Nursery Rhyme – United States

“This little piggy went to the market.

This little piggy stayed home.

This little piggy had roast beef.

This little piggy had none.

And this little piggy cried wee wee wee all the way home.”

Patti first heard this story from her friends when she first started babysitting the neighbors’ children when she was in seventh grade. This was eighteen years ago. Since many of her friends had younger siblings, they learned the nursery rhyme from their parents. She learned it in order to play with the babies that she watched. Then when I was born, she used it on me. I still remember my sisters playing with my toes and saying this rhyme. The teller would say each line while touching one toe. It is a rhyme that counts the number of toes on one of a baby’s foot. She repeated this rhyme recently when I was visiting her one weekend. She has a new baby boy who is ten months old and she loves playing with his feet. Patti thinks that a mother made this up in a western culture, telling by the kind of food they ate. She believes that this rhyme keeps kids entertained and so if parents need to cut their babies’ toenails, this would easily distract them. It is a very simple rhyme that can be easily repeated and shared with many generations of mothers.

This rhyme is probably very old and dates back to when people went to food markets where there were many vendors that sold different food items. It was made up by a woman because they were the main caretakers of children. They were the ones that went to the market to buy food and were also the ones that made roast beef. I agree with Patti in that the rhyme was made up to keep children entertained. By touching babies’ toes, it tickles them and makes them laugh. Mothers always want to see their children laugh and this technique helps them achieve that. I think that a babies’ laughter is the cutest thing in the world. Especially since their feet are so tiny and soft, adults cannot resist touching and playing with them. This story is mostly told in the same manner now because it was canonized a few hundred years ago in a compilation of nursery rhymes for mothers. Mothers are always trying to help each other out because they have a mutual understanding of the frustration that comes from taking care of kids. Nursery rhyme books were most likely published in order to help mothers soothe their children’s tempers. There could have been many versions of “this little piggy” because one could essentially add any place or food item at the end of each line. Patti says that the last little piggy cried, but I have also heard others say that the last little piggy went wee wee wee. The slight word change is natural in retellings of folklore.