Once upon a time there was a land where no one smiled. It had been against the law for as long as anyone could remember. Not even the mayor could remember why it was against the law, but he warned that anyone caught smiling would be arrested and thrown into jail.
This rule was hardest on the children. In order to keep them from smiling, their parents made sure that they never had any fun. No one was ever allowed to tell jokes or be silly. Mothers could not hug their children. Fathers could not read their children stories or play games with them. There were no movies, no music, no parties, no birthdays, no dancing, and absolutely no friends.
For the children in this land, there was only hard work and tears. They went to school but the schools were filled with mean bullies who called everyone “loser” and “ugly” and “stupid”. And the teachers were just as mean as the bullies: They would punish the good children for no reason and make them cry. After school the children were made to go straight home to clean toilets and floors, and make beds and fold laundry. They were only allowed to eat twice a day, and never anything nice like cake or candy or pizza or popcorn. It was always mushy, overcooked vegetables or something called glop. You don’t even want to know what glop tasted like.
If, after all of this, any of them found anything worth smiling about, they were whipped thirty times and sent straight to bed.
Every day was exactly the same in this land, until one day, which was finally quite different. On this day, a strange pig arrived in the land. He was short and pink like a pig, but he walked and talked like a person and he wore long red robes. But the most unusual thing about him was on his face, for there, as plain as day for all to see, was a small but persistent smile.
The mayor was outraged. The magistrate was furious! The constables ran to get their sticks and polish the buttons on their uniforms. And most of all, the parents rushed to cover their children’s eyes. Everyone agreed: That pig must be stopped!
He was arrested immediately and brought before the mayor, who had a very big face. He said “Stop smiling this instant!” in a very loud voice, but the pig didn’t hear him. He was looking out the window and noticing how big and green the trees were. The wind was blowing softly, and it looked as though their leaves were dancing. The pig thought they were beautiful, and his smile grew a little bigger.
The mayor’s big face flushed red. “Why you… if you don’t stop that this instant, I’ll… I’ll take you before the magistrate!” he said.
“Is that true?” asked the pig with astonishment. “Is that really true?”
“Yes, of course it’s true!” said the mayor with his big red face.
“Well, if that’s what is true, then it must be OK,” said the pig, smiling.
The mayor took him straight before the magistrate, who had a very sharp and pointy nose. “Stop smiling this instant!” he said. But the pig didn’t hear him. He was noticing a flower growing in a pot on the magistrate’s window sill. It had five petals and was white in the middle but at the edges it became blue. The pig thought it was lovely, and his smile grew a little bigger.
The magistrate’s pointy nose twitched with anger. He stood up and pounded his gavel on his desk. “Why you… if you don’t stop that this instant, I’ll… I’ll throw you into jail!” he shouted.
“Is that true?” said the pig, looking amazed. “Is that really true?”
“Of course it’s true!” snapped the magistrate with his pointy nose. “Do you think I would lie to you?”
“Well, if that’s what is true, then it must be OK,” said the pig, with a big, wide smile.
“Get him out of here!” said the magistrate, his nose twitching harder than ever. “Call the constables!”
The constables were ready with their polished uniforms and their sticks. They had arms and legs as thick as tree trunks, and they surrounded the pig and the biggest among them grabbed him roughly by the arm. “This is your last chance, pig. Do you dare to disobey the order of the magistrate and the laws of this land?”
But the pig didn’t answer. He was noticing the bright, shining buttons on the constable’s coat. “What lovely workmanship!” he thought, and his smile, already huge by now, grew even bigger.
“To the jail with him!” they said. They took him to the jail and threw him in a small dark cell. The front wall was made of iron bars and the rest of the walls were thick, dank cement. There was hay spread out on the floor and only one very small window up at the top where it couldn’t be reached. “You’re locked up now, pig, and you’ll never get out. What do you think of that?” they asked him.
“Is that true?” he asked with wonderment. “Is that really true?”
“You can bet your life it’s true,” they said.
The pig looked around at the dank little cell, with hay on the floor and one very small window at the top. His eyes were adjusting to the dark and he noticed a beautiful ray of the sun’s light streaming in through the window. And he noticed that the hay was warm and smelled very sweet.
“Well,” he said, “If that’s what’s true, then it must be OK,” and as he spoke he smiled and yawned, and then he nestled down for a much needed nap.
Every day the constables with their arms and legs as thick as tree trunks came to check on him and to bring him his serving of glop. And every day the pig wore the same big smile. “Thank you!” he would say delightedly. “Thank you very much!”
After several weeks had gone by and the pig still smiled, the mayor, the magistrate, and the constables gathered together to solve the problem once and for all. “That pig must be stopped!” they agreed. But they thought and they thought, and they still could not think of how to make that pig stop smiling.
Finally, one of the constables clapped his large hands in triumph. “I’ve got it!” he said. “We have to ask the bullies!”
“The bullies?” asked the mayor, his big face looking confused.
“Nothing is worse than a bully,” explained the constable. “We’ll round up the meanest, nastiest bullies we can find, and we’ll send them in to do their worst. They’ll have him fixed in no time.”
“Why that’s inspired!” said the mayor, shaking the constable’s large hand.
“Well done,” said the magistrate, slapping him on his thick arm.
The constable was proud, but naturally he did not smile.
So they gathered up the meanest, cruelest, nastiest bullies in the land, and sent them in to the pig’s cell to do their worst.
As soon as they saw the pig the bullies sneered their meanest sneers.
“You’re a weirdo!” scowled one, and stuck out his tongue.
“You’re a freak!” snarled another, and thumbed his nose.
“You’re a loser,” growled a third, and he spit on the pig’s red robes.
“No one wants you here,” they all agreed. “No one likes you. We wish you were dead!”
The pig looked at them with wide-open eyes. “Is that true?” he asked. “Is that really true?”
The bullies said all together, “YES!”
The pig gathered his robes around him and sat down to give it some thought. He thought quietly and deeply. He thought about the words, “weirdo” and “loser” and “freak”. He thought about no one liking him and no one wanting him. He thought about everyone wanting him dead. And then he thought about the tree with the dancing leaves and the flower with its baby blue petals and the ray of sunshine that shone warmly into his cell.
Then he stopped thinking at all and instead listened quietly to his heart. He sat still for several moments, while the bullies watched closely to see if their taunts had worked. But their taunts had not worked, for all at once, the pig jumped up with his biggest smile yet and said, “No, I don’t believe that’s true. I don’t believe it’s true at all!”
The pig had asked for truth, and truth had filled his heart. All at once, it became clear to him: Why, he was absolutely fabulous!
And then something happened that had never before happened in the whole history of the land. The pig rose up with a giant smile and he stood up tall and he leaned back his head and he opened his mouth wide and he laughed.
The bullies wanted to be angry. They wanted to make the pig stop. But they had never heard laughter before, and they were too shocked to speak or be angry. Instead, they stood quietly and watched the pig as he shook and snorted and squealed. And then they began to feel very strange. They felt something bubbly and sparkling, and it spread from their hearts into their chests, down into their legs, out into their arms, and up into their throats. It was lovely and warm and it tickled them in waves. They tried to stop it, but the harder they tried the stronger it got, until finally it burbled right up out of them, and then they were laughing too. It was the nicest feeling any of them had ever felt, and soon they were roaring so loud they could be heard across the land.
The sound reached the mayor, the magistrate, and the constables, who were waiting together on the other side of the door. The mayor’s big face burned red, the magistrate’s sharp nose twitched, and the constables burst open the door to the jail cell and stormed into the room yelling, “Stop that! Stop that at once!”
But the bullies were laughing too hard and feeling too nice to be scared anymore. They kept right on laughing, until the littlest bully looked up at the mayor and said, “Don’t be mad. Just try it. It’s wonderful!”
The mayor looked at the little bully. His face was shining and bright, and he looked very happy. In fact, he didn’t look much like a bully anymore. Then the mayor looked around at the rest of the bullies, who were laughing so hard they had fallen to the ground and were rolling around in the hay. They didn’t look like bullies anymore either, they looked like happy children who were feeling joy for the first time in their lives. Then, finally, the mayor looked at the pig who was sitting in the corner saying, “Oh my!” and dabbing at his eyes with the edge of his red robe. And before he knew what was happening, the mayor realized that he was laughing too.
The magistrate and the constables looked at the mayor, not knowing what to do. “Well what are you waiting for?” he said to them, once he could catch his breath. “You heard the child. It’s wonderful!”
So they laughed and laughed for three hours at least. And when they were done the mayor’s big red face was lit up with a big, wide smile. He threw open the door to the pig’s cell. “It is no longer against the law to smile,” he said. “You are free to go. And thank you. Thank you so much.”
From that day forward, everything in the land was completely different. The children were allowed to smile and laugh as long and as loud and as often as they wished. They could hug their mothers and kiss their fathers. They could eat anything they wanted, even sweets. And instead of doing chores all day, they could have parties and games.
Picnics were spread, cakes were eaten, kites were flown, presents were opened, stories were told, music was played, and everyone sang and danced and smiled and laughed.
And the happiest of them all was the smiling pig, because he knew truth, and he knew that truth was love.
Can you believe that nothing in the land was ever the same again, all because of a smiling pig?