Retelling classic fairy tales in children’s books has been a trend for quite some time. Few recent retellings have been as successful and entertaining as The Three Ninja Pigs by Corey Rosen Schwartz. This funny, action-packed story replaces the little pigs with ninja pigs who study three different martial art disciplines for self defense.
In line with the original fairy tale, a big-bully wolf terrorizes three little pigs. Two of the pigs are left helpless due to laziness and one pig is left victorious due to hard work, cleverness, and determination. In The Three Ninja Pigs,the first pig studies Aikido, but he gets tired of drills and gives up, while the second pig practices jiu-jitsu and makes mistakes due to overconfidence. Unlike her brothers, the third pig practices and masters karate before the Big Bad Wolf attacks her house.
The wolf easily scares and chases the two pig brothers into the sister pig’s house, where she gives the aggressor an intimidating demonstration of her skills. Then, she threatens to do the same to him if he attacks. Rather than risk his own skin, the wolf retreats and the pigs live happily after. In this case, “happily ever after” means finishing their training and opening a dojo to teach their self-defense skills to others.
Dealing with Bullies with Self-Defense
Perhaps one of the top reasons why the original Three Little Pigs is so pervasive throughout each generation is that it deals directly with bullies. Bullying is a real issue for kids and adults alikeand stories like this one give people a healthy way to deal with the problem.
Self-defense is the common solution in both the original fairy tale and Schwartz’s retelling. However, the interpretation of such defense differs from story to story. In the original tale, the pigs build houses to defend themselves. While construction makes a cameo in The Three Ninja Pigs, the real self-defense is of course the martial arts training they go through.
However, the pigs never use their martial arts skills to beat up the Big Bad Wolf. Instead, the action is conveyed through demonstrations and training, dynamic illustrations, and suspense. In fact, you could argue that this new retelling is actually less violent than the original fairy tale, which usually ends with the pigs eating the wolf after tricking him to come down the chimney. One assumes that the day is saved because the wolf is gone forever.
Unfortunately, there’s hardly ever just one bully to confront in real life. When one bully leaves, another takes its place and you have to be able to deal with these problems long-term. This lesson is conveyed in The Three Ninja Pigs when the main characters first save themselves by learning self defense, then teach others the same skills.
Cultural Awareness: Japanese Illustrations & Vocabulary
In addition to reforming the story’s plot points, Schwartz sets the story in Japan rather than the more familiar western world. The book is riddled with Japanese terms, martial art disciplines, and beautiful illustrations that capture this Asian culture. By opening children to a different culture, The Three Ninja Pigs develops their cultural awareness and language skills.
The story’s action, familiar story line, and limerick verse makes The Three Ninja Pigs perfect for preschool and kindergarten children. The book also includes both male and female characters, giving boys and girls better access to the story than the traditional fairy tale.