Pigs often get a bad rap. They’re known for being dirty, shrewd, and violent, even though they actually make excellent companions. But for every Animal Farm villain, for every terrifying pigoon in Oryx and Crake, there is a work of literature that, rightfully, shows pigs as the intelligent and good-natured animals they are.
That my favorites are all from children’s literature should not dissuade kind readers, for what is more truthful than a child’s story? In honour of National Pig Day [March 1], let’s take a closer look:
Piglet, Winnie-the-Pooh: P-p-poor frightened P-p-piglet! So scared! So timid! So afraid of his own shadow! Loyal, lovable Piglet is Pooh bear’s best friend, often accompanying him on his adventures despite his fears. It takes great courage to hunt Heffalumps and Woozles and embark on an Expotition to the North Pole, but such is Piglet’s determination that he acquits himself admirably.
Not a creature in all of the Hundred Acre Woods dislikes him, no doubt because of his kind nature and inimitable, green-jumpered style.
Wilbur, Charlotte’s Web: When little runt Wilbur is born, no one expects anything from him. But after being cared for by Fern Arable, Wilbur thrives, living a happy life until he slated for the slaughterhouse. Just in time, Charlotte the spider literally saves his bacon, and Wilbur is propelled into a state of celebrity.
Kind and caring, Wilbur doesn’t let it go to his head, staying friends with Charlotte until her tear-jerking demise.
Babe, The Sheep-Pig: Known best for the movie adaptation, Babe the shepherding pig takes centre stage in Dick King-Smith’s 1983 novel. Another animal who manages to escape a terrible Christmas roast fate, Babe makes himself useful saving Farmer Hoggett’s flock of sheep from thieves.
Babe’s secret for herding success is to ask the sheep politely, instead of ordering them about, and this method takes him all the way to a triumphant victory in the county sheep dog trials. “That’ll do, Pig,” indeed.
Olivia, Olivia: Little Olivia, from the series of books written and illustrated by Ian Falconer, is fun, curious, and honest. All of these traits are admirable, of course, but what really sets Olivia apart is her flawless sense of style.
Not many, porcine or otherwise, could work a wardrobe full of fire truck-red ensembles, but this pint-sized piglet pulls it all off with panache.
The Three Little Pigs: One of the most easily recognizable nursery rhymes, The Three Little Pigs teach that preparedness, hard work, and foresight will always win the day. It’s an important lesson to learn if you want to keep from becoming one half of a ham and potatoes dish, after all.
Originally included in James Orchard Halliwell-Philipps’s 1886 The Nursery Rhymes of England, the story has become a favorite, and really, it can’t hurt to instill both a fear of wolves and a healthy respect for solid building materials in children. Those pillow forts need structural integrity.