Once upon a time, there was a very clever little pig called Lucy, who lived with her two older brothers and her parents in a lovely, roomy pigsty in the grounds of a royal palace. The pigs were royal pets, kept by the king, and as such they were treated very well. They had plenty of mud to roll around in and plenty of scraps to eat, leftovers from the delicious banquets that were served in the palace.

Then one day, all of a sudden and without any kind of warning, the palace disappeared right before their eyes and was replaced by a woodland forest. Where once there had been polished wooden floors with regal red carpets rolled out on top of them, now there was bracken, moss and earth, with a carpet of leaves, blown hither and thither by the wind. Where once there had been servants and royal masters, now there were trees, silent in the shade. Only Lucy was clever enough to realise this must be the result of some sort of fairy magic, and she kept the knowledge to herself. After all, she knew that the rest of her family probably wouldn't understand, even if she did explain it to them slowly, and they weren't really any worse off than they had been before, so there was no immediate need to worry. There was still plenty of mud for the pigs to roll around in, and they could always forage for food by themselves. They did not even mind too much that every member of the entire royal household had disappeared, including the king. The only significant problem that faced them now was there was no longer any protection for the pigs from the big bad wolf.


If there is one thing every pig is afraid of, it is the big bad wolf. Now, there are three things about wolves that all pigs know. First, they are big. Compared to a pig, a wolf is a giant, and they tower over smaller creatures, usually right before they gobble them up. Second, they are bad. Wolves are known all over the land, far and wide, for the way they deliberately seek out smaller and weaker animals and eat them up for their dinner. They don't care how many animal families are broken up in the process or how many end up in their bellies. Indeed, they laugh at the distress they cause, for they are wicked, wicked beasts. And the third thing that every pig knows about wolves is that their very favourite food is pigs. Everybody knows that. They eat chickens, too, and ducks, and rabbits, and just about anything they can get their hands on in fact, even humans; but nothing beats pork on the menu, as far as a wolf is concerned. Every wolf is big, and every wolf is bad, and every wolf is a pig-eating wolf. And so, the pigs all knew that the big bad wolf was the one thing they had to fear the most.


The reason every pig is so familiar with their enemy is because, from an early age, every piggy parent drives fear of the wolf into the minds of every quivering little piglet. Just like every other family of pigs, fear of the wolf had been drummed into these children from a very young age.


'Come here, you little piglets,' their mother would say. 'Your father and I have got something to tell you.'


The curious piglets would huddle around their parents and their eyes would grow wide as Mother Pig warned them all about the dangers that lay in wait for little pigs like them.


'How would the big bad wolf eat us?' asked Lucy


'Would it be raw, or would he cook us first?' questioned Ralph.


'Like in sausage rolls?' said Harry.


'Ham sandwiches?' suggested Ralph.


'Or hot dogs?' thought Harry.


'Or bacon butties?'


'Hog roasts?'


'The point is,' said their father, 'you need to watch out for him all the time. Not just because he's big and he's bad and … you know, he's a wolf … but also because he's clever and he'll try to trick you. He's not just any old wolf, you know. They call him a werewolf.'


'Why do they call him that?' asked Lucy.


'Because you never know where he is,' said their mother. 'Just when you think you're safe, there he is, behind you!' And, as Mother Pig said this, Father Pig would creep up behind the children and then jump out at them, making them all squeal in shock.


To survive in the forest without becoming food for a wolf, the pig family were careful to take every precaution. They made a new pigsty for themselves not far from the path (an area wolves tended to avoid). They always kept a careful watch, and they spent a lot of time hiding just in case. In this manner they all lived happily enough. As time went by, however, they noticed a curious thing: none of them seemed to get any older. The little pigs stayed as piglets, never growing up, and their parents felt a change needed to happen. The three little pigs argued with one another over the slightest thing, such as which of them could get the muddiest (a matter of pride for pigs), who was best at snuffling through the undergrowth, or which one was the cleverest amongst them (Lucy, of course). The parents thought their offspring needed to spring off.


'The best thing to do,' said Father Pig, 'is to let them all go out into the world and sort it out for themselves.'


'Are you sure they're ready?' Mother Pig asked. 'Harry and Ralph seem so unprepared for life in the big, bad world.'


'Don't worry, my dear,' Father Pig reassured her. 'They've got their sister to take care of them. Now, the time has come. They need to put their fears behind them, put their best trotters forward, and march out into the big, wide world with as much confidence as they can muster.'


'I suppose so,' said Mother Pig.


Little did the parents realise that their children would fall out with one other almost immediately and end up going their separate ways.


After quarrelling with Ralph and storming off by herself, Lucy did feel a little guilty. She knew her big brothers depended on her, far more than she depended on them. Harry, who was the oldest but far from being the wisest, needed her help in particular. She remembered the time he was convinced his tail was falling off and spent half an hour chasing himself round and round, trying to see if it was still there; and the time a leaf fell on his head, and he thought the sky was falling in; and the time he thought truffle hunting was trifle hunting and went off in search of jelly and blancmange. Lucy smiled at the memories, but they also worried her. How would her biggest brother cope all on his own in the forest? Especially if the only house he built himself was made of straw!


Ralph was not much better, and it might have comforted Lucy a little to know that the middle piggy sibling had made a friend at least and was at that moment walking through the forest telling his new friend all about the life the pigs had used to lead as royal pets and how this had mysteriously come to an end. Then again, Lucy might not have been much comforted by this thought; Ralph did not have a good track record of making friends. His first real close friendship had been with an earwig he found on top of his head that had later been crushed by a careless foot of one of his parents. His only other real friendship was with a stick he called 'Sticky' that had got muddled up with a whole lot of other sticks and eventually forgotten about. Jack was a boy, which was some improvement on an earwig and a stick; but, to tell the truth, not much improvement; and Ralph still had no idea that his new friend had no clue where they were or if they were headed in the right direction.


'Oh well,' said Lucy to herself, 'I can't be responsible for my big brothers forever. They have to make their own way in the world, just like I do, and they have to take responsibility for themselves and their own muddle-headed ideas. Sticks! Straw! I never heard such nonsense. Bricks and mortar, that's what you need to build a house, and that's what I am going to find. And when I have built my house, I'll invite my silly brothers to come and live with me, and then we'll be safe and sound and everything will be alright again.' Cheered by this thought, Lucy continued on her way, walking right through the woods and out the other side, until finally she reached her destination: the builders' merchant's shop on the edge of the forest. Bold as brass, she walked in through the front door, causing a little bell to ring as she did so.


'Good morning,' said Lucy to the man behind the counter. 'How are you today?'


The man looked up from his newspaper and gazed in silent surprise for a minute. After a long pause, during which Lucy stood expectantly awaiting his response, he said, 'Er … I'm fine.'


'Good. I'm fine, too. I have a proposition I should like to put to you.'


'Excuse me,' said the man, collecting himself, 'but am I right in thinking you are a … a …?'


'A girl?' said Lucy. 'Yes, I am. I hope you don't discriminate against me because I'm not a boy.'


'Oh, no,' said the man, 'not at all, but you're a … pig, aren't you?'


'That's right. Is that a problem?'


'A talking pig?'


'You've clearly never come across someone like me before,' said Lucy. 'You really must get out more.'


'That's not so easy,' replied the man. 'Times are hard, you know. There's not much money around.'


'That's exactly what I wanted to talk to you about,' said Lucy. 'I was hoping you would take me on as your apprentice.'


'I'm afraid I can't afford to take on any apprentices,' said the man.


'Not because I'm a girl, I hope?'


'No! Of course not! Not even because you're a … talking pig. There's just not enough work coming in.'


'Oh dear,' said Lucy. 'That rather puts a spanner in the works. Or it would do, if you had any work coming in. You see, I'm trying to build a house, and I need some bricks and mortar. I don't have any money, or any building skills yet, so I was hoping I could learn on the job and earn enough to buy what I need.'


'Sorry,' said the man. 'I can't help.'


'But this scuppers my whole plan. Let's see, there must be a solution somehow.'


Lucy stood in thought for a minute, tapping her chin with one of her trotters. The man now began to regard her rather differently.


'I must say, you're very optimistic, for a pig. Or for anyone these days.'


'What do you mean?'


'Nothing seems to stand in your way. May I ask where you've come from, Miss, and what your background is?'


'My family used to belong to the king,' said Lucy proudly.


'There hasn't been a king here for years.'


'Now we live in the forest, only our parents want us to make our own way in the world. It's up to me to provide accommodation.'


'Us? You mean there's more than one of you?'


'Three in total. Three little pigs. Silly old Ralph wants to build a house out of sticks, and Harry, the chump, wants to use straw.'


'Silly old Ralph,' said the man, in a somewhat bewildered tone. 'And silly old Harry.'


'I'm Lucy, by the way.'


'My name's Bob.'


'Bob the builder?'


'That's right. Why, have you heard of me then?'


'I have a feeling that together you and I can find a way to fix this problem, Bob.'


'I don't know about that. But I am impressed with you, Lucy. I don't know much about talking animals - well, I don't know anything really - but you seem like a pretty smart little pig to me, if you don't mind me saying so.'


'I don't mind at all, Bob, but I wish I was smart enough to know what to do next.'


'Well, you certainly can't work here. In fact, I'm thinking of giving up the business altogether. Nobody wants to build anything when times are hard.'


'Don't give up. Things will get better. You just have to hang on, at least long enough for me to earn some money and come back here for my bricks and mortar. The question is, where else could I get a job, and how could I learn the skills I need?'


There was a pause, and then something occurred to Bob, just like a light in his mind suddenly being switched on.


'Actually, I do have an idea that might help you, Lucy. There's a window-cleaner that lives not far from here. She's getting on a bit, well over a hundred years old I heard, and she really shouldn't be going up and down ladders at her age. I daresay she might welcome an apprentice. If you can earn enough from her to pay for your materials, I'll help you build your house myself. How does that sound?'


'Would you really, Bob?'


'I really would, Lucy.'


'Then I shall go to see this window-cleaner, earn myself some money, and come back here. Where exactly does she live?'


'You want to find an ivy-covered cottage, and the easiest and the quickest way to get there is to take a shortcut through the woods, but I wouldn't recommend it. The safest way is to go around this path here at the edge of the woods, then second left onto Fairytale Walk, third right, then a sharp left again and keep going for about a hundred metres. You'll come to a bridge over a stream, but take the first turning before you get there because there's a troll that lives under that bridge and he'll gobble up anyone who tramps over it. A few hundred metres further on, you'll find a boat that can take you across the stream and then it's third left, no right, then left, then...'


Lucy held up a trotter to stop this flow of directions.


'That's enough,' she said. 'I think I'll take the shortcut through the woods.'


'No, no, you mustn't do that!' Bob exclaimed. 'Even being eaten by the troll is safer than taking a shortcut through those woods. They're full of evil.'


'Nonsense,' said Lucy. 'I'm quite used to those woods. I've lived in them all my life.'


'Well, if you're quite determined...'


'I am.'


'I thought you might be. A real VIP you are, Lucy, and no mistake.'




'Very Impressive Pig.'


'Thank-you, Bob.'


'Let me come and show you the way through the woods. Just don't ask me to go in there with you. And I meant what I said, Lucy - I will help you build your house. You won't have to do that on your own.'


'Thank-you, Bob. I appreciate your help.'


Find out what happens next at: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/1729193218