issue 189 - November 1988
Illustration: Clive Offley
Pigs can fly
Three little piggies learn the facts of life.
Debbie Taylor tells a tale with a twist.
ONCE UPON A TIME there were three little piggies. They decided to visit their best friends, the three billy-goats Gruff who lived over the rickety bridge. But the journey took longer than they planned, because they had to watch out for the evil troll who lived nearby.
There seemed so many dangers in the world: wizards, witches, giants toppling down beanstalks... Every day Chicken Likken was out with her placard warning 'the sky is falling in, the end is nigh'. It made you afraid to step out of your house. And, of course, there were the wolves.
Wolves. The word was enough to send a shiver of pink terror down their spines. The three Billy-goats Gruff felt the same. Everyone did. Why only the other day Little Red Riding Hood barely escaped with her life after finding a transvestite wolf hiding in her grandmother's bed. That was the terrible thing about wolves: you could never tell where they were because they were always in disguise.
Thank goodness for sheep, thought the three little piggies as they trotted along in the sunshine. The money they had to pay the sheep for the Cuddly Woolly Protection Racket (CWPR) did seem a lot. But it was worth it to keep the wolves from the door. Since they had started paying 'interest', they no longer woke up in the middle of the night squealing with fright from nightmares. They felt so grateful to the CWPR for protecting them - even though they couldn't afford pig-swill and potato peelings any more.
Anyway, that day was obviously a lucky day. The troll was out to lunch, the sky did not fall in and the three pals arrived without mishap at the Gruffs' house. Standing on tiptrotters, they rang the bell. Ding-dong!
No answer. They tried again.
Three pairs of little piggy eyes darted nervously round the garden.
It was coming from the house - through a small hole in the wall. The three piggies went over to investigate. But all they could see was a big brown eye staring anxiously back at them. It belonged to Middle, the second-eldest of the Billy-goats Gruff.
'Has he gone?' he asked.
'Has who gone?' The piggies were mystified. 'The sheep.' The big brown eye rolled in its socket, obviously terrified.
The piggies looked round the garden. There was no sign of any sheep, but they did notice some strange-looking footprints in the earth by the house.
'Why are you hiding? There's no-one here except us,' they said. 'Although there are footprints in the flower bed.'
The brown eye rolled again, so violently that it nearly popped out of its socket: 'Do they look like sheep's footprints?' The piggies looked closer and their blood ran cold. There in the fresh brown soil were the unmistakable footprints of a wolf. They rushed to the door, panic-stricken. 'Let us in,' they cried.
Shaking from snout to tail, they heard a clattering and scraping as the Gruffs unbolted and unbarred the door. In the twinkling of an eye they were safe inside with their friends. Middle leaned against the door panting while little and Great Big rebolted the door and lifted the bars back into place.
The three little piggies looked around the room, There was quite a crowd: Brer Rabbit, his cousin Peter and all their friends and relatives, Toad of Toad Hall, Muffin the mule, Kanga, Roo and many others. In the corner sat Turkey Lurkie, sniffing and shivering.
'What's going on?' the piggies asked. 'Why are you all here together? Why is Turkey shivering? Is he cold?'
'Goosie Lucy's dead,' clucked Chicken Likken, ruffling her feathers miserably.
Turkey Lurkie blew his beak loudly and sniffed a few more times. 'It was the biggest sheep from the CWPR,' he explained, 'He called round as usual to collect the interest. But we couldn't pay. The market for golden eggs has dried up completely. Lucy explained this to the sheep. But he insisted she pay him anyway. So she told him she had to keep enough to feed the little giblets. She was so brave ...'
Turkey Lurkie couldn't go on. Great Big took up the tale.
'The sheep was a wolf in disguise. When Goosie Lucy refused to pay, the wolf threw off his sheep's costume and bit off her head. Then he wolfed her down,just like he did with Little Red Riding Hood's grandmother. Poor old Turkey Lurkie saw it all and rushed round here to warn the rest of us.'
The three little piggies looked aghast. 'But that means that all the sheep could be wolves in disguise. They've just been taking our money to protect us from themselves!' Then they had another thought. 'If the sheep can't be trusted to keep the wolves from our doors, none of us is safe any more!'
There was a sudden silence. Everyone shuddered, dreading the fate that seemed in store for them. And then - as if on cue - there came a knock on the door.
The friends clung to one another, absolutely petrified. No-one said a word.
Middle put his big brown eye to the hole in the wall and looked out. 'It's the sheep... I mean the wolves!' he gasped. 'They're all there. They must have realized that we know about Goosie Lucy. They've come to collect their interest payments. Quick, quick! Has anyone got any money?'
The three little piggies snorted in disgust. 'Don't be silly! The money was to pay the sheep to keep the wolves from our doors. But now we know they're just wolves in sheep's. clothing, no amount of money is going to keep them away.'
'So what shall we do-o-o?' wailed Middle.
'Come on, my sweet morsels, open up for the nice sheep.' A wheedling voice came through the keyhole. 'We're so sorry about what happened to poor old Goosie Lucy but she gave us no choice. I'm sure you understand. We had an agreement, and she broke it.' The voice grew stern: 'Unilaterally.'
'What does unilater-whatsit mean?' whispered Little.
'Sshhh,' hissed the others.
'Now, be reasonable,' the voice went on, growing irritated. 'You will have to give in sometime. So why don't you avoid a lot of unpleasantness and unlock the door?' The animals shuddered at the word unpleasantness.
'We're not going to pay you any more interest,' cried the three little piggies in unison. The other animals gasped and put their paws, trotters, wings - anything - over the piggies' mouths. But the piggies pushed them away.
'You've been slowly starving us to death,' they said. 'Well we've had enough why don't you just kill us outright - right now. At least it will be over quickly.'
There was a long silence. The wolves milled around restlessly outside, while inside the little house there was much hushed argument as the piggies tried to convince the others to stand firm.
'Don't you see?' they whispered impatiently. 'The wolves need us more than we need them. They killed Goosie Lucy so now there will be no interest payments from her - and no more golden eggs. They wouldn't dare to kill us too. What on earth would they live on?'
Bang, bang, bang!
'Open up!' roared the wolves. 'If you don't open this door right now we'll huff and we'LL puff and we'LL blow your house down!'
The animals huddled in a corner, shaking with fear. Muffin galloped to the door and started undoing the bolts with her teeth. The three little piggies rounded on her angrily.
'Don't be scared. It's nothing but hot air. If we all stick together and no-one gives them anything, in a few days they'LL be back here begging us for food.'
Bang, bang, bang, bang!
'We're going to huff and puff!'
'Go on then,' said the three little piggies. 'We're not scared of you any more.'
'Huff and puff and blow your house down!'
'What are you waiting for?' taunted the piggies.
'Ready or not, we're coming.. .' A note of uncertainty had crept into the wolves' voices. 'We'LL give you 10 seconds to open this door. ONE. TWO. THREE. FOUR. FIVE...'
But the animals inside the house couldn't hear them. They were holding paws and singing. Great Big had found some dandelion wine and they were passing the bottle round.
'Three cheers for the three little piggies!
They saved our bacon!' cried Middle. The piggies blushed even pinker than usual as they were hoisted onto the shoulders of their friends and carried round the room. 'Who said that pigs can't fly?' they said with a grin.
Quietly the wolves sloped off into the woods, drooling hungrily.
Debbie Taylor was an NI co-editor and is now a freelance writer.