The human race is the greatest of all God’s creations, intricately designed creatures that are constantly evolving. Education is the largest contributing factor to that evolution, but people tend to forget the second: You can’t know where you’re going unless you look at where you’ve been.
We were looking through the photo album and happened to come across a picture of myself playing with my daughter (Inion) when she was three. I was tickling her toes as I recited “This Little Piggy”. We began to wonder about the nursery rhyme and its origins. As writers, we look at all forms of literature with much respect and try to break it down in an analytical way so we can truly grasp its contents. Children’s stories and nursery rhymes happen to be our favorite to study because of their lyrical rhythms and timeless qualities.
And, so we began our journey into “This Little Piggy”. There were more than ten thousand sites related to it, but nothing concrete in its origins. (That we could find anyway. Yeah, The Hardy Boys we’re not.) We did find that it’s dated as far back as the mid seventeen hundreds. Pretty amazing when you think about it, right? How many families has this small piece of writing touched over the last three hundred years? Ah, the power of the pen.
The author was unknown, but its first publication was in English Fairy Tales by James Orchid Halliwell-Phillips, which was a collection that never named the author.
Now, down to our perplexing discovery. In the midst of doing this research, we overheard a family friend saying the rhyme to her baby. When she got to the third line, she said, “This little piggy had roast beef.”
Whoa! We had always heard that the third little piggy had bread and butter. Why was her piggy eating roast beef? Had we mistreated our piggy with a flimsy meal of bread and butter?
That’s when we began the real research to find out the spectrum of the third piggy’s appetite and why ours had such a limited palate. According to Miss Hollis, the third piggy was a freaking carnivore! Kinda sick when you really think about it. Our pig’s meal made much more sense in the scheme of things, until I remembered that my father had told me that pigs ate anything placed in front of them.
Then, we decided to grill my mother, who informed me that her mother’s, (my Nanu), piggy had toast and tea. Nanu was a born and bred Aussie that loved her tea time and so, replaced the roast beef with something she preferred. My mother liked her bread un-toasted with real butter, which inclined her to change the third pig’s meal.
In our previous studies, we had discovered that the original third pig ate roast beef, so Miss Hollis was in fact, right. But, three generations of our family had changed the age-old rhyme into something wholly different. Were we the only ones?
We started asking around, close friends, neighbors, even previous coworkers and most of them said roast beef, but… there was a sizeable chunk with various meals. Our friend Tracy, who hails from Georgia, said that her mother served their little piggy chitlins. Those of you who aren’t southern and southerners that aren’t familiar with the “country cuisine”, I implore you to look up what chitlins are. Those of you, like my daughter and I, (nine generations) will understand when we say that it was a little strange.
Matt, a friend that hailed from our birthplace of South Florida, was a true Cuban at heart and said his piggy had always eaten black beans and rice.
Amanda said her granny told her that the piggy had a nasty sweet tooth and ate a trough of cupcakes.
Inion’s favorite answer came from a childhood friend whose piggy had a pint of draft beer. Aha! Now the piggy’s hitting the booze.
We finished our research with this conclusion, that whether your piggy’s from the south and eating its own intestines. (Ew) Or, your pig is from Down Under and being fed toast and tea, one thing’s for sure, the pig loves to eat.
The last mission in our piggy journey came to a close when we confronted my mother and told her that the jig was up. We knew the little piggy preferred rare roast beef to bread and butter and that she had been knowingly starving our pig for years. Without missing a beat, she informed us that the damn thing was too fat and she was sick and tired of giving him all of the good food. “He’s a glutton, you know. He’s got a pig right next to him with nothing to eat and for three hundred years that selfish sow hasn’t offered him a thing.”
And, so I challenge you with this, try to be kind to your piggy and give him something decent to eat. Like most things, they’re much happier when their fed properly and the better the meal, the more likely they are to squeal all the way home.
Please tell us what your piggy ate and don’t forget to pass on the wonderful tradition to your children.