Sunday, April 15, 2018

The Three Little Pigs? Or The Three Little "Pigsies" (aka Pixies)?

Henry Justice Ford - The Three Little Pigs: The Fox Carries Whitey Off To His Den - Green Fairy Book Andrew Lang 1892
Sometimes we come across the greatest fairy tale connections in the most unusual places. Looking up the folkloric connection for pixies, to create a more fleshed-out background for a Dungeons and Dragons playable character, we came across a great little video that exposed a curious idea. UK-based YouTuber "Arcane Forge" is an avid player and researcher, who loves comparing and combining folklore and real-world history with Dungeons and Dragons lore and (published canon) history. He casually mentioned an earlier spelling and pronunciation of "pixie" in connection with a well known story...

We're transcribing the relevant section for you below:
Pictured: a pixie. (Artist unknown)
(Also known as pixy, piskie, piksy, pexy, pigsey, or pigsnye.)
Pixie was originally just the Cornish term for a fairy. The exact etymology
is unclear. It's been connected to everything from Picts to Puck.

Anna Eliza Bray's 
A Peep at the Pixies (1854) uses the word for
all sorts of fairy beings of varying size and appearance:
will o' the wisps, fairy godmothers, brownie-style house elves,
and ghostly phantoms.

"The stories of pixies were often adapted after widespread Christianity, and Christian belief took hold of Britain, and these stories were written/adapted to fit Christan beliefs. It was said that pixies were the unbaptized children who had died, and rather than haunting people like ghosts, because they were children they still had childlike temperaments, and played pranks and tricks instead. Clothes were often burned and as a result they would often need to find natural things to cover themselves in the afterlife.  
A collection of Cornish folktales features
the lore of the mysterious and invisible
tiny spirits as based on stories that
have been handed down from generation to
But pixies even made it into some of the world's most enduring stories. in the Cornish dialect "pixie" used to be pronounced "pig-zxeez" (or "pizgzees") and spelled p-i-g-s-i-e-s* (or p-i-s-g-i-e-s). It's believed that the story, The Three Little Pigs actually featured "pigsies" rather than pigs. it was only after a dialect shift, and subsequent retellings of the story that resulted in the version that we now all know."
*You may see an in-between spelling used too: "piskies"

We had forgotten all about the pixie variant (or possibly ancestor) of The Three Little Pigs!

There is an English tale (specifically Dartmoor), very similar to The Three Little Pigs, which is known as The Fox and the Pixies. The notes on the linked page mention that "Katherine M. Briggs includes a version of this story in her A Dictionary of British Folk-Tales in the English Language, part A, vol. 2 (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1970), pp. 528-30." (from D. L. Ashliman's folk textsIt's a pretty delightful read and uses one smart pixie's trickster antics wonderfully in the tale to outwit his nemesis. (Note: pixie is spelled "pixy" in the online text here.)

Then there is the version of The Three Little Pigs in Andrew Lang's Green Fairy Book, (which the illustration at the head of the post is from). The antagonist here is also a fox - a fox with a litter to feed. The pigs in this tale all have names: Browney (likely called such because he was covered in mud, was lazy, and dirty, and had a house made of mud), Whitey (a clever but greedy little she-pig [we would say 'sow' but that term is given to the mother who is in the first half of the story, worrying about her piglets], and she gets a house made out of cabbages) and the third is Blacky (who was black, good, nice and the ceverest of them all, and made a house of brick). Blacky not only outwits the fox but goes and rescues his terrified brother and sister from the fox's den at the end of the story too.

So we go from a Fox and Pixies, to a Fox and Pigs (Piggies?), to a Wolf and Pigs. What we really want now, though, is to read a revised, contemporary tale of the Three Little Pisgies that harks back to the tale's rumored roots...

You can listen to Arcane Forge's whole video on pixies HERE (and watch as he draws one too). His approach is so intriguing, we think we may just have to mine some of his other videos on 'monster lore' too, just in case there are more fairy tale connections hidden there too.
Henry Justice Ford - The Three Little Pigs - Green Fairy Book Andrew Lang 1892

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