The True Story of the Three Little Pigs

by Jon Scieszka, illustrated by Lane Smith

Reviewed by Mike Walsh, Published in the Philadelphia Welcomat in 1990

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Some people think that you can’t tell kids the truth, that you have to give them cute little fantasies until they’re old enough to know better. But that attitude underestimates their intelligence. Kids know that stories about Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, the tooth fairy, and pro wrestling are shams, but they play along with the charade. Why? To work us stupid adults for all the gifts we’re worth. So this Christmas skip the fantasies and give the cunning little schemers the cold, hard facts, and you can start with The True Story of the Three Little Pigs, by writer Jon Scieszka and illustrator Lane Smith.

You see, the story of the three little pigs has always been based on testimony from the third pig, the one with the brick house. And since his two brothers were killed during the tragic events told in the story, his can hardly be considered an objective perspective. (Didn’t Orwell tell us all we needed to know about the morals of those fat, stinky creatures?) To set the record straight, Scieszka and Smith went to the source, the wolf, and they got his story, the true story, “wolf’s honor.”

His name is Alexander “You can call me Al” Wolf. He’s a refined, polite carnivore in a cardigan, wire-frames, and bow tie, hardly the type to go around terrorizing unsuspecting, home-owning pigs.

Before he gets started, however, he bemoans the “whole Big Bad Wolf thing.” He points out that his species has been burdened with the task of eating cute little creatures like bunnies, sheep, and what not, which has unfairly besmirched their reputation. “If cheeseburgers were cute,” explains Al, “folks would probably think you were Big and Bad too.”

So one day Mr. Al Wolf, who had a terrible head cold, was making a cake for his granny. He ran out of sugar, so he trudged off to a neighbor’s house to borrow some. This neighbor, a member of the swine family, had a house made of straw. Real smart, huh? Well, Mr. Wolf’s nose cold started acting up, and he “sneezed a great sneeze.” The house came tumbling down, and the resident died. An simple accident. They happen every day.

Like a good trooper, Al tried to make the best of the situation. “It seemed like a shame to leave a perfectly good ham dinner lying there in the straw,” he explains. “So I ate it up.” A rational decision and hardly just cause for being treated so viciously by adult storytellers all these years.

Anyway, Al still didn’t have his cup of sugar, so he went to the next neighbor, who also happened to be a pig. This second pig might not have been as dumb as the first (his house being made of wood), but he certainly was ruder to our ailing friend. You can probably guess what happened next. Let’s just say that Mr. Wolf had a very powerful sneeze. While looking back on this second tragedy, Al reminds us that “food will spoil if you just leave it out in the open.” Damn straight, and the sooner kids learn that lesson, the better.

The poor guy was getting awfully full by the time he made it to the third pig’s house, the one made of brick. Believe it or not, this pig had plenty of sugar but he wouldn’t share any. To make matters worse, this nasty porker shouted, “And your old granny can sit on a pin!” Mr. Wolf understandably took exception to these comments.

“When the cops drove up," explains our flu-ridden friend, “I was trying to break down this Pig’s door. And the whole time I was huffing and puffing and sneezing and making a real scene.”

As you might expect, the cops found out about the other two deceased pigs (although an investigation turned up nary a trace of either), and the story was exaggerated to absurd lengths by the press. Al faced a laundry list of trumped-up charges, and he was summarily convicted and packed-off to the big house, where he still can’t get a cup of sugar. (Life sucks, don’t it?)

This is investigative journalism at its finest, folks, and the kids of America deserve to know the truth of this sad tale. Sure, it’s is a bitter pill to swallow, but believe me, those savvy little extortionists can handle it.

P.S. Sales figures for “The True Story of the Three Little Pigs” bear me out on this point. It has sold over 500,000 copies.


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