The nursery rhyme we grew up with - "This Little Piggy" - was one we enjoyed as children. But on reflection, the tale leaves much unexplained . For a refresher, here's the rhyme in its entirety:
This little piggy went to market,
This little piggy stayed home,
This little piggy had roast beef,
This little piggy had none,
And this little piggy cried wee wee wee all the way home.
"This Little Piggy," the nursery rhyme, is not to be confused with "The Three Little Pigs", some of whom unwisely chose inadequate building material for their houses. Nor should it be mistaken for another story about five pigs. "This Little Piggy" also has five little pigs in it, but the title gives the impression that it's about a single piggy.
The other problems with the story are evident once you give the tale some thought. For example, we'll accept that the first piggy went to market, and that the second piggy stayed home, although why either did what he did is never explained.
But why did the third piggy get roast beef, and where from? Why was the fourth piggy denied his share? And what is the fifth piggy running home from? And does a pig squeal sound like wee wee wee?
Serious and lengthy research has resolved most, if not all, of the difficulties with the Little Piggy legend. Here is what really transpired.
Mother Pig had given birth to a litter of five healthy, promising young male piglets, but not long after their birth, she died. Father Pig married a young pig who had promised him she would be a good stepmother. Alas, within a short period of time, it was obvious that she was an Evil Stepmother, and she treated her stepchildren accordingly. The Little Piggies had a miserable childhood, with little time for play, but lots of chores to perform.
The Pig family fell on hard times. Mr. Pig lost his job, and the government cut back on welfare and food stamps. The Little Piggies had to wear their clothes long after they were in tatters, causing the little girl piggies to laugh at them. Anything new was a Good Will cast off.
To compound the economic and social difficulties of the family, the country went into a recession. At the same time, global warming destroyed many crops. It also killed livestock because of a prolonged drought. The result was that, despite the depression, the price of pork rose dramatically.
The Evil Stepmother was one smart cookie. She looked at her inherited brood of five Little Pigs and her calculating mind calculated. She knew what she could do to take advantage of a potential windfall in pork prices. So she scrimped and saved in order to obtain the best food possible for the Little Piggies, and very rapidly she fattened them up. They were the biggest piggies in their school.
One day, the Evil Stepmother announced to the five Little Piggies that she was going to market. Four Little Piggies would accompany her while the Littlest Piggy, the runt of the litter but still bigger than most in his class, remained at home. Eager for a day in town, the four little piggies spruced themselves up, cleaned their tails, washed their feet, and set off for town with their Evil Stepmother, who, they now thought, wasn't so bad after all. The one Little Piggy who stayed home was dejected, but, unknown to himself, was indeed fortunate.
As they approached the market, the Little Piggies saw a sign over the door. "Meat Market." Just below it was a smaller sign which they failed to read: "Butcher."
The Little Piggies had their hearts set on buying piggy sweets at the store - whatever it is that piggies consider as the equivalent of candy. But the Evil Stepmother would have none of that. She sent one of the piggies over to the carrot display and told him to tell the clerk that his Evil Stepmother would pay for whatever he took. With a nod, the clerk gave him a big bunch of carrots.
In the meantime, the Evil Stepmother took the first Little Piggy to the butcher, who was delighted when he saw the well-built Little Piggy, The Evil Stepmother and the Butcher reached an agreement and this Little Piggy was told to stay with the Butcher while the Evil Stepmother took the other two Little Piggies to another Butcher, who likewise was pleased to see such healthy Little Piggies. Another deal was struck.
But the one remaining Little Piggy soon realized what was happening and ran home, squealing, to Father Pig.
So the famed nursery rhyme must be rewritten as follows
Four little piggies went to market
One little piggie stayed home
One little piggy became roast pork,
Two little piggies are now sliced bacon,
The fifth little piggy went woe woe woe all the way home.