When I was a child, I envied of the magical cast of adults and big sisters who made stories emerge from paper, and I couldn’t wait until I could do it myself. The very first book I “read” (i.e. memorized and pretended to read, even turning the pages at the right intervals and scaring the babysitter) was “The old woman and her pig.”
Even if you don’t think you remember it, I bet you will when I explain. The woman finds a crooked sixpence while sweeping her house and decides to go to the market and buy a pig, but on her way home the new pig won’t go over the stile, (which is a little english wooden platform that allows people on the public footpath to get thru the gate, but keeps livestock from getting out.) It looks like this.
After trying to push and coax him onto it, she goes to a nearby dog in frustration, asking “Dog, dog! Bite the pig! Pig will not jump over the stile and I shall not get home tonight!” But the dog won’t cooperate. Is this ringing a bell yet? You should be hearing it in your head soon. She goes to a stick and says “Stick, stick! Beat the dog. Dog will not bite my pig, pig will not jump over the stile and I shall not get home to night!”
Of course the stick won’t cooperate either, but she keeps asking for help – first for fire to burn the uncooperative stick, then water to put out the vexing fire, then an ox to drink the uncooperating water, then a butcher to kill the stubborn ox, then a rope to hang the difficult butcher, and finally mouse to chew that lazy rope.
The mouse is the only one who’s ready to consider her offer. He asks pragmatically “What’ll you give me if I do?”
Surprised, she reaches in her apron pockets and finds a tiny crust of bread which she lays in front of the mouse. He nibbles appreciatively, then agrees. And after all that asking the mouse begins to gnaw the rope. and the rope begins to hang the butcher, and the butcher begins to kill the ox, and the ox begins to drink the water, and the water begins to put out the fire, and the fire begins to burn the stick, and the stick begins to beat the dog, and the dog begins to bite the pig, and the pig decides to finally go over the stile…
And that little old woman really does make it home that night!
Which, I’m sure you realize, reminds me vividly of what it’s like to organize every single beaver festival we’ve ever had.
And when I look at these together, I can see we’ve had a lot!