The Tale of Little Pig Robinson

Front cover of an edition of The Tale of Little Pig Robinson.

The Tale of Little Pig Robinson is a children's fantasy novel of eight short chapters by the British author and illustrator Beatrix Potter. It is a prequel to Edward Lear's 1867 nonsense poem "The Owl and the Pussycat" and was also influenced by Daniel Defoe's 1719 novel Robinson Crusoe. Although The Tale of Little Pig Robinson was first published in September 1930, much of it was written decades earlier. Potter began work on the story in 1895.

The story's title character and protagonist is a young pig who, while on a shopping trip for his two aunts in a seaside town near his farm, is tricked into going on board a ship which then sails away. Although he is frightened at first, Little Pig Robinson soon comes to enjoy life on board the ship. He is given plenty of food to eat and soon becomes fat. He does not realize that he is being fattened up to be eaten at a special meal on the captain's upcoming birthday.

The Tale of Little Pig Robinson has been adapted for television.



Little Pig Robinson makes his way towards Stymouth. Original illustration by Beatrix Potter.

Little Pig Robinson is a young pig with a silver ring in his nose. He lives on a farm called Piggery Porcombe near to the Devonshire seaside town of Stymouth. The farm belongs to his two aunts Miss Porcas and Miss Dorcas. Aunt Porcas and Aunt Dorcas are unable to travel into Stymouth, the quickest route to the town is across fields with several stiles that Aunt Porcas and Aunt Dorcas are too fat to climb over. A man usually comes on a donkey cart to take things which Aunt Porcas and Aunt Dorcas want to sell to market. He returns from Stymouth with their groceries. When the man damages his cart, Aunt Porcas and Aunt Dorcas reluctantly agree to send Robinson into town instead.

Robinson is given a basket containing jam sandwiches for his lunch as well as two dozen eggs, a bunch of daffodils and two spring cauliflowers to sell. He is told to buy soap, blue bag, yeast, cabbage seeds, tea and darning wool. Aunt Porcas gives him a sample of the kind of darning wool that she wants him to buy. Robinson is told that he can buy most of the things that his aunts want at Mr. Mumby's shop. The young pig is also given two pence that he can spend on candy for himself.

Little Pig Robinson stops to eat his lunch while he is still a long way from Stymouth. He picks some primroses, which he thinks he can sell for another penny to spend on candy, and ties them together with the sample of wool that Aunt Porcas gave him. Mr. Pepperil, the farmer who owns all the fields between Piggery Pocombe and Stymouth, sees Robinson and gives him another penny. In the last field which Robinson crosses before he arrives in Stymouth, he is startled by the sound of someone shooting at birds and cracks one of the eggs in his basket.

On arrival in Stymouth, Robinson is frightened by the noise and the crowds of people. He is able, however, to make his way to the building where the covered market is held. He sells all the items that Aunt Porcas and Aunt Dorcas gave him, in spite of one of the eggs being cracked. He also sells his bunch of primroses to two girls. After the two girls have gone, Robinson realizes that the sample of wool which Aunt Porcas gave him was still tied around the primroses.


Little Pig Robinson in Stymouth. Original illustration by Beatrix Potter.

Robinson goes to Mr. Mumby's store. He buys a large amount of candy there. Mr. Mumby sells almost everything and can usually order any item that customers want which he does not have in stock. He will not order yeast, however, because it has to be kept very fresh. He advises Robinson to go to a bakery to get that. He also says that it is to late in the season to get cabbage seeds. Mr. Mumby is also unable to provide Robinson with darning wool because the young pig cannot remember what color wool Aunt Porcas wants.

A woman named Betsy, who saw Pig Robinson in the market, remembers that the wool tied around the primroses was blue-gray. She takes him to the wool shop run by a silly old sheep named Fleecy Flock. It takes a long time for Fleecy to find the right kind of wool. When she does, Betsy announces that she has to leave Robinson and go home. A helpful dog named Stumpy, who also saw Robinson in the market, takes him to a bakery to get yeast. Stumpy and Robinson then go to several shops in search of cabbage seeds. They are told that they might be able to get some at the harbor. Stumpy then says that he too has to go home. He advises Robinson to leave his heavy shopping basket at the tea room kept by the two Miss Goldfinches. The two Miss Goldfinches give Robinson a cup of tea and tell him to go and get the cabbage seeds quickly. They say that a sheep called Sim Ram can give Robinson a lift back to Piggery Pocombe on his donkey cart when he returns.

On his way to the harbor, Robinson passes an inn called the Crown and Anchor. A sailor calls out to Robinson and asks him if he likes snuff. Although all tobacco makes him sick, Robinson is too polite to say "no". He takes some snuff and wraps it in paper. In return, Robinson offers some of his candy, which the sailor happily accepts. The sailor says that he will take Robinson to the shop which sells cabbage seeds and that, afterwards, he will show him around his ship the Pound of Candles. Robinson does not know that the sailor is the ship's cook. Many people are amused by the sight of the sailor and the pig walking hand in hand.

On board the Pound of Candles, a yellow cat is polishing boots. When the cat sees Robinson, it winks and makes faces at him, until the cook throws a boot at it. The cook tells Robinson to go down into a cabin where he can eat muffins and crumpets. Robinson eats a lot of muffins and then falls asleep. When he wakes up, he finds that the ship is moving. He goes up on deck and sees that the ship is already a long way from the shore. He can see the farm Piggery Pocombe looking very small in the distance. Robinson runs around the deck in panic and eventually faints.


Little Pig Robinson and the ship's cat. Original illustration by Beatrix Potter.

Soon, however, Robinson comes to enjoy life on board the ship. He is given a lot to eat and soon becomes very fat. He is well treated by everybody, except for the captain, a man named Barnabas Butcher, and the ship's cat. Captain Barnabas Butcher is naturally bad-tempered. The ship's cat is unhappy because it is separated from its love the owl. The Pound of Candles is sailing south towards the tropics. The owl is on a ship sailing north towards Greenland. The cat often tries to warn Robinson not to overeat and tells him that Captain Barnabas Butcher's birthday is coming up soon. Robinson does not realize that he is being fattened up to be eaten at a special meal in celebration of the captain's birthday.

One day, Robinson is lying half-asleep in the sun. He overhears another sailor, who was raised on a farm, tell the cook that too much sun is bad for pigs and ruins the taste of pork. The cook throws a dirty old sail cloth over Robinson. Later, the cat hears crying coming from underneath the sail cloth. The cat helps Robinson to escape. It tells him that the island where the Bong tree grows is not far away and that Robinson can row there. The cat finds provisions for Robinson and helps him into one of the ship's rowing boats. The cat bores holes into all of the other rowing boats on the ship to prevent the sailors from following Robinson.

Eighteen months later, Pig Robinson is visited on the island where the Bong tree grows by the cat and the owl. Later still, he is visited by Stumpy and Mr. Mumby's dog Tipkins. Robinson tells them that he has no wish to go home. He is happy on an island where the shore is covered with oysters, sweet potatoes come out of the ground already cooked and candy, cakes and muffins grow on trees.


A British live-action TV movie based on The Tale of Little Pig Robinson was co-produced by Dreamscape Co. and TVS. It was first shown on the ITV network in the United Kingdom on December 26, 1990. It stars Timothy Spall as Little Pig Robinson, Dawn French as Aunt Porcas, Jennifer Saunders as Aunt Dorcas, Edward Fox as Captain Barnabas Butcher, Gorden Kaye as a sailor and Toyah Willcox as the ship's cat.

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