Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Day 16 - Three Little Pigs

Three little pigs
Three little pigs image by Loren Javier via Flickr
Now I suspect everyone reading this has already heard the story of the Three Little Pigs many times over. But I'd like to tell it with a twist. Instead of focusing on the wisdom of each pig's choice of building materials and on their work ethic, I'd like to focus on the resources each of the pigs had and the environment within which they had to work.

The traditional version tells of the first little pig choosing to build with straw, the second with wood, and the third with brick. Each of the little pigs faced the same danger, the wolf, who wanted to eat the pigs and who threatened each with huffing and puffing to blow their houses down. The traditional version implies that the first two little pigs were happy-go-lucky, not willing to work hard or prepare for their future. Only the third little pig works hard. And it's clear that the third little pig is supposed to be the hero of the story.

But even in the original story, there were differences among the pigs. They each built their houses on different plots of land. So let's consider the land available to each as one of their resources. The first little pig's plot may not have been as suitable for building a brick house. Instead of being the most foolish of the pigs, he may have been just as wise as the other two, given the resources available. If the first little pig's land was marshy, a brick house might have just sunk away into the marsh, taking with it all of the little pig's financial resources.

First little pig
First little pig image by Loren Javier
via Flickr
Or maybe the first little pig decided to spend more money on a desirable piece of property so that he was left without as much money to build his house. That first little pig might have decided to build the biggest and best house possible with the money he had, avoiding the banks and high mortgage interest rates.

The first little pig may have learned about the dangers of taking on too much credit through an experience with bankruptcy. This would explain his reluctance to go into debt just to put a roof over his head. That first little pig applied all his real property, personal property, and financial resources, together with all that he had learned in his life to build a modest home, a starter home, with the hope of eventually being able to move into a larger, most substantial home in the future.

Or maybe the first little pig had made a commitment to work in a field where salaries are not high. I don't mean manual labor or work that doesn't require higher education; social workers, teachers, and the clergy are all professions where the practitioners have chosen service over wealth. And all our lives are enhanced by the work they do.

Second little pig
Second little pig image by Loren Javier
via Flickr
The second little pig is given a little more credit for wisdom or a good work ethic in the traditional version of the story, but he, too, is limited by resources and circumstances. Perhaps he spent less money for his land so that he had more money available for construction. Perhaps he chose to spend time and money when he was younger getting an education. And that likely led to his having some student loans. That second little pig may have chosen to build a wooden house in order to have enough money available to repay those loans. In the past, other little pigs took the irresponsible route of defaulting on their student loans and then declaring bankruptcy, leaving the taxpayers with the bills for their education. Even if that path had appealed to the second little pig in the past, laws have been passed to prevent him or any other pigs from escaping those debts so easily. So the second little pig used his real property, personal property, and financial resources, together with all that he had learned in life to build his home, also a starter home, with the hope of eventually being able to move into a larger, more substantial home in the future.

Third little pig image by Loren Javier
via Flickr
The third little pig generally comes out of the traditional version of this story as the wise one, the hard working one, the generous one. But what if the third pig was dealt a more generous set of resources than the other two so that the playing field was not at all level to begin with? What if the third pig inherited his land from a wealthy relative? What if the third pig followed the principle of using other people's money instead of his own whenever possible? What if the third little pig took out a mortgage at the upper limit of what his credit score would allow, just to have some spare cash to invest in speculative commodities? To an outsider, the third little pig may appear to be wealthier as well as wiser, more hard working and generous than the first and second little pigs. Certainly, the third little pig was generous enough to allow the first and the second to move in with him when the wolf had blown their houses down. But the traditional version doesn't address whether he then charged the first two rent.

And then there is the wolf. It would be interesting to consider the story from his point of view as well. Did he just happen upon the straw house first? Or was he directed to that house by an anonymous tipster? Was he the villain in this story or just an unwitting pawn in the plot to wipe out the resources of the first and second little pigs? Whose cooking pot did he end up in at the end of the story?

Can we really know enough about a pig's character just by looking at them or at their possessions?

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