If this were a prose tale, very likely it would begin: ONCE UPON A TIME, in that special story land where the distinction between people and animals often becomes blurred, there lived a very bad piggy . . . However, this tale of ours is told not in prose, but in verse, wherein lies a much greater charm and conciseness. Yet, this medium often presents the underlying facts more implicitly than explicitly. In the folktale tradition, which in writing dates back at least to Aesop in ancient Greece, and, as an oral tradition, may go back to the dawn of the human race, the personification of animals is an almost universally recognized and accepted feature. Pigs have a special eminence in this tradition, no less so in more modern times. Several examples come to mind. Perhaps the most famous is “The Three Little Pigs” in which tale two of the trio lose their homes (and their lives as well in earlier versions of the story) through frivolity and complacency, while the third triumphs through cleverness and hard work.
In some versions of “The Little Red Hen” a pig is one of the animal bystanders, too lazy to give the Hen a helping hoof, but not in the least ashamed or reluctant to eat of her bread-if she would let him-when it is ready. Finally, there is the story of “Piggy Look-A-Do” an obnoxious, not-so-little tattletale who alienates himself from their sympathy (and the reader’s) by literally squealing on the other farm animals. At the end, when Piggy Look-A-Do gets eaten, no one mourns or even cares, except to regard his fate as just desserts and good riddance. Our Piggy Packfat, like other fairy-tale pigs (except the remarkable one who took up brick masonry) becomes the embodiment of gluttony, laziness, and selfishness. She shows no sense of responsibility to her community, her family, or even to herself. Like all true spendthrifts, she will readily squander not just what is hers, but even what by all rights belongs to other.