence in my novel.

Voidwalker said...

People are soooooooo overly sensative these days. It's like they think that kids are never going to understand. I have 5 kids at my place and I will tell you for a fact, they understand a LOT more than most people give them credit for. It's not like they don't know that wolves eat pigs in real life. Ugh... Go You for getting the real story!!

Stephanie Thornton said...

Laura- And in the original version of The Little Mermaid she had her tongue cut out! Talk about revisionism.

Amalia T. said...

Isn't there also a version of the little mermaid where the guy steals her sealskin and keeps her against her will, and only when she learns where he kept it (after she's given him three children) is she able to finally get back home, and she abandons her kids? or am I thinking of something else?

Stephanie Thornton said...

Amalia- I haven't heard that version, but when I have some free time (not this week, that's for sure! Ugh!) I'll look it up!

sanjeet said...

I have some violence in my novel, but it's still brewing around in my head and just outlined. Gritty stuff, adds to the overall plot movement I think.

Work from home India

Michelle Gregory said...

have you read the version where the wolf tries to tell his version of the story? he blames the huffing and puffing on a cold and said he just wanted some sugar to make his dear old granny a cake. when the houses fell in, he didn't want the food to go to waste. thankfully, he still ends up in jail. great post.