Literature / Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle
A series of books by Betty McDonald about a small old lady who lives in an upside-down house. She spends her time curing children's bad habits with magical cures left by her dead husband. A light-hearted critique of modern parenting with two sets of Aesops
, one for children about the fact there are consequences to their actions and one for parents about how it's important to let their children learn these things for themselves.
The stories were originally bedtime-stories she told to her daughters (Annie and Joan—see "The Fighter-Quarrelers Cure") and later her nieces/nephews and still later to her grandchildren. This accounts for some of the inconsistencies. (Some 'cures' being simple reverse psychology, others having an element of magic or fantasy.)
In 1994 the books were adapted into a short-lived TV series starring Jean Stapleton in the title role.
This series has examples of:
- Applied Phlebotinum: Various magic cures.
- Because I Said So: Deconstructed. All it teaches children is that their parents don't actually have reasons for saying what they do (since they can't produce those reasons when challenged), and so when the parent actually is trying to impart an important life lesson, their kid isn't going to listen to them.
- Celibate Hero: Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle is never mentioned as being so much as interested in other men after the death of her husband.
- Cloud Cuckoolander: Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle is a bit weird with her house and animal companions. Her husband is hinted to have been a weirdo of a pirate as well.
- Cool House: It's literally upside-down!
- Cool Old Lady: Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle.
- Early Installment Weirdness: In the first book, the cures Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle recommended were realistic, if comically exaggerated, and generally involved reverse psychology; in later books, all the cures had a magical element to them.
- Free-Range Children: In addition to the time period, allowing children to discover how the world works for themselves, providing help instead of controlling them, is a major theme.
- Friend to All Children: Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle loves kids and really understands them.
- Homemade Sweater from Hell: Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle always accepts hand-made gifts from the children (sweaters, cookies, etc.) no matter how awfully made or tacky with genuine joy and gratitude.
- Local Hangout: All the kids keep coming to Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle's house.
- Have a Gay Old Time: Mrs. Piggle Wiggle's cure for the selfish Dick is to have his label all of his items like "Dick's book. Don't touch." One of his classmates mocks this by putting a sign on his back that says "This is Dick. Don't touch."
- Meaningful Name: Dick Thompson in "The Selfish Boy Cure", at least before his redemption.
- Messy Pig: Inverted. Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle has a pig named Lester. He doesn't speak, but he does help kids with bad table manners by setting a good example. He's clean, tidy, and smart.
- Nice Job Raising Them, Parent: Many of the cures are only necessary because the parents actively let it get to that point, through either overindulging a child or trying to be too controlling in general. If Herbert Prentiss's mother hadn't kept caving and cleaning up his room for him, Herbert would have discovered years ago that if he didn't want to step on blocks and wanted a place to sleep, he'd better clean it up. In other cases, the parents undermined their own authority by using Because I Said So in place of actual reasons, so their children simply don't listen to them anymore because it seems like they don't know what they're talking about. Generally, Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle is the last resort: only a few are Genre Savvy enough to consult an expert when a problem comes up.
- In one case, where constantly interrupting children are given magical powder that makes them fall silent whenever they begin to interrupt, they point out that their parents interrupt all the time too. They all take the powder and Hilarity Ensues.
- Not Good With Adults: Although she will happily discuss the childrens' problems over the phone when the parents call, she does not invite adult guests over or socialize with them like she does with the neighborhood kids. (This would be considered creepy today.)
- The Pig Pen: Patsy
- Pirate: Mr. Piggle-Wiggle was a pirate... who left behind his treasure map and a treasure chest full of magical cures.
- A Pirate 400 Years Too Late: Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle's deceased husband was a pirate when he was alive, and the story takes place in The Fifties.
- Radish Cure: The Trope Namer and the usual method by which Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle's cures work.
- Reverse Psychology: Some of the cures.
- Take That: Many, against the Because I Said So school of parenting. Most of the cures essentially consist of allowing the child to discover that their actions actually have consequences, learning how the world works and what to do in order to obtain the desired results instead of just that father knows best.
- Team Mom: Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle.
- The Fifties: Or thereabouts.
- The Musical: Written for Seattle Children's Theatre.
- Tough Love: Advocates a much less harsh version of the trope: parents who try to protect their kids from the real world too much will prevent them from learning how to handle it, but all of the parents in the books still love their kids and are involved with them to some degree. A lot of the parents start having problems with the cures during the part where the kid is discovering the consequences of their actions, but not stepping in to soften the blow so much that the lesson is lost is vital.
- Trash of the Titans: Hubert Prentiss
- Treasure Map
- Wanting Is Better Than Having: The cure for children who want to stay up all night is just to let them. The children end up discovering that it's annoying to be tired all the time during the day, and then when they fall asleep at a movie première they'd been looking forward to for ages, that's the last straw.
- Widow Witch
The TV series has examples of:
- Canon Foreigner: Pete the Delivery Man, fussy law officer Norbert Wainwright, Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle's grown daughter Potsy, and Howard the Hat-Tree, Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle's talking tree roommate whose branches carry magic hats that provide Mrs. P. with her cures. The kids and their parents also have mostly different names than their book counterparts.
- Pragmatic Adaptation: The books' loads and loads of kids with bad habits are reduced to a small regular cast who repeatedly need cures.
- Spared by the Adaptation: Mr. Piggle-Wiggle isn't dead in this version, just away at sea most of the time, and occasionally makes appearances.