The Sheep-Pig

The Sheep-Pig

"The Sheep-Pig" is a novel by Dick King-Smith. It was first published in 1983, retitled "Babe The Gallant Pig" in the U.S., and adapted for the screen as the 1995 film "Babe". The book is set in rural England, where Dick King-Smith spent twenty years as a farmer. The book won the Guardian Children's Fiction Award in 1984. It took film producer and co-writer George Miller ten years to take the book from paperback to big screen.


The plot revolves around a young pig, won at a fair by a local farmer, Mr Hoggett. Mr Hoggett keeps a sheep farm, and has no use for pigs, so his wife intends to fatten up the little porker for Christmas dinner.

In unfamiliar surroundings the little piglet is scared and Fly, one of the farm's two sheep dogs, takes pity on him and comforts him. She asks what his name is, and he replies that his mother called all her children Babe. Fly and her puppies teach Babe the rules of the farm, including that only dogs and cats are allowed in the house. From the beginning, the pig makes friends with the other animals on the farm, even though they are reluctant to be friendly to an animal they know is destined to die.

One day, while the sheep dogs and their puppies are in the fields with Farmer Hoggett, Babe meets an elderly ewe, named Ma. He begins to realize that sheep are not as stupid as Fly has told him and promises to visit Ma when she is well again. Babe continues to stay near to Fly, despite the disapproval of the male sheep dog, Rex. One day, Babe decides to visit Ma and heads up to the paddocks. He arrives as sheep rustlers are stealing the sheep. Babe protects the sheep as best he can, even biting one of the rustler's dogs, and making such a terrible noise that Farmer Hoggett hears it and drives to investigate. On hearing the farmer coming, the rustlers drive away, with few sheep. Babe has saved most of the flock and as a reward, one day Farmer Hoggett takes Babe with him up to the sheep fields and, on a whim, asks the pig to round up the sheep. Babe at first fails to do this, because he is trying to be aggressive like a sheep dog. Ma appears in the centre of the herd and tells him that all a polite little pig like him has to do is ask. To Farmer Hoggett's astonishment, the sheep obey by walking in perfect straight lines around their pen. From then on, Babe accompanies Farmer Hoggett up to the sheep fields every day.

Soon Farmer Hoggett begins to think that maybe he had an animal who is good enough to enter in to the sheepdog trials and begins to train the pig in what might be expected of him. One morning, Babe heads up to the sheep fields alone, only to find the sheep being terrorized by wild dogs and panicking. Babe runs back to the farm and alerts Fly and her mate Rex, who then warn Farmer Hoggett by barking. However, Babe's friend Ma is critically injured and dies before she can be helped. Farmer Hoggett, arriving on the scene, sees only Babe with a dead sheep and believes that the pig may have killed her. Farmer Hoggett prepares to put Babe down, in case he is a danger to the other animals. Fly, unable to believe that Babe could do such a thing, goes to ask the sheep what really happened. She even forces herself to be polite to them, but gets the answer she wants.

Babe is proven innocent and Farmer Hoggett resumes his training, entering him in to the county sheep dog trials. Fly explains to Babe why Rex has always been so hostile: he was once a champion sheep dog, but his ears were damaged while trying to herd sheep in a violent storm.

The day of the trials approaches and Babe and Fly go with Farmer Hoggett to the grounds. Disaster almost strikes when Babe discovers that he cannot speak to the sheep, but he is given the password "May be ewe, may be ram, may be mutton, may be lamb, but on the hoof or on the hook, I bain't so stupid as I look" which allows him to talk to these unfamiliar sheep. He performs perfectly, without any commands from Farmer Hoggett, stunning the crowd in to silence. At the end of his trial, with spectators shouting congratulations and praise, Farmer Hoggett, a man of few words, looks down at his sheep-pig and tells him, "that'll do".

The Sheep-Pig contains twelve short chapters, each one written in speech marks(" ")::1. "Guess my weight":2. "There. Is that nice?":3. "Why can't I learn?":4. "You'm a polite young chap":5. "Keep yelling, young un" :6. "Good Pig":7. "What's trials?":8. "Oh Ma!":9. "Was it Babe?" :10. "Get it off by heart":11. "Today is the day":12. "That'll do"

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