Illustration from the 1890 Jacob's version.

Illustration from the 1890 Jacob’s version.

We present the briefest of stories this afternoon, and no, it isn’t about how many of us in Local and Family History are sporting beards at moment. Rather, it’s about the nursery rhyme “The Three Little Pigs.”


You see, the Market House Theatre has had a troupe at the library this week performing their rendition of the classic tale, and it got us to wondering more about the origin of the story. “The Three Little Pigs” was likely a rhyme in the oral tradition for centuries and vaguely resembles a Grimm tale, but we know that it first appeared under its recognized title in an 1843 book by Shakespearean scholar and lore collector James Halliwell-Phillipps called “Nursery Rhymes and Nursery Tales.” However, that particular version doesn’t exactly fit our common recollection for in Halliwell-Phillipps version, the three pigs are eaten (which kind of ruins the moral).


It’s not until 1890 and the publication of Joseph Jacobs’ books“English Fairy Tales” that we encounter the more familiar tale. Jacobs’ version included the straw, stick, and brick houses, the ultimate survival of the three pigs, and the now famous line, “Little pig, little pig, let me come in/Not by the hair of my chiny, chin chin.”


Following Jacobs’ more family-friendly rendition, “The Three Little Pigs” started appearing in all sorts of places: Uncle Remus, Lang’s “Green Fairy Book,” the famous Disney cartoon, and ultimately the Market House’s version in our second floor meeting room!


However, our library’s connection to the nursery rhyme doesn’t stop there.  As luck would have it, we have been able to track down exactly when “The Three Little Pigs” first appeared on our public library shelves. The Carnegie Public Library opened in Paducah on October 4, 1904. Five years later, on October 11, 1909 an article appeared in the Paducah Sun advertising “new literature for girls” that had been added to the shelves at the Carnegie, a list which included Baum’s “Road to Oz,” Potter’s “Jemima Puddleduck,” Lang’s “Red Fairy Book,” and Jacobs’ “English Fairy Tales!”


To learn more about huffing, puffing, or blowing houses down, visit us at the Local and Family History Department at the McCracken County Public Library.


Market House Troupe

Market House Troupe

–Matt Jaeger