calliope, calliope 2016

Three Little Pigs; a Retelling

photo credits here, edited.

by Loh Pei Yi and Jaime Pang

THE THREE LITTLE PIGS – A STORY OF DRINKING STRAWS, GLUE STICKS AND SO ON

—Prologue—

Once upon a time when pigs spoke rhyme

 And monkeys chewed tobacco,
 And hens took snuff to make them tough,
 And ducks went quack, quack, quack, O!”

  • The Three Little Pigs, James Orchard Halliwell-Phillipps (1886)

 

In the far-flung land of Once Upon A Time, where humans were miniature in size and cows, pigs and sheep could talk, there lived a family of pigs. Alas, ever since the poetry industry had taken a turn for the worse, the Schweins had been stuck in a rather tight spot. After selling off their mansion and auctioning off all their branded furniture, Mrs. Schwein decided to send her beloved triplet sons off into the harsh, cruel outside world in order to make a name for themselves. After giving the three little pigs a gold coin each, she sent the three little pigs off to build their houses.

 

— Part 1 —

                                                                        

He patted his bulging, round belly with one trotter, holding a rosy apple in the other. Ignoring the perspiration trickling down his cheeks, he relished the zesty tang bursting in his tastebuds. This is so good, the third little pig thought, wholeheartedly chomping on the crunchy fruit. His back sticky with sweat, he grumbled as he swung the bundle across his shoulders and secured the ropes, accommodating a fresh pile of sticks and wooden planks. These will be useful. With a renewed determination, he tagged along the others, dragging his huge pile of materials (which was the biggest).

*

Crickets chirped overhead, their calls all the more ear-piercing as the sun mercilessly baked the ground in its intense golden rays. Amidst the stifling heat, along the pebble path over the distant hill, the silhouettes of three stout little figures with little curly tails were seen plodding alongside one another, each carrying a bundle of material. Straws, sticks and…more items he couldn’t see from so far away (it was then he berated himself for not heeding his mother’s advice to get a new pair of spectacles).

The wolf was starving. Frail. Delirious, even. His every muscle and bone shook as he moved, threatening to collapse any moment. His frame was slender, for every ounce of superfluous flesh he had had been metabolized. A thin frame, yearning, yearning for something to fill it.  Maybe he should just rest for a while. Yes, that would be nice. But what was that amazing smell? The wolf recognized it from the distant past, a time when he had not yet been reduced to a poor vagrant that stalked through the woods. Yes. It was pork. Real, living pork.

The faint murmur of conversation and laughter rose up from two of the pigs. Even from far away, he could already feel the taste of bacon lingering on his lips as he caught a whiff of the sweet scent of sweat trickling endlessly in a stream down the third little pig’s brow.

The wolf peeled back his lips in what seemed like a meagre attempt to smile. He hadn’t had a good, filling meal in days, ever since he had lost his job as a storyteller. Three fat little piggies with not an inkling of self defence would be just nice.

*

Naturally, the first little pig, being the first, took the lead in building his house. Gathering his load of straws (drinking straws, no less), he confidently marched to a quiet spot near a lush rain tree. Ha! I’m so smart! Luckily, I have the lightest load of straws, so that I don’t have to waste so much energy, unlike the others. He recalled a science lesson from his youth (although he was drooling from slumber half the time) in which his teacher, Miss Owl, had taught them that hollow spaces could trap air, which in turn could retain heat in the chilly winter. Great, he thought, these straws have hollows too. Perfect and cheap insulation! I’m such a genius!

Glancing over his shoulder, he spotted his younger brother constructing his new house to the right of his. Painstakingly bundling hundreds and thousands of glue sticks together, occasional grunts from the intensive labour emanated from the second little pig. Nice. In his subconscious mind, the second little pig registered that these would not be as fragile as sticks that his grand uncle’s cousin’s sister-in-law’s second cousin twice removed had used last century. At least the plastic was much more rigid, and the glue could serve as permanently sticky joints unlike Lego these days.

 

But…wait a moment. Out of the corner of his eye, the second little pig suddenly caught sight of a blur of pink pass him, followed by a little orange. What was that? Never mind, it’s probably a bird, or something. Let’s get back to work. Blubbery legs sore from the walking, he plopped down and went back to weaving his little hut of glue sticks.

— Part 2 —

Pork, to the wolf, would make a superb meal. As much as he could muster, he pulled himself off the ground and padded slowly toward the pigs’ houses. The first and second pig had already completed their absolutely horrendous, but passable huts. The first pig had constructed his hut out of a bulk of drinking straws. The weaving was of excellent quality, but it was no big deal for the wolf.

In the past, all his grandfather had done to get to two of those brainless pigs was to blow the house down. But then again, this was already the thirtieth century! No-one used sticks and straw to build houses anymore! Those pigs obviously had something up their sleeve which could be used against him. The wolf would have to fight fire with fire.

The wolf tiptoed precariously towards the first pig’s house, trying to minimise the noise created. The sun had long set, and the land was illuminated by the faint light of the waning crescent that hung in the sky amongst the spread of stars. After adjusting his too-short red cape (It was a family heirloom) and shifting his little basket of apples, he sidled up to the door of the first little pig’s straw hut. Should he knock on the door? It really seemed way too fragile to be a door – he could probably push it down with one hand. There was no doorbell in sight, so the wolf settled for raising his voice to the highest octave possible and squeaked, “Little pig, little pig, let me in. Would you like to buy some delicious, red apples? All proceeds go to charity!”

A moment of silence. Some scuffling noises from behind the straw door.

“No, by the hair on my chinny chin-chin!” The first little pig could not be sure who exactly was behind the door, but as warned by his grand uncle’s cousin’s sister-in-law’s second cousin twice removed’s brother, he still refused. Better safe than sorry.

The wolf growled. Either that pig had telepathic powers, or he was just a heartless swine who cared nothing about donating to charity. The wolf tried again.

Are you afraid of poison? Look, I’ll cut the apple in two. You eat the red half, and I shall eat the white half.”

“I’m not Snow White.”

That was it. The wolf was sick and tired of masquerading as a little girl on her way to her Granny’s house. During his days of being a storyteller, the wolf had to train his confidence, but most importantly the projection of his voice and his lung power. After a year, he could yell so loud that he could have uprooted the mayor’s house with one yell and send it flying off to Narnia. Voice projection was the key. The wolf took a deep breath and yelled at the top of his lungs, “COME OUT, LITTLE PIG!”.

The little hut trembled slightly and collapsed into a multicoloured mountain of drinking straws. And in the middle of the mountain, buried under mounds and mounds of plastic straws, sat the first little pig, mouth agape and tears coursing down his face as his body shook furiously. The first thing that came to the wolf’s mind on seeing the pig was how he would look like with one of his apples in his mouth, roasting on a spit.

Almost as though the pig was telepathic (maybe he was), he scrambled out of the pile of straws and scurried off, crying. The wolf could just as easily have caught up with the pig and gobbled him up, but stomaching his hunger, he told himself to wait as he stalked silently behind the receding figure of the first little pig. No doubt that the first little pig would have recounted the entire tale to his brother by the time he reached the second pig’s house.  Once upon a time, there were three little pigs. The three little pigs set off to build their houses. No problem. The wolf would simply follow the first pig to the second pig’s house, then ‘huff and puff’ and blow it down once again. Once that was done, he would just follow the two little twits to the third pig’s house. As simple as that. If there were more pigs as daft as these, the world would be a better place.

— Part 3 —

The third little pig was worried. The sun had already touched the horizon, yet his house was still not done.

“How much longer, Mr. Reynard? It’s getting late.”

The fox barely glanced up from his work as he set about making measurements and stabbing markers into the ground. Cardboard boxes of various sizes littered the ground around the field, with various building materials such as glue guns, rope and saws strewn around.

“A little longer. It wouldn’t take very long.”

Mr. Reynard continued to draw the outlines slowly as he did his job in great detail. The third little pig felt that even a snail might have drawn it faster than him.

Swathes of orange and pink splayed a canvas of the sky as the sun, a blazing vermillion ball, sank lower and lower down the horizon, hiding behind the hills in the distance. It’s taking really long, whined the third pig to himself. But oh well, let’s give him a little freedom. This premium material will be worth it. Beside him, he already saw the silhouette of a majestic structure taking shape. Anyway, the master architect Mr. Todd Reynard had promised to complete it by nightfall.

A satisfied grin illuminating his worn-out face, he settled on the soft turf and closed his eyes.

— Coda —

The wolf took a couple of steps back. He blinked furiously and rubbed his eyes. He took another look at the house and rubbed his eyes again. Maybe it was just the hunger that was getting to him, turning him delirious. Was it possible to go crazy and hallucinate from hunger? A trip to the psychiatrist was probably in order. In front of the wolf stood a castle with brick-red walls that rose to the sky. Billowing flags waved from the turrets as the wind howled. If the wolf thought that he had any chance against a pig who had constructed a castle overnight, he would have reconsidered it right then.

“Remember, Adolph. If you can’t win, you must walk away. Never underestimate your opponents,” the wolf’s Grandpa had once told him. Adolph had trusted Grandpa Ralph very much. He was a kind wolf who had unfortunately been hardened by war, in which all his fur had been burned off after he had been boiled alive by the enemy, barely escaping with his life. The wolf knew what he had to do. This was one battle that he couldn’t win. Maybe he should have grabbed the first and second pig when he had the chance to. He’d probably overthought the entire thing. In any case, he needed a trip to the psychiatrist. Badly.

Not looking back even once, he turned and walked away.

There was a heavy rain that night, and in the morning the three little pigs tunneled out of the mounds of soggy cardboard. The first two, sticky with glue, had cardboard stuck all over them like medieval armour. Just fitting for cardboard knights in a cardboard castle. With the other two pigs in tow, the third little pig headed off to town to give the contractor a piece of his mind.

—————The End—————-

 

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