"The Pig-Brother" by Laura E. Richards. In How to Tell Stories to Children by Sara Cone Bryant. This is a literary tale so there is only one version.

Ethnic Origin: British

Power Center(s) and Why:

For me the power center of the story is the conversation between the Pig-Brother and the boy, because the boy doesn’t want to even ask the Pig if he’s his brother but the pig immediately recognizes him, and in the conversation that follows the boy gets more and more upset that the pig thinks that they’re related. I think it’s a very funny bit that kids will like, and will reinforce why it’s important to be tidy so that you’re not mistaken for a pig.

The other power center of the story then I guess would be when the Tidy Angel comes back and asks him to choose between being tidy or going with the pig brother and the child clings to her leg and says he wants to go "with you, with you!" that seems to be a very dynamic part of the story.


The Untidy Boy

The Tidy Angel

A squirrel

A wren

A tommy cat

A Pig


The Tidy Angel visits the boy in the nursery

The boy sits in the garden and asks various animals "Are you my Brother?"

The Tidy Angel comes to the garden and asks the boy to choose between being tidy and going with his "brother."


The Tidy Angel visits a very untidy boy in his nursery. Aghast at the state of affairs she finds there, she tells the boy to go out to the garden and wait for his brother while she sets the room to rights. The boy tells her that he doesn’t have a brother but she insists that he does, telling him that "you may not know him, but he will know you." The boy meets a squirrel, a wren, and a tommy cat and asks them if they are his brother. They are all appalled that he would think that he could be related to them (being so untidy). Finally a pig comes up and recognizes him saying "Hello, Brother" which infuriates the boy and he gets more and more scared as the pig refuses to acknowledge that he’s a little boy, suggesting that they go roll in the mud and eat pig-wash. Finally the Tidy Angel comes back and asks the boy to choose between coming with her and being tidy or going with the Pig-Brother. He of course chooses to be tidy.

Rhymes/Special Phrases/ "Flavor":

As this is a literary tale I have to stay close to the original words of the tale. "This will never do!: "Well I should hope not!…Why do you insult me by asking such a question?" (squirrel) "No, indeed!" (wren) "Go and look at yourself in the glass…it is clear that no water has come near you for a long time." (cat) "Tell that to the Hens!" (Pig) pig-wash "Small loss!"


This is a story for young children—preschool age—Charlotte Huck (Children’s Literature in the Elementary School) describes 3-5 year olds as having short attention spans, and this story is very quick. She also points out that for this age group the fantasy world is very real. This age group will have no trouble with the "willing suspension of disbelief" that allows for the existence of the Tidy Angel, as well as talking animals. Also, Piaget’s Developmental Stages for 2-7 year olds notes the importance of repetition, which this story is based on—the child asking every animal if He is his brother. Piaget’s description of the preoperational child stresses the accomodation of new ideas into thinking patterns—this is the perfect time to "get them" and start enforcing Tidy Behavior.

Sources recommending this story as good for storytelling:

This story was found in Sara Cone Bryant’s How to Tell Stories to Children. It was in a selection of stories adapted for telling, and was under the heading "Especially for Kindergarten and Grade I."

This story is also mentioned as a good one for telling by Bryant in another book, Stories to Tell Children in which she says,

`` …‘Pig Brother,’''…has now grown so familiar to teachers that it will serve for illustration without repetition here. It is the type of story which specifically teaches a certain ethical or conduct lesson, in the form of fable or an allegory, -- it passes on to the child the conclusions as to conduct and character, to which the race has, in general, attained through centuries of experience and moralizing. The story becomes a part of the outfit of received ideas on manners and morals which is an inescapable and necessary possession of the heir of civilization."

As this tale has no variants I did not have bibliographic information for variants or a comparison of all versions. Instead I would like to comment on the appropriateness of this tale for telling, as it almost has a folklore/fairy tale quality to it—a young child visited by a magical creature is set off on a "quest" to find his "brother" and encounters three talking animals, all of whom reply the same thing, until he is confronted by the sort of evil character or challenge—that of being mistaken for a pig. Finally the resolution of the young boy choosing the right path—that of cleanliness—sort of a good over evil thing. As the story was written in 1905, this must have been very appealing to school children who were probably still used to being told traditional fairy tales. This would have been a tale that seemed familiar and yet more contemporary.

By Jennifer Stowe