James Orchard Halliwell-Phillips included the tale of the Three Little Pigs and the Big Bad Wolf in his 1843 book called Nursery Rhymes and Nursery Tales. It was the first known written version of the story, although it probably existed in some form in the oral tradition of the folk tale. The written form of the story may have borrowed elements from other fairy tales of the time, such as The Wolf and the Seven Little Children, to create a new fairy tale. The exact origin of the tale is unclear, but this 1843 version is the beginning of the Three Little Pigs story as we know it today.

Joseph Jacobs put together a collection of fairy tales in a book called English Fairy Tales, published in 1890. He cites Halliwell-Phillips as the source for The Story of the Three Little Pigs that he includes in his book. In fact, it appears to be a word-for-word reprint of the 1843 edition of the story. However, it is usually Joseph Jacobs who is credited as the person who created the version on which most modern versions of the story are based.

In the Jacobs and Halliwell-Phillips version of the fairy tale, the mother pig sends her children into the world in search of fortune. The first pig builds and straw house. The wolf comes, blows the house and eats the pig. The second pig builds a house out of twigs. The wolf comes, blows the house and eats the pig. The third pig builds his house with bricks. The wolf arrives, cannot blow up the house and tries to trick the pig into letting him in. The third pig taunts the wolf, so the wolf tries to go down the chimney. The wolf falls into a pot of boiling water and the pig ends up killing and eating the wolf. Pigs are given very little personality, especially the first two. We know their choices were bad, but pigs were not characterized as dumb or lazy in history.

Joel Chandler Harris included a variation of The Three Little Pigs in the book Nights with Uncle Remus. He named the fairy tale The Story of the Pigs and included 5 pigs instead of three. This version has the mother pig on the brink of death when she warns her 5 children to be careful around Brer Wolf. The pigs were named Big Pig, Little Pig, Speckle Pig, Blunt, and Runt. Big Pig built a bush house. Pig built a house out of sticks. Speckle Pig built a mud house. Blunt built a house out of boards. Finally, Runt built a stone house. However, the wolf does not snort and blow and ruin houses. The wolf tricks the pigs into letting him in and then eats them, except for Runt. Runt taunts the wolf and ends up killing him in the fire when he comes down the chimney. Joel Chandler Harris really added more personality to the pigs by naming them and each one also had an attitude about his mother’s warning about the wolf.

Another version of The Three Little Pigs was included in Andrew Lang’s collection of fairy tales called The Green Fairy Book, published in 1892. Like Harris, he also named the pigs: Browny, Whitey, and Blacky. Also like Harris, he gave the pigs more personality than Jacobs’ version. Browny was said to be a dirty pig who only liked to roll in the mud and did not obey his mother. Whitey was smart, but also greedy and selfish and just wanted to eat. His mother warned him that one day he would suffer for his greed. Blacky was a very smart, clean and personable pig. His mother was very proud of him, but only of him. In this version of the story, the mother pig asked her children what kind of houses they wanted and she would have them built. Browny wanted a mud house, Whitey wanted a house made of cabbage, and Blacky wanted a house made of bricks. Another difference is that Lang’s version features a fox as the villain, not a wolf. Also, instead of huffing and puffing and puffing the first two houses and eating the pigs, the fox can easily enter the houses to capture the pigs. Then he takes them to his lair. Blacky taunts the fox in a similar way to Jacobs’ version, he kills the fox and then goes to the fox’s lair to save his brother and sister. Browny and Whitey then move in with Blacky and abandon their bad habits and the three of them live happily ever after. This is quite different from Jacobs’ version.

Disney produced an animated short film of The Three Little Pigs, released in 1933. It has some elements of the story from Jacob and Lang’s versions of the fairy tale. Disney names the pigs Fifer Pig, Fiddler Pig, and Practical Pig. They are also given more personality like in the Lang version. Fifer builds his house out of straw and Fiddler builds his house out of sticks. They do it really fast and then have fun all day while teasing their brother, Practical Pig, for working so hard to build their brick house. They just want to play instead of work hard. Practical warns his brothers about the big bad wolf, but they ignore his warning. Like Jacob’s version, the wolf snorts and blows and knocks over straw and stick houses. But, instead of being eaten by the wolf, they run away from their own houses and end up in the brick house. The wolf tries to tear down the brick house, but when he cannot, he tries to enter through the chimney. There is no attempt to trick the pigs into letting him into the brick house, as in the Jacobs or Lang version. Finally, once the fox is burned from the pot of boiling water, we flee in pain instead of being eaten by the pigs. Like Lang, Disney decided to soften the story by not killing the first two pigs. Unlike previous versions, Disney also allows the wolf to survive.

These are just some of the variations on the fairy tale The Three Little Pigs. To read the full version of Joseph Jacobs’ version, follow the link in the resource box.

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