Tuesday, March 14, 2006

The True story of the Three Educated Pigs

Once upon a time there were three little pigs. One day their wise mother called them to her and said, "My children, soon the time will come for you to leave. But the world is a hard place; you need to go to school before you can make your way in it."

So she gave them a pile of brochures, and each chose the school that seemed to suit him best. The first pig, who was an artistic sort, decided to go to the College of Make-Do, where he studied Art with Found Materials with minored in textiles. The second pig, who wasn’t interested in school and much more interested in saving enough money to buy a motorcycle, decided on a course of interdisciplinary studies at the "New School of Hard Knocks". He unwisely thought this sounded like the easiest choice. The third pig, who was ambitious, chose to pursue a degree in Management from Major Edifice University.

Four years later the three pigs returned from college, much heavier in the head and belly, and lighter in the wallet. It was a pleasant June day for a walk, and they strolled along happily. As they were admiring the sun on the grass, waving in the gentle summer breeze, the first pig suddenly stopped.

"Say," he said with alarm, "this grass is Nolina microcarpa!"

"So?" his brothers asked.

"It's an exotic species!" the first pig said. "If develops a seed head, it will spread on the wind and displace all the native grass species. Something must be done immediately!" he exclaimed. So he went to the land owner, and offered to mow all his land if the owner would let him cart away the all the Nolina grass. And quick as a wink, he set to it. Before long he had a huge pile of grass, which he decided to weave into an ecologically friendly straw house.

The two other brothers helped for a while, then decided to go on their way. "Did you know he could be so industrious?" the third pig asked, as the road wound through dense stand of bushes.

"Well, you know him when he gets an idea in his head," said the second one. "Speaking of which, how long do you intend to keep walking? My trotters are about to fall off."

"I'm looking for just the right spot," replied the third brother. "If I site my house wisely, its value will appreciate at greater than market rates."

"Well, I'm happy if I have a dry place to put my trotters up." replied the second pig. "This will do for me," he said, stopping at a place where there was a wide field next to the road. So the two brothers affectionately parted ways, and the second brother quickly built himself a house of sticks.

Now the first two brothers were had soon finished their houses, and since they lived close by they saw quite a bit of each other. But as the summer wore on they began to wonder how their brother was getting on. So one day they decided to go down the road a piece to see if they could find him. It turned out the third pig was not far away at all, at pleasant spot at the base of a hill where the road wound is way around the edge of a pond. They found him sitting on a tumble down pile of bricks and iron bars, sweating on the August sun.

Way up at the top of the hill was the beginnings of a brick wall, no more than a foot or two high, and if it were longer than it were high, it was not by much.

"I see you've found your perfect spot," said the second pig. "How has it been going?" It was obvious to the first two pigs that their brother had spent the summer sleeping on the ground with his briefcase as a pillow.

"Terrible!" exclaimed the first pig. "My order of bricks and tools didn't come for weeks and weeks. Finally I had to place an order with a different company, and both orders came in on the same day! Neither of the companies would take the things back, so here I am with two of everything!" he moaned.

"But brother," asked the first pig, "don't tell me they just dumped all the bricks in a pile like that? Half of them are cracked. Although," he added thoughtfully, "it does lend them a certain character."

"This," replied the third brother sadly, "is what's left of my house. I had planned to build the house at the top of the hill, but when the materials got here so late, there was no way I could get it done in time for the electrician. He's booked solid and only had a few days open. I'd only taken two wheelbarrows of bricks up there when it occurred to me that most of my time would be spent hauling bricks up the hill, and it would be much faster just to build it down here."

"Sounds like a good idea," said the second brother, "so what happened?"

"The ground was too soft," said the third brother. "I should have poured a foundation, but I was in a rush and I couldn't coordinate my schedule with the cement people. I'd just about finished my house when it started raining. The ground turned to mud and my house fell down. So now I'm back to building up on the top of the hill. The ground is granite ledge up there, so I don't need a foundation. But now I'll be lucky to have a roof over my head by winter, with no electricity."

"No electricity?" the second brother asked, "The electrician is busy until next year?"

"No, he's flying south," replied the first.

"You nitwit," said the first brother, "you should have asked us to help. We had our houses done ages ago!"

"Yes," said the second, who was uncommonly big and strong, "we'll all pitch in and we'll have those bricks up the hill in a jiffy."

The third little pig would have jumped and squealed for joy, but just then Mr. Rabbit thumped up, eyes wide with fear and excitement. "Run for your lives!" he cried breathlessly, "the big bad wolf is coming!"

"Big and bad you say?" asked the first pig, "How do we know he's not simply misunderstood?"

"I expect," said the second brother, "it's because he eats pigs."

They all shivered.

"Oh, he's dreadful!" agreed the rabbit. "It wouldn't be so bad if he just ate you. They say he read classics at university, but nearly flunked out because he spent all his time acting in plays. Before he gobbles you up he goes through this awful ..." the rabbit shuddered, "routine."

"Oh, one of THOSE," groaned the second pig. "I think I've overbuilt my house. I've got to run along and take some of the sticks out of it. Brother," he said to the third pig, "you had better come with me."

"Am I to understand," the third pig, his voice rising to a hysterical squeak, "that you're suggesting we await the arrival of a ravening, deadly, porcicidal wolf in a house made of STICKS?"

"Better there than here," replied his brother.

"No thank you," said the third pig,” I’ll see if I can't work something out here."

"And, you brother?" asked the second pig of the first pig.

"I think I will be all right," he replied, "if our brother here will give me some of the materials from his ruined house, and lend me his spare wheelbarrow." This the third pig readily consented to, and sooner than it can be said it was done. Then the three pigs wished each other good luck and there were hugs all around.

Each of the three brothers made his preparations as best he could, and in a day or two, who should come along but the wolf, walking along as sharp and clever as ever, and hungrier than usual. Catching the scent of pig, the big bad wolf saw it came from a little straw house. He couldn’t believe his luck! He walked up to the first pig's door, bold as brass, and in a loud baritone voice, he cried, "Little pig, little pig, let me come in!"

"No!" replied the first pig, "Not by the hair of my chinny chin chin!" for indeed he was very proud of his goatee, which took him four solid years to grow.

"Hem, hem hem!" the wolf cleared his throat, reminding himself that his motivation in this scene was that he was hungry and somebody was keeping him from his dinner. "Then I'll HUFF, then I'll PUFF, then I'll BLOW YOUR HOUSE IN!" he said in a very loud, deep voice that came from so far down in his throat it was roaring out of his belly.

Dear children, this is what stage actors "speaking from the diaphragm", and they use it so that even when they are whispering on stage, people in the back row can hear what they are saying. As proud as the first pig was of his goatee, the wolf for his part was positively vain about what he called his "classical training."

"Do you think you could just, you know, pick the house up and move it someplace else?" asked the first pig from inside, "it was rather tricky to get just right."

The wolf looked and saw that indeed the house, which was very lovely, could not have weighed more the twenty or thirty pounds, so rather than wasting his breath he just picked it up and tossed it to the side. To his surprise, there was what looked like a neat little box of bricks built into the side of a gleaming block of metal. There was a small but stout looking wooden door facing him.

"What's this?" asked the wolf.

"It's my wolf closet!" came the voice of the first pig from inside the strange little box. "Took me about two or three hours to put it together after I'd rounded up the materials. Much easier than building an entire house out of bricks, and it's very economical. What do you think?"

The wolf in all his days had never heard of anybody making a wolf closet. It did indeed look like effective and inexpensive wolf protection. The wolf decided that he'd better not let word of this get around, and as he was hungry he could, as they say, "kill two birds with one stone". He heaved a mighty kick at the door, then yowled in pain and jumped around on other foot.

"Sorry," the first pig, "the door's made of mountain ash. It's very durable -- ash I mean -- and it's practically a weed so it's easy to harvest sustainably. Plus it's reinforced with iron rebar. I mean the door is. The whole structure is in fact."

"This WHOLE THING is reinforced with iron bars?" asked the wolf incredulously.

"Well, they're RECYCLED," said the pig defensively.

The wolf looked around the little box, to see if he could find a weak point. "What's this big silvery metal thing in back?" he asked.

"That's my espresso machine. It's from Italy; it was kind of a stretch, but I sold a lot of my paintings at the art fair, so I thought, why not?" said the pig.

"You have a COFFEE machine in that thing?" asked the wolf

"Oh, yes," replied the pig. "While I loathe the environmental and labor practices of the coffee industry, " he continued sadly, "I find I really can’t do without it. "

"Does it actually work?" asked the wolf curiously.

"See for yourself," relied the pig, and he opened a tiny slit in the door, just big enough for the wolf to peep into.

When the wolf peeped in, out came a burst of steam which burned him on the nose and sent him running away yelping in pain. When he finally calmed down, he had resolved to go back and outwait the first pig. "He has to come out some time," the wolf thought angrily.

But just then he caught the scent of pig wafting in the breeze. Turning around he was surprised to see the second pig, reading a book and sitting up in a comfortable chair in the middle of something that he supposed might be a house, although it was more like a loose framework of sticks with a thatched roof. The wolf couldn't believe his luck! It was almost too good to be true. So he walked up, bold as brass to the little house and took a deep breath.

"Can I help you," asked the second pig, who of course could see the wolf coming plain as day.

"Er, I was just about to ask you if I could come in," sputtered the wolf, who was caught bit off guard. He wasn't used to people (or pigs) changing the script in the middle of performance!

"I don't think so," said the pig.

"Well, then I'll HUFF and I'll PUFF and I'll... Say, what is this thing you're sitting in?" asked the wolf, suddenly overcome with curiosity.

"Well, if you must ask," replied the pig, "this is my house. I rather like it."

"This thing is a HOUSE?" asked the wolf, in disbelief.

"Oh, it's a bit drafty with the drapes open," said the pig calmly, "but it's quite pleasant on a summer afternoon."

The wolf gazed at the odd contraption with bewilderment.

"Do you think you might be done now?" asked the pig impatiently, "As you can see I am otherwise engaged." He held up his book and waggled it.

"No, no!" replied the wolf, "I was, uh, I was, er..."

"Huff and puff," prompted the pig helpfully.

"Oh, yes, I was going to blow your house in!" cried the wolf.

"Must you?" asked the pig.

"Yes I must!" cried the wolf.

"Very well," replied the pig with a sigh, and he set his book down on the table next to him and popped open an umbrella.

The wolf huffed and puffed as he had never huffed and puffed before, and he blew a mighty blow that swept in one side of the house and out the other, with no effect whatsoever other than turning the pig's umbrella inside out. While the wolf had from time to time of course encountered a brick or stone houses that would have taken a bulldozer to knock down, he’d never had failed to blow in a house of sticks . He reckoned that he couldn’t blow the house down because, practically speaking, it had no actual walls to blow on. So he decided he would bite his way through the slender sticks of the house.

"I wouldn't try that if I were you," warned the pig, "the sticks come from thorn bushes."

The wolf stopped, and saw that this was true. "Say," he said suspiciously, "it was uncommonly kind of you to tell me that, what with my trying to eat you and all."

"Think nothing of it," replied the pig with a magnanimous wave.

"Um," said the wolf, casting about for a topic of conversation while he studied the peculiar little house for weaknesses, "whatever gave you the idea of building a stick house?"

"My school motto," said the pig, indicating a diploma hanging on the far wall. "New School of Hard Knocks" was written in big fancy letters, and below that was the motto, but it was too small for even the wolf's sharp eyes to make out.

"I'm sorry," said the wolf, "but I can't read that far away."

"Let me help you," said the pig, who took the diploma, and walked to a certain corner of the house, holding it face out for the wolf to read. The wolf weighed the possibility of making a snatch for the pig's trotter through the sticks, but the pig carefully was holding the diploma just out of range of the wolf’s sharp teeth. So the wolf read.

"It says, 'sticks and stones will break your bones'," the wolf read. "I see the sticks, but where are the stones?"

"Here," said the pig, and quick as a wink he pulled a cord. This cord released a stone from under the eaves of his little house, and it dropped right down on the wicked wolf's head. Had the stone been a bit larger, that would have been the end of the story. But it wasn't quite big enough to do him serious harm; instead he saw stars, and ran about howling and cursing and demanding that the pig come out and meet him face to face instead of sitting in there like a coward.

To the wolf's surprise, the pig said, "OK", and removing a padlock from the door, he ducked through the doorway and unfolded himself to his full height.

Now the wolf, who was city bred, didn't have much experience with live pigs that you caught yourself. He thought of pigs as something you get from the butcher and which made an attractive presentation on a silver platter with a shiny apple in its mouth. He expected when he retired to the life of a country gentleman, that he would find cute little piglets just free for the taking, skipping around and playing games and all that sort of rubbish. But of course sensible country people know that full grown pigs are very big, and very strong, and can be big trouble when they're angry. And the second pig was very, very big and very, very strong, even for a pig. And he looked so angry that it made the wolf’s hackles stand up in alarm.

"Great Scott!" thought the wolf, "he must weigh twenty-five stone or I'm a pup!" He gulped. "Umm," he said in a cracking voice (one which I'm sorry to say the wolf had neglected to introduce to Mr. Diaphragm), "what big muscles you have Mr. Pig!"

"Not so big for somebody who knows what an honest day's work is," replied the pig.

"And, um, what a big, red, bushy beard you have!" said the wolf.

"Really?" replied the pig. "I shaved it clean off this morning and it's back already. I don't know why I bother."

The wolf's eyes dropped to what looked like a section of a maple sapling trunk that the pig was holding in one trotter and smacking into the palm of the other, as if he was testing its weight. It was making an ominous "thwack, thwack" sound.

"And, umm," said on the wolf nervously,” what a big stick you have there! Might I inquire what you intend to do with it?"

"Remember the school motto?" asked the pig.

"Yes," replied the wolf.

"Think about it."

The wolf thought about it, and in twinkling he was running off down the road, as quick as his legs could take him.

"Phew!" said the pig, who was in truth the gentlest creature you can imagine. He'd really had a miserable time at that terrible school, where people got picked on for being polite and kind. Although it had cost him endless boring hours lifting weights and practicing angry faces in front the mirror, he eventually managed to make himself so big, and SO scary, that even the rhino (who was a foreign student) used to cross to the other side of the street when he saw him coming.

"I'd better check up on my brothers," he thought. "That old wolf is up to no good."

And indeed he was. The big bad wolf had run down the road until he fell to the ground, gasping for breath. But suddenly, he perked up as he caught the scent of pig in the air. It was coming from a pile of bricks. He couldn't believe his luck! So the wolf hopped up and started walking up toward the pile of bricks, bold as brass.

Then he stopped. His eyes narrowed suspiciously.

"Er…" he began, "is anybody in there?"

"No!" came the frightened squeak of the third pig, whose preparations had not gone as well as his brothers. In fact he had barely enough time to burrow into a pile of bricks when the wolf had come running up.

"Well, in that case," began the wolf, eyeing the third pig's curly tail and fat rump sticking out of the top of the bricks, "in that case perhaps I should call again another day."

"Oh, drat!" cried the third brother, "I'm so pathetic! You might as well put me out of my misery!" The pig sat up, bricks falling from his shoulders. "Here I am, come gobble me up!"

"Um, no thanks." replied the wolf.

"You're toying with me!" cried the pig, "I've heard all about you, you old sinner. I demand you come up here this instant and gobble me up!"

"Pray calm yourself sir," replied the wolf. "I have, uh, just had luncheon. I really couldn't swallow another morsel." And as if to punctuate this speech, the wolf's empty stomach gave a loud rumble.

The third pig was just about to march down off his brick pile and demand that the wolf stop playing this ridiculous game, when his two brothers came running up. The second pig had his maple club and looked like he meant business. And, dear children, the look on his face was so angry that if you saw it you'd never have another nightmare again, because it wouldn't want to live in a head with such a frightful memory for a neighbor. The first pig also had a club, but he regarded it doubtfully, as if he was unsure which end he was supposed to be holding.

"I see I am intruding," said the wolf hastily, "so I will take my leave." Which he did, running away as fast as his legs could take him.

Such a joyous reunion they had. They hugged and wept and danced, and finally when they grew tired of that, they all sat down and told their stories. When the third pig heard how it had gone at the first pig's house, he became very excited, and insisted that they should all go into the business of selling wolf closets. The other pigs thought this was a ridiculous idea. But the first pig wheedled them and wheedled them until they agreed to start a business selling beautiful, affordable and energy efficient straw houses, equipped with highly secure brick wolf closets.

And what would you know, but the third pig was right, and they were VERY glad of his management expertise, or they could never have kept up with the business! People simply adored their snug, attractive little straw houses. They loved the fact they could just pick their house up and move it any place they wanted, although this meant buying a new wolf closet, which kept the third pig very happy. The first pig designed all kinds of neat and clever houses and closets; the second pig, who liked to meet people, rode his new motorcycle all over the place and told them about the wonderful houses his family made. And the third pig made sure they always had just the things they needed so nobody had to wait to long for their lovely new houses.

And the wolf? Well, by and by the third pig, who was very thorough, began to wonder whether it was mistake to leave the wolf out of his calculations. So he made a few inquiries, and learned the wolf was, as they say "down at the heel". The poor old wolf just didn't have the old panache he once had, and most days he had nothing to eat at all. It would be hard to say which he missed more, the panache or the regular meals. And while it is mystery where panache goes when it deserts its owners, there was no mystery why the wolf was finding a good meal harder to come by: more and more people these days had wolf closets! The second pig would not hear of leaving the fellow in such straits, seeing as he was, unintentionally of course, the source of all their current prosperity. He insisted that the firm hire the old wolf to work in their factory at once, and the first pig added that under no circumstances could they even consider hiring the wolf for anything less than a decent living wage. The third pig for his part was all in favor of letting the old sinner starve. But the first two wheedled him and they wheedled him, until at last he gave in and gave the wolf a job.

The first brother volunteered to make sure that the wolf was employed under porcine conditions, and that he was in no wise suffered from anti-lupine discrimination. I am sorry to say that while this was kindly meant, he frankly made a pest of himself to the poor old wolf, who was in no position to rebuff his generosity. But it was a relief to his brothers, for while business was brisk, there was not really enough design work to keep the first pig busy all the time. "Better the wolf than us", they thought.

But eventually, the kind second pig relented and was about to suggest they find something else for the first pig to do, when the third pig called him on his cell phone.

"I've just had a wonderful idea," said the third pig. "I think we should advertise on the radio."

"Ok," said the second brother, "if you think it's a good idea."

"Yes, and we'll need a voice to represent the company," the third pig said.

"If you say so," said the second pig. Then, as they say, "the penny dropped". "Oh," he said.

And that is how the wolf became the voice of the Three Pig House Company (although the first pig always insisted it was the Three Pig House Cooperative), and they all became fabulously rich and famous. One good thing came of the first pig pestering the wolf for so long though. He convinced the wolf to try being a vegetarian. To everyone's open surprise (and secret relief), the wolf took to it. He always claimed after that eating vegetables and fruit made him twenty years younger, and kept his extremely valuable voice in tip top shape. And indeed he must be right, since anybody can plainly see he has extra panache simply "coming out of his ears". And as he positively has more panache than even a wolf knows what to do with, he gives the extra to his friends the pigs, who use it to sell more houses.

And the moral of the story? Dear children, you must not ask me that. Only false stories made up by fibbers with an “axe to grind” finish by rudely beating you over the head with a moral. This is the TRUE story of the educated three pigs, so if you absolutely must have a moral I'm afraid you'll have to make one up yourself.


Art said...

Hello! Very interesting blog. I'll add it to my bookmarks. Regards,

Ram said...

nice.. a bit long, but still nice..
good stuff !!

Steve said...

a bit long, as mentioned previously,but enthralling nonetheless.

Matt Leo (grumpynerd at yahoo dot com) said...

Well, believe it or not it was about 20% longer when I banged it out. I cut down the mother pig's part to almost nothing.

I considered cutting further; it could sensibly be ended at the rescue of the third pig. However I realized that the story would have a clear moral, roughly: the best is the enemy of the good. But true as this is, it is also true that "good enough" is seldom as good as we could achieve if we put our mind to it.

So, I opted for an arguably worse story with a better moral.