In Dick King-Smith's Babe, how does the story relate to belonging?

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kipling2448 | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

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In Dick King-Smith's novel Babe, or The Sheep-Pig, themes of tolerance and belonging run throughout the narrative. Early in King-Smith's story, a kindly farmer, Hogget, has won a piglet at the fair and puts the orphaned young pig in his vehicle, surprising his wife, Mrs. Hogget. Responding to her husband's one-word answer to her inquiry regarding a strange noise, Mrs. Hogget states:

"I thought 'twas a pig, I said to meself that's a pig that is, only nobody round here do keep pigs, 'tis all sheep for miles about, what's a pig doing, I said to meself, anybody'd think they was killing the poor thing . . ."

With this, and the brief prologue that introduces Babe and Fly, the family's main sheep-dog, it is clear that King-Smith's allegory is intended to convey the dysfunctional interactions that permeate humanity. The story that follows is about Babe's efforts at fitting in or assimilating into an environment to which he is not native. Having arrived back at the farm, Fly is now compelled to explain to her puppies the distinction among animals that separate worth from unworthy, as in the following exchange:

"What was that, Mum?" said one of the puppies.

"That was a pig."

"What will the boss do with it?"

"Eat it," said Fly, "when it's big enough."

"Will he eat us," said another rather nervously, "when we're big enough?"

"Bless you," said his mother. "People only eat stupid animals. Like sheep and cows and ducks and chickens. They don't eat clever ones like dogs."

"So pigs are stupid?" said the puppies.

Fly hesitated. On the one hand, having been born and brought up in sheep country, she had in fact never been personally acquainted with a pig. On the other, like most mothers, she did not wish to appear ignorant before her children. "Yes," she said. "They're stupid."

Fly's response to her puppies inquisitiveness regarding the arrival of an animal of a different species than those to whom the puppies are accustomed is intended to convey to the reader the challenges that will lie ahead for a pig on a sheep farm whose main role in life may very well be to provide sustenance in the form of pork chops and bacon to the humans at the top of the food chain. As the story progresses, Fly recognizes the error of her ways with regard to the manner in which she views other types of animals. As Fly continues to observe the young pig and its efforts at assimilating into this strange new environment without an adult pig to show him the way, the sheep-dog reconsiders her initial impressions and, more importantly, the lesson she has taught her young about tolerance:

"Something about the sight of this very small animal standing all by itself in the middle of the roomy loose-box touched Fly's soft heart. Already she was sorry that she had said that pigs were stupid, for this one certainly did not appear to be so. Also there was something dignified about the way it stood its ground . . ."

Babe is about a young pig's efforts at belonging. The pig confronts myriad challenges not only to his place in society, but with regard to his sheer ability to survive the pork-consuming world into which he was born. In one of the novel's more poignant passages, Fly observes the loneliness affecting Babe:

"I want my mum," he said very quietly.

At that instant the collie bitch made up her mind that she would foster this unhappy child.

Babe, of course, learns, with Fly's considerable help, to fit in to this strange, foreboding environment and to become one of the family. King-Smith's novel, then, is all about belonging.

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