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Keep Your Powder Dry

This entry is part 6 of 9 in the series The Fairy Tale Project

Though the story of the three little pigs is thought to be much older, printed versions date back to the middle of the nineteenth century. Since there are so many variations of this story, it is impossible to point to one central idea that encompasses all of them. We can, however, compare a few of these variations and find come commonalities. This story has been a mainstay in western culture for many years and the pigs are so recognizable in popular culture that they can appear anywhere without much need of an explanation. In recent years they have made appearances in several of the Shrek movies and have even been featured in a Geico commercial.


Still, most of us know very little about all of the variations of the story. So, this is something that we can explore.

“They believed they were hearing the truth and opened the door”. This quote from the Brothers Grimm tale entitled, “The Wolf and the Seven Little Goats” speaks to the naiveté of the young (and sometimes not so young). While this tale could serve as a warning for us all to be on guard and aware of the danger that is present all around us, the story itself leaves us with few useful guidelines to avoid this danger. The goats’ mother does tell them not to open the door to the wolf but only gives them two ways to identify this wolf – by his voice and by his black feet. The mother didn’t count on the wolf being so savvy and resilient and therefore was unable to fully explain the danger to her young kids. While they certainly did learn a lesson from their experience, it was not one of obedience since they had followed their mother’s rules. Instead, they learned that evil is all around you and often hard to identify [ref]Grimm, Jacob, et al. The Annotated Brothers Grimm. New York, W.W. Norton, 2012.[/ref].

The Disney version of “The Three Little Pigs” stands in contrast to the Brothers Grimm’s tale only in the sense that two of the little pigs were willfully irresponsible and ignored the warnings of the third. They spent as little time as possible building their homes and scoffed at any danger that would exist in regard to the wolf. In the end, they did learn a valuable (and quantifiable) lesson – to listen to wise council and to beware of the danger/evil in the world. This lesson, however, did not leave them questioning their ability to identify danger since they were warned and simply chose to ignore that warning. More than the Brothers Grimm version, this tale speaks to the importance of diligence and hard work. The third pig had no time for fun and games as he was preparing himself to meet the wolf. He knew that evil was coming and was confident in his ability to keep it at bay [ref]Three Little Pigs. Walt Disney Educational Media Co., 1933.[/ref].

Roald Dahl adds to the theme of distrust and danger in his version of “The Three Little Pigs”. It is easy to see the folly of the first two pigs in this story. They simply didn’t build strong enough structures. Unlike the Disney version where we see that laziness is the motivation for the shoddy workmanship, we don’t really know why the pigs in this story didn’t do a better job on their homes. We do know, however, that the third pig seemed fully prepared and ready for the danger that faced him since he had taken the time to build a brick home. Just like in the Brothers Grimm’s tale, we soon learn that this preparation is not good enough. The wolf is coming. To add insult to injury, when the pig calls for help from his friend Little Red Riding Hood, she not only kills the wolf, but also the pig himself [ref]Tatar, Maria ed. The Classic Fairy Tales. New York., W.W. Norton., 1999.[/ref]. This adds a new level of danger and distrust in the mind of the reader. This teaches us that while there are wolves that look like wolves, there are also wolves that look very innocent.

Though these versions of the story were written years apart, they seem to have the same message – evil can be found everywhere and you need to prepared. In keeping with the goal of the Brothers Grimm (that fairy tales teach a lesson), I am reminded of a verse found in I Peter 5:8, “Be sober, be vigilant, because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour”[ref]Scofield, C. I. The Scofield Study Bible: King James Version. New York, Oxford University
Press, 2009.[/ref]. This devil does not walk around speaking in a gruff voice and showing his black feet. This devil can appear quite beautiful and innocent – as demonstrated by Little Red Riding Hood shooting her so-called friend. While we all try to avoid danger and do the right things, we often don’t know where the danger will lie. This is where, for many people, faith comes into play. When faced with the evils of the world, many seek solace in prayer. This can add a certain amount of comfort and introspection to life. Whether you believe that the answers you are seeking come from outside of yourself or in your own mind through peaceful contemplation – the result can still be the same. Often if we work hard, seek wise counsel, and remain calm, we can avoid much of the evil in the world. Since this doesn’t always work and we are faced with friends like Red, I would like to offer up the advice of Oliver Cromwell and say, “put your trust in God; but mind to keep your powder dry”[ref]Stewart, Fitz. “The Dublin University Magazine – Books on Google Play.” Google. Google, n.d. Web.
15 Apr. 2017.[/ref].

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