“There is the story about the three little pigs. They are brothers and there is a lazy lazy one, a lazy one, and a hard-working one. They build three houses. Each one builds one house, all out of different materials. One of them built it really quick and was like ‘yeah whatever’, the other one worked a bit harder, but not super hard, and the last one worked really really hard on it and made it out of bricks. When the big bad wolf came the house of the super lazy pig that made it out of straws and sticks blew off, and the other sorta lazy pig’s house also blew off, the only house that protected them was the house made out of bricks.”
Context and Analysis:
I asked my informant a 21-year-old female if she recalled any folk stories. The informant narrated to me the story of the “Three Little Pigs.” She claims this was a bedtime story told to her when she was a child. She believes the story speaks to the rewards of doing hard work and applying dedication. The informant identifies a lot with the story for her dad was a very charismatic storyteller, so as a child she was very invested in the lives of the little piggies and this story really stuck with her. She remembers her feeling of terror vividly knowing the wolf was approaching the houses of the first two piggies and they were going to blow away. The informant explains how having this story be such a large part of her childhood has taught her hard work and dedication. She will forever remember the hard work the third pig put into his house and the rewards that came from it.
I too remember hearing a version of this story as a child and agree with my informant on the interpretation. There are many versions of the story, but the meaning ultimately remains the same. The story emphasizes the rewards of hard work. The first two pigs did not do a good job of building their houses, and because of this when the wolf came to test their houses they fell apart. The last pig worked really hard and put a lot of effort into building his house making it the only house left standing between the three pigs. I believe this story is a great tale to teach children about the value of hard work.
By having the middle pig who did not do a bad job, but didn’t do a good job I think the story also addresses mediocrity. If the middle pig had put in a bit more work into building his house, it would have probably been successful in protecting him from the wolf. This highlights the importance of following through and putting in the full effort as opposed to just “good enough.”
The use of animals makes the story more entertaining for children because it adds a sense of fantasy and simplicity by using non-human characters. Non-human characters are more relatable and flexible as a tool for storytelling because the author can make them do whatever he pleases. Having pigs be the main characters also makes the kids more invested in the story since talking pigs with houses are unusual and new to them. I think the use of three is also important to note as it is a prominent number in storytelling. Having a trio creates a pattern making the story more memorable and emphasizes an idea.
The subject, my mother, and I were getting coffee for breakfast and I asked her if she could tell me some stories about her childhood. The subject’s father (who has recently passed away) was a history professor in the Midwest. The family moved frequently because of this, which made it difficult for them to settle in a single area for too long. The subject’s mother was a stay-at-home mother; she also has four other siblings. The subject’s parents were both the children of Norwegian immigrants and emphasized the value of hard work and wise spending habits. I think that this proverb especially reflects the down-to-earth and hard-working nature of the subject’s parents. I’ve heard similar renditions of this proverb (i.e. “If it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing right”) from other sources throughout my life.
“My mom would always say “if it’s worth doing it’s worth doing well” so, like that means don’t do a sloppy job or half-heartedly do something.
My informant is a friend and sophomore student at USC from Norway. She lived for the majority of her life in Norway before moving and living in Thailand, Dubai, and Namibia until she attended college. Having lived for over a decade in Norway, Norwegian is her primary language.
“And uh, there’s one more that I like—Han får gå lenge barfot som venter på å arve en annen mann’s sko— that translates to ‘you’re going to have to walk barefoot for a long time if you’re waiting for someone to pass you down their old shoes.’ This basically means that eh…you won’t get any—anything for free in life and that you have to work for what you want.”
This particular proverb seems like one that would ring true with many American ideals. It essentially states that you have to work for anything that you really want in life, otherwise you’re just going to end up waiting for something that may never come. This particular saying was one that my informant hears frequently throughout her life and instilled the belief that you cant just be passive and wait on life to drop opportunity on your doorstep, you actually have to put in conscious effort and work for the things that you truly want most.
The informant’s family originated in Samoa, his parents were born and raised there before traveling and moving into the United States. He takes many visits to Samoa and is very in touch with his Samoan heritage and culture. He shared some common folklore with me that he could think of off of the top of his head.
“Ole manu e muamua ala nate maua le anufe”
“Something my parents expressed to me when I was a kid goes:
Ole manu e muamua ala nate maua le anufe meaning: The early bird gets the worm.
I can apply this to most every aspect of my life, so it has really helped me mature as I’ve grown. To me, well you can have your own interpretation of it but to me, it means literally the one who rises early will have the most success. I translate this into meaning that if you work hard, and out work everyone and anyone you will be rewarded and be just fine in life. I use this with my school work, with football, with almost about anything. I believe that everything takes hard work and nothing good is going to be easy to get hence, Ole manu e muamua ala nate maua le anufe. ”
The statement “The early bird gets the worm” is nothing new for our culture. This statement I have heard by my parents, mentors, teachers, coaches, you name it almost anyone (old enough to know its meaning) has heard this proverb before. It essentially means to most people the person who arrives to any location, event, opportunity first has the best chance for success in that area. The informant meant in his translation that he makes she he works the hardest so he can essentially “arrive first” and have the best chance for success.
It is interesting that a very common proverb in America would be used in another culture as well. As phrases.org.uk says, “The early bird gets the worm” originates from the Latin phrase Carpe diem which means “seize the day”. Both of these proverbs are advice on how to attack our days and make the most of our lives by working hard.