Babe: The Gallant Pig
is the tale of a pig who follows an unusual dream and teaches tolerance and understanding to his fellow farm animals along the way. A short novel, arranged in twelve chapters illustrated by Mary Raynor, Babe
employs an omniscient, third-person narrator and blends straightforward prose with dialect. The reader soon becomes comfortable with the notion that the animals speak to and understand one another, and this device becomes an integral part of the narrative. A deceptively simple story, Babe
can be enjoyed both as a delightful fantasy and as a moral tale.
When Farmer Hogget wins a piglet at the local fair by correctly guessing its weight, he has nothing more in mind for its future than a prominent spot on his Christmas dinner table. When Hogget lodges the pig in the stable with his sheep dog Fly and her puppies, however, Fly’s maternal instincts overcome her prejudice against pigs, and she becomes quite fond of young Babe. Although she has always believed pigs to be stupid, she soon realizes that Babe does not conform to her preconceived notions of his species. After her own pups are sold, Fly turns all of her maternal attentions to the pig and at Babe’s request begins to teach him how to herd sheep.
When Babe uses his newly acquired herding skills to save Farmer Hogget’s sheep from rustlers, Mrs. Hogget vows never to make a meal of him, and Farmer Hogget begins to entertain ideas of training Babe for the Grand Challenge Sheep Dog Trials.
Although Babe practices and works hard at his exercise and diet regime, he also owes much of his success to his friendship with Ma, an old sheep with whom he occasionally shares the stable. Although Fly attempts to instill a prejudice against sheep in her young protégé, Babe learns from Ma that sheep are not stupid creatures and that they want only to be treated with dignity and respect by the "wolves," as they refer to sheep dogs. This understanding, along with hard work, helps Babe develop into the finest "sheep-pig" in the country.
The sheep believe in Babe so completely that they entrust him with their secret password, which assures him a perfect score at the sheep dog trials—a feat never before accomplished by a dog, let alone a pig. As a result of Babe’s influence, Fly changes her opinion of sheep, the sheep learn that the terms "sheep dog" and "wolf" are not synonymous, and Farmer Hogget realizes his dream of winning the Grand Challenge Sheep Dog Trials.