Sunday, May 15, 2016

The Three Little Pigs

Okay, it's time for that other story that has a wolf as a villain; "The Three Little Pigs!"

Now, I first heard this story from a book that was based on the old Disney cartoon. I didn't see the cartoon until years later, but the book was a very entertaining read when I was a kid. So, naturally, I knew the watered-down version before I knew about the more gruesome version.

Now let's say that line that you're probably getting tired of me saying.

Everybody probably knows the story already (there you go). There are three pigs that leave their mother to seek their fortune. They build houses. The first pig builds a house of straw, the second builds a house of sticks, and the third builds a house of bricks. Despite warnings from the Third Pig that their houses aren't strong enough, the First and Second Pigs refuse to spend the time building stronger houses. Unfortunately for them, the Big Bad Wolf comes to the neighborhood and blows down the straw and stick houses, forcing their owners to flee to the house of bricks. Their brother lets them in, and tells them that his house is the only safe one built, as he said before. Sure enough, the Wolf is unable to blow down the house. Unable to get to the pigs, he gives up and goes home, never to bother the pigs again.

Simple story isn't it? Basically a lesson that hard work really does pay off. But this story has changed quite a bit.

Now, although for the first three months so that I heard this story it was from a book based on the Disney cartoon, my parents later started reading it to me out of two different books. These were "The Golden Goose Book" and "Paul Galdone's Three Little Pigs." Both of these used the text of Joseph Jacob's version (although the Galdone version had simplified vocabulary), which is what most of the modern versions are based on. I have the Jacobs version memorized to this day, and if you asked me to recite it, I would, and I would do it very well.

Now, the stories of Joseph Jacobs are for a considerably younger audience than the tales of the Brothers Grimm or Charles Perrault. As such, they aren't as dark. That's not to say that they're completely child-friendly, but they are more light-hearted and humorous, which makes them very fun.

Now, people who aren't familier with the Jacobs version will probably be surprised to find out that the "house-building" aspect is actually a very minor plot point in the story. Basically, we get something like this:

"The first pig built a house of straw, which the wolf blew down. The second pig built a house of gorse, which the wolf blew down. The third pig built a house of bricks, which the wolf couldn't blow down."

I'm exaggerating a little bit, but that's basically how important that whole section is in this version of the story. In fact, the first two pigs don't even survive in this version. The wolf eats them. They are in this story for such a short time that they might as well have not been in it at all, and the story should have been called "The One Little Pig."

It's understandable though, why this part of the story became so famous, while the rest of it has kid of been pushed into near obscurity. This part of the story includes some repetitive rhyming when the wolf comes to the houses;

"Little pig, little pig, let me come in!"

"No, no, by the hair on my chinny-chin-chin."

"Than I'll huff, and I'll puff, and I'll blow your house in!"

So classic. And yeah, it IS very memorable. Plus, who doesn't want to teach their children about the value of hard work?

On a side note, Jacobs speculates that because pigs don't actually have hair on their chins, that they must have been goats in earlier versions of the story. This somewhat loosely ties this story with "The Wolf and the Seven Little Kids," which actually has variants with three kids instead of seven.

Now, like I said, this opening to the story really has very little importance, it might as well have began with the part with the wolf trying to blow down the brick house, bacause that's where the main part of the story starts. The main focus of the story is that the wolf is trying to get to the third little pig.

Also note that the wolf isn't called the "Big Bad Wolf." I don't know who came up with that idea (though it IS kind of catchy).

And the wolf doesn't just give up either, he's STILL determined to get that pig. He decides to trick him into leaving the house. He invites him to come along with him the next morning to the field to pick turnips. The pig agrees, but sees through the wolf's plan, and cleverly heads out an hour before the wolf intends to meet him. He picks the turnips and gets back home before the wolf arrives, which ticks him off. Then the wolf invites him to an apple orchard.

Once again, the pig heads out an hour early. However, he is at the orchard longer than he expected, and the wolf arrives while he's up on a tree. The pig, however, uses his wits, and tosses the wolf an apple. While the wolf is running to pick it up, the pig climbs out of the tree and runs home.

The wolf then invites the pig to a fair in Shanklin (which definitively sets this version in Britain). The pig once again heads out an hour early and goes to the fair. As he's heading home, he sees the wolf coming. So he hides in a butter-churn he bought at the fair and rolls down the hill in it. The wolf is frightened by it and runs home.

He later goes to the pig's house, only to find that the pig was inside the butter-churn that scared him. Angrily, he resolves to go down the chimney and eat the pig. But the builds a fire in the fireplace and puts a big pot of water over it. The wolf falls into the pot, and the pig slams the cover over it so that the wolf can't escape, killing him. The pig eats him for supper. The end.

Now, not all modern versions end with the wolf just giving up after he can't blow down the brick house. In some (including the Disney cartoon), the story actually cuts to him coming down the chimney. In some versions where this happens, the wolf doesn't die, he just gets burned badly by the hot water, and runs away forever. But this doesn't really make since, because water doesn't heat up that fast. The Jacobs version, where the pig slams the cover on until the wolf has been boiled, actually makes more sense. Some modern versions take note of this, and don't have the pot of water on the fire. Instead, the wolf burns his tail from the flames of the fire.

The modern versions focus more on the value of hard work, while the Jacobs version tells the reader to always be smarter than the villain. Both are valuable lessons, and I've actually combined both lessons in a script I wrote for a comedy movie based on the story (yes, I like to write things in my spare time). I have all three pigs survive. The first half of the script focuses on the house-building aspect, while the second half focuses on the wolf's attempts to get the pigs to leave the house. I honestly wish more of the modern versions had the rest of the story, as it's very humorous. But, for a children's story, I think this does very well.

There's also another, very different, version of the story included in The Green Fairy Book by Andrew Lang. But I'll talk about that in a future post.

Which version of the story do YOU prefer? The version that focuses more on the houses, or the version that focuses more on the wolf's attempts to get the pig(s) to leave the house?

Monday, May 9, 2016

Red Riding Hood

Okay, so if you haven't figured it out already, I've been trying to cover these stories in the order I encountered them, because it's "nostalgia." However, after I get past that Richard Scarry VHS, it's kind of hard for me to figure out EXACTLY the precise order I encountered these stories in (even if I DO have a really good memory). So I'm covering these next few only ROUGHLY in order, as I encountered them around the same time. I'll start with "Red Riding Hood."

Now, in the early 90's there was a collection of books at was apparently printed in Canada by a company called "Tormont Publications." It was called, "The Great Fairy Tales Treasure Chest." I'm going to try to explain his clearly, because it took me awhile to figure out exactly how these books were published, and I'm not sure I'm even entirely correct. So bear with me. I'm trying to help you understand.

"Great Fairy Tales Treasure Chest" is a series of about five "series" if you know what I mean. Each "series" in the series in the series was composed of five tall, skinny books that were included in a tall, skinny box. Each "series" had its own box, as well as its own border. And they included wonderful illustrations by a guy with the pen-name of Tony Wolf, as well as (I think) one or two other illustrators.

Now, being born in the LATE nineties (rather than the early nineties, when these books were published), and living in AMERICA (rather than Canada), it would seem strange that we would have had any of these books at all. But we did have a few of them, though I don't know exactly where my parents even got them from.

From what I've gathered, it appears that the books that were from the first "series" we're also published individually without the numbers at the bottom of the books. You can see the books from series one in the picture below.

Now, we had books four and five of series one, but they were from the individually published versions, rather than the ones from the collection, so the volume numbers were not at the bottoms of the book covers. It appears that the individual versions also were different colors than the collection versions. As you can see from the picture, all the books from the collection version were blue. However, our copy of book four was green, and our copy of book five was pink. You can see the cover of book four below. It's the only picture I could find of it. And of course, ours was green instead of blue.

Now I'm sure you have two questions. The first is probably why I didn't post a picture of book five as well. The second is probably why I'm talking about these books so much. The answer to the first ties into the answer to the second. I will say that we eventually also got a copy of the complete series four, but that doesn't matter right now. About the two questions, book five actually has an interesting nostalgic value that I feel is worth talking about in a post of its own, so I'm saving a picture of it for when I do a post about it. And that won't be long from now either. I needed to introduce these books because it will make more sense when I post more about them later.

Now you've probably guessed from the title that book four has the story of "Red Riding Hood" in it. And yes, it does. It also has "The Ugly Duckling" and "The Obstinate Goats."

Now "Read Riding Hood" was popularized by French author Charles Perrault. His version of the story introduced most of the elements we know from the story today, such as the red hood. His version literally translates to "Little Red Riding Hood."

The story was made even more popular by the Brothers Grimm, who toned the story down quite a bit, and gave it a much less dark ending. Their version is "Rottkapchen" (I think that's how it's spelled), which is a diminutive form of "Red Cap" However, some translations of it for children still call it "Red Riding Hood."

Now, everybody probably knows this story already (aren't you tired of hearing that from me? LOL.).

There's a little girl who always wears a red hood. Her mother sends her into the woods (and out of the woods! and home before dark! LOL!) to bring food to her sick grandmother. She tells her not to leave the path, and not to talk to strangers. A wolf meets her on the way, and she foolishly tells him where her grandmother's house is. The wolf convinces her to leave the path to pick flowers, and then races the the grandmother's house and locks her in the closet. He dresses up as Grandmother and jumps into her bed. Red arrives at the house and suspects that something isn't right. She can tell that her grandmother isn't what she usually looks like, and just when she figures out it's the wolf, she's too late, and the wolf pounces on her. But before he can eat her, a hunter enters the house and shoots the wolf. He rescues Red and her grandmother, and Red promises to never talk to strangers, and never leave the path again.

Now, the majority of modern versions of the story are based on the Brothers Grimm version, and although it is very similar, there are quite a few differences.

The first is that the Brothers Grimm version doesn't focus on the talking to strangers aspect. At all. It's main focus is how Red is supposed to stay on the path. Talking to a wolf is apparently normal in this version. Red's fault is in taking the wolf's advice to leather path, which gives the wolf time to get to Grandmother's house first. And at the end, there's actually an epilogue where Red keeps true to her word and ignores the advice of the next wolf who tries to trick her into leaving the path, allowing her to get to Grandmother's house first and plan ahead to defeat the wolf. A very satisfying ending, in my opinion.

And the most memorable difference is that the wolf doesn't even lock grandmother in the closet. He eats her! And he eats Red too! And it turns out they were swallowed whole. And the hunter must have taken advice from the mother goat from "Wolf and the Seven Little Kids," because he does the exact same thing she did! And the wolf has the same fate!

Now granted, not all kids versions have used the revised ending I mentioned earlier. In fact, the version from "Great Fairy Takes Treasure Chest" actually combines both endings! The wolf eats both Red and her grandmother, the hunter shoots the wolf, and then cuts the protagonists alive from his stomach.

But if you thought the Grimm version was dark, just look at the Perrault version.

This version DOES focus on the talking to strangers aspect. The wolf convinces her to take the longer path, and he takes the shorter one. When Red arrives, he tells her to remove her clothes and get in bed with him. The story takes on the familiar "Red is suspicious" plot point, but after the wolf eats her, that's the end of the story! Yup, she's dead!

Some have interpreted this story as being about avoiding sex offenders, and while I get kind of tired of scholars interpreting nearly every fairy tale as having to do with... something like that, in this case, it actually seems like a pretty valid interpretation.

There are older versions of this story too. In some of them, the wolf tricks Red into drinking her grandmother's blood! And while quite a few end with the wolf eating her, there are some early versions where Red outsmarts the wolf by asking to use the outhouse. Then she goes outside and runs away! And they say that women are helpless in fairy tales!

I personally like the ending where Red dies the best. I think it really drives the point home that kids should not talk to strangers, and should stay on the path. But I don't mind the other endings. They are all very clever, and, to be fair, I grew up with the happy ending!Plus, as a guy who really likes the movie "Hoodwinked," (yes, that will get its own review someday) I can't resist a bit of comedy in these stories!

Now, next time, I'll get to another famous fairy tale that has a wolf as the antagonist. You can probably guess what it is already! ;-)

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Golden Book Richard Scarry VHS: Part 2: The Bremen Town Musicians

Okay, so in my last post, I was talking about the "Richard Scarry's Old MacDonald's Farm and Other Stories" VHS. I talked about the adaptation of "The Wolf and the Seven Little Kids" that was on it. Today, I'm going to talk about the other fairy tale that was on it; "The Bremen Town Musicians."

Now, once again, this was my introduction to this story, so I kind of have a nostalgic feeling for it. This doesn't take as many liberties as "Wolf and the Seven Little Kids" did, but it still has quite a few differences.

I'm going to start by giving the plot of the Brothers Grimm tale.

A donkey, dog, cat, and rooster get away from their abusive owners, and head off toward the city of Bremen to become musicians. At night, they look for a place to rest, and discover the home of a band of robbers. They stand on top of each other and scare them away. They enter the house and fall asleep. One of the robbers returns to the house to investigate, and the animals attack him. He can't see very well in the dark and mistakes them for monsters. He runs away and tells his companions. They are scared, and run away, never to return. The animals decide they like the house so much at they stay there, and never go to Bremen.

Now, the funny thing about this story is that all of the humans in this story are antagonists. The animals are having to leave their abusive owners, and the robbers are humans. However, there are a few versions of this story that feature a human protagonists. In these versions, the human accompanies the animals on their journey, and they help him out. So, that's kind of interesting.

The plot of the story can vary too. Sometimes, there's hardly any plot, and it just states, "a donkey went on a journey, and he met a dog, and then they met a cat, etc." Sometimes, it has more of a plot, like the Grimm version does. The ending varies sometimes too. I've always preferred the ending where the robber thinks the animals are monsters, because it's always made me laugh. Especially how he thinks the rooster's "cock-doodle-doo" is "kill the robber, do!" LOL!

In other versions, the robber is able to see the animals, and knows what they are, and they end up killing him by tossing him back and forth. Sometimes, all the robbers return to the house and get killed! In some versions where the protagonist is a human, he takes the robber's stolen goods back to their rightful owners, and is rewarded with riches.

This story has still remained basically the same though. And you can actually see this statue in Bremen that's based on the story:

Now to talk about the Richard Scarry version.

At the point when this version was written, Scarry had stopped putting humans into his stories, and instead made all of the characters animals, which is kind of cool. So, in this version, instead of the animals running away from abusive owners, they are simply bored with the jobs they have at home, and long to become famous.

Of  course, the robbers are all animals also. One of them is the fox from Scarry's version of "Gingerbread Man," and another is the wolf from "Wolf and the Seven Little Kids" and "Three Little Pigs." Or, at least they look just like them.

Also, in a notable difference from the Grimm version, the animals don't actually realize that the men in the house are actually robbers in the Richard Scarry version. Instead, they think they are "friendly folk." And they end up scaring them away by accident, rather than on purpose, as they are trying to get invited in. They don't know what scared them away, and decide to wait in the house until they return, so that they can meet them. When one of the robbers returns to the house, they don't recognize him from before, and think that he's come to rob the house of the "friendly folk." So they attack him. The next morning, they notice that the "friendly folk" still haven't returned. They are afraid that the "robber" might return, so they agree to stay at the house to keep it safe and tidy until the "friendly folk" return. And since they never do return, and the animals never find out that they were robbers, they end up staying at the house forever. But they are content now, and live together happily.

Honestly, I don't know which version of the story I like better. They are both really cute stories about animals who go on a journey. And the moral of both versions is the same: You don't need to be rich and famous. What matters is having a nice house and a family.

I honestly can't decide whether I prefer the Grimm or the Richard Scarry version.

Which version of "Bremen Town Musicians" do YOU prefer?