The Sheep-Pig is a novel by British author 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 book was also adapted for the stage by children's playwright David Wood. The stage version uses a cast of actors and life size puppets for an audience of young children.
In unfamiliar surroundings the little piglet is scared. However he meets Fly the sheepdog, who 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. Babe starts to learn how to herd sheep, first practising and failing with the ducks. However he has the idea of herding the sheep by asking them politely rather than ordering them about like sheep-dogs do.
One day Farmer Hoggett and Fly bring a sickly ewe named Ma back to the farm. When Babe meets Ma in the farm stable Ma helps Babe to realise that sheep are not as stupid as Fly has told him. Babe promises to visit Ma again when she is well. Some time later, when Babe visits Ma in the fields, he sees sheep rustlers stealing the sheep. Babe saves the sheep and herds them away from the rustlers’ lorry. He also bites one of the rustlers in the leg and squeals so loudly that Mrs. Hogget telephones the police. When the patrol car comes up the lane, the rustlers drive away, with no sheep. Babe has saved the flock and Mrs. Hoggett decides to reward him by saving his life.
Later on Farmer Hoggett takes Babe with him up to the fields and, on a whim, asks the pig to round up the sheep. Just as Babe is asking the sheep politely Ma appears in the centre of the herd to tell the sheep about Babe. Farmer Hoggett is astonished that the sheep are walking in perfect straight lines around their pen. From then on, Babe accompanies Farmer Hoggett up to the fields every day.
Farmer Hoggett starts to think that since Babe is a worthy animal he could enter him in to the sheepdog trials. So he starts to train the pig in what he needs to do. One morning, when Babe heads up to the fields alone, he finds the sheep panicking because wild dogs are terrorising them. Babe runs back to the farm and alerts Fly. However, Babe discovers that Ma is critically injured and dies before she can be helped. Farmer Hoggett arrives on the scene and sees Babe with a dead sheep and believes that the pig may have killed her. He prepares to put Babe down and shoot him with his gun, in case he is a danger to the other animals. However Mrs. Hoggett tells Farmer Hoggett about the dogs who have attacked the sheep. 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, and so the sheep willingly tell her that Babe saved their lives. Babe is proven innocent and Farmer Hoggett resumes his training, entering him in to the county sheep dog trials.
Before Babe goes for the trials, Fly manages to obtain a password from the sheep, so that Babe can speak to the sheep he’ll be herding. On the day of the trials Babe and Fly go with Farmer Hoggett to the grounds. Farmer Hoggett appears with Fly but swaps her for Babe. He performs perfectly, without any commands from Farmer Hoggett, and says the password to the sheep. At the end of his trial Babe and Farmer Hoggett score full marks, and Farmer Hoggett looks down at his sheep-pig and tells him, "That'll do, Pig."
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, Maa!"
- 9. "Was it Babe?"
- 10. "Get it off by heart"
- 11. "Today is the day"
- 12. "That'll do"
Differences between the book and the movie adaptation
- Rex, Fly's mate in the movie, is absent in the book.
- The book starts out at the fair. The movie starts out at where Babe and his siblings were born.
- Fly had four puppies in the book. In the movie, she had seven.
- Ferdinand was absent in the book.
- In the book when Fly talks to the sheep, the sheep do not tell her that dogs kill Maa. In the movie they do.
- The cruel cat and singing mice are absent in the book, but the farm had farm-cats that caught mice
- Babe in the movie acts like a sheep dog to sheep, in the book babe does not.
- The words in the password are different in the book than in the movie.
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