Nicholas often asks me to tell him a story while we’re walking somewhere. Most of these stories are anecdotes from my childhood, well-known fairy tales, or made-up ramblings that entertain him for the moment but are never requested again. This story, however, is one I invented with his help over a year ago and have told dozens of times since then. I hope other people will enjoy it, too!
Once upon a time, there were three little bears sitting on three little chairs, very quiet and very still. They were sitting like that because their father had told them to, and they always did everything their father told them to do.
The father bear needed his little bears to be quiet and still because he had to work very hard at his desk. He worked and worked until . . . yawn . . . zzz . . . flop! he fell asleep right on top of his papers.
The three little bears looked at each other, and they looked at the door, and they looked at each other again, and then they very quietly tiptoed outside and shut the door. They got their sled, and they sat down on it, one little bear behind another little bear behind another little bear, and they pushed off and slid downhill through the snow: “Whee!” “Whee!” “Whee!”
They were having great fun, when suddenly they saw ahead of them . . . a pig! The pig had wandered out of the forest and was just standing there in the middle of the snowy hillside, looking the other way. He couldn’t see them coming! They had no way to steer! Bang! Crash! The sled hit that pig and knocked him up into the air so he landed right on top of the three little bears, and they all went down the hill together: “Whee!” “Whee!” “Whee!” “Squeeeee!!”
At the bottom of the hill, the sled came to a stop. The bears said, “Gee, we’re so sorry we hit you! We couldn’t steer! Are you okay?” The pig said, “Oh, yeah. Once I got used to it, that was fun! Let’s do it again!” So the three little bears and the one little pig pulled the sled back up to the top of the hill.
When they got there, they saw the father bear standing in the door of the cave [hands on hips; angry eyebrows], and he said, “You! Three! Little! Bears!” The bears said, “Uh oh, we’re in trouble with our dad!” Their father said, “You–you–oh, you just stay out there and play!” and he slammed the door. The three little bears said, “Oh, good, that’s what we wanted to do anyway.”
They got onto the sled: first a little bear, then another little bear, then the pig, then another little bear. They pushed off and slid down the snowy hill: “Whee!” “Whee!” “Squee!” “Whee!”
They were having great fun, when suddenly they saw ahead of them . . . a big, bad wolf! And he was pushing a big, bad rock! He pushed that rock right in front of where the sled was going to go, and then he stepped back and waited [rub hands and cackle].
The bears and the pig leaned this way and that way, trying to make their sled veer around that rock, but it didn’t work. Bang! Crash! The sled hit the rock and broke apart, and the three little bears and the one little pig went flying through the air in all different directions and landed in the snow: “Aaaaahh!! . . . Oof!” “Aaaaahh!! . . . Oof!” “Squeeeee!! . . . Oink!” “Aaaaahh!! . . . Oof!”
When the three little bears sat up and got their bearings, they saw that the big, bad wolf had picked up the pig and was carrying him toward the forest! The bears jumped up and ran after him, yelling, “Hey, what are you doing?! Put him down!”
The wolf said, “Whattaya think I’m doing? This is my lunch!”
The bears said, “No! No! That’s our friend! Don’t eat him!”
The wolf said, “Friend?! This is not a friend! This is ham and bacon! Don’t you like to eat ham and bacon?”
The bears said, “We-ell, umm, yeah . . . but this pig is not for eating! This pig is our friend! Put him down!” And those three little bears showed their teeth and claws: “GRRR!!” “GRRR!!” “GRRR!!”
Well, the wolf did not want to get into a fight with three bears, not even little ones, so he said [roll eyes], “Oh, all right,” and he put down the pig and stomped away into the forest in a huff.
The pig said, “Whew! Thank you for saving my life!” The bears said, “Oh, no problem, but what about our sled? It’s all smashed to smithereens!” The pig said, “Well, maybe I can help you glue it.” Together, they picked up the pieces and carried them up the hill.
When they got there, they saw the father bear standing in the door of the cave [hands on hips; angry eyebrows], and he said, “You! Three! Little! Bears! You get in here and eat some oatmeal!” The little bears said, “Yay, oatmeal, our favorite food!” and the pig said, “Really? Oatmeal is my favorite food, too!” The bears said, “Daddy, can our new friend stay for lunch?” and the father bear said, “Sure!”
They all had a nice lunch of warm oatmeal and lived happily ever after. The end.
How this story developed
Nicholas had been enjoying my tellings of “The Three Bears” and “The Three Little Pigs”. One day he asked for “a different story about the three little bears.” The three bears of the traditional tale are father, mother, and only one little bear; his saying “three little bears” made me think of Goodnight Moon: “There were three little bears sitting in chairs.” So that’s how I started.
Why were the bears sitting? We’d recently read Little House in the Big Woods, in which the father tells a story from his father’s childhood: he and his two brothers were supposed to sit still and study catechism on the Sabbath, but when their father fell asleep they sneaked out to ride their sled, and they crashed into a pig. I put the bears into a similar story.
The bears “always did everything their father told them to do” because, at the time, Nicholas was in a phase of acting very defiant and rejecting toward his father, so I figured I’d work a little moralizing into the story.
Since the sledders in this story were anthropomorphized animals, the pig became one too, instead of just running away squealing like in the Little House story.
I can’t really explain why the father bear has that angry attitude when he tells the little bears to stay out and play, and then to come in for their favorite meal. I just did it that way, and Nicholas liked it, so that’s how it is.
When the bears and pig started downhill the second time, I wasn’t sure what was going to happen. I paused, and Nicholas said, “Bang! Crash! A big, bad wolf!”
The argument between the wolf and the bears resolved my confusion over why the bears had made friends with the pig instead of eating him. The wolf is “bad” and the bears are “good”, which explains their different perceptions of the befriendability of the pig, but the bears must admit that they would eat pork under other circumstances.
It’s important for the wolf to stomp off in a huff because Nicholas appreciates the connection to “The Three Little Pigs”, in which the wolf says, “I’ll huff, and I’ll puff, and I’ll blow your house down.” After about ten tellings of this story, I had it worked out to the point that about 90% of the words are the same every time I tell it. I like to say the sled was in smithereens just because I like that word.
The story ends with oatmeal in reference to “The Three Bears” (which I tell using the word oatmeal instead of porridge because Nicholas is familiar with oatmeal) and because it’s a food the pig also can enjoy. A pleasant side effect of Nick’s original infatuation with this story was that he started to ask for oatmeal more often! That inspired me to make his stuffed tiger rave on and on about the joys of spaghetti squash in hopes that Nicholas would try it . . . and he ate a whole lot of it. Talking-animal fantasies can have practical applications!