SOCIAL-EMOTIONAL LEARNING: Friendship; Caring for Animals; Courage.
MORAL-ETHICAL EMPHASIS: Responsibility; Respect; Caring.
AT A GLANCE: Age: 5 – 8; MPAA Rating — G; Drama; 1995; 89 minutes; Color; Available at Amazon.com.
READ THE BOOK, TOO!
Babe — The Gallant Pig by Dick King-Smith is delightful. The dialog and the character of Mrs. Hogget are much different than the movie. The plot of the book is simpler and certain characters, most importantly Ferdinand the Duck and Rex the Sheepdog, were added by the filmmakers. The differences are charming, lend new dimensions to the story, and are good topics for conversation. Children will love the book, both before seeing the movie and after. Reading a book, whether your child reads alone, listens as you read, or reads to you, stretches imagination, increases verbal skills, and improves vocabulary. Reading books is an excellent way to spend quality time with any child. Babe — The Gallant Pig is available at your local library or it can be purchased from Amazon.com.
Babe was born in a dark and cavernous building on a factory farm. Jammed together in pens, he and his family and all the other pigs saw the light of day only when trucks came to take them to the slaughterhouse. At a young age, Babe has the good fortune to be selected as a prize for a raffle at the county fair. He is won by Farmer Hoggett, a tall, eccentric man who raises sheep. At Hoggett Farm, the resident female sheepdog takes care of the motherless piglet. Babe becomes a friendly, caring animal, who defies all odds and shows that he can do anything he sets his mind to . . . and he is determined to herd sheep.
“Babe” is a great film for kids of all ages, teaching important lessons about friendship, perseverance, and the benefits of being a nice person. It’s filled with many different animals and shows life on a small farm from the animal’s point of view.
TALKING FOR VERBAL, SOCIAL AND EMOTIONAL DEVELOPMENT
After Babe, which animal in the movie is your favorite? Why is that?
If you could have any of the animals in the movie as a pet, other than Babe, which would you choose? Why?
→ Always encourage your child to form opinions and to share them.
→ Open-ended questions will help get a discussion going.
Where were the big trucks taking the pigs?
How did Babe wind up at Hoggett Farm?
→ Just talking with your child fosters verbal, social and emotional learning.
→ Exercise memory skills by asking about the story, the characters, and the plot. Keep it light and fun.
Would you like to work with animals when you get older? What would you like to do?
→ Young children love Story Time.
DISCUSSIONS BASED ON THEMES IN THE MOVIE
Select questions appropriate for your child.
1. If Babe had acted like Rex, if he had not respected the other animals and if he had not been kind to them, what would Babe’s life have been like? Talking About It — He would not have been able to herd sheep because they would not have done what he asked them to do. Since he would not have had a job at the farm, he would have ended up as Farmer Hoggett’s Christmas dinner. Nor would Babe have been friends with all of the other animals. At the end even Rex was his friend.
→ When a parent takes a concept from the movie seriously, a child will start thinking about the lessons of the film. Often, it only takes one comment to start a child’s mind going.
2. Let’s see if we can describe what Babe is like. Talking About It — He’s peaceful, respectful and kind. He’s a great friend and helps out whenever he can. Babe believes in himself. He doesn’t stop, even when he is told he can’t do something. (It was his determination that allowed him to win the sheep herding competition and earn the admiration of everyone, animals and people alike.) Although many of the animals around Babe think only about themselves, Babe is a great friend and genuinely cares about others. He always practices the Golden Rule.
→ The Golden Rule is basic to morality and ethics. Here is a modern formulation of the Rule. Have your child memorize this or another version. Repeat it to your child often when a decision about how to act must be made: “In every situation, act toward others in the same way that you would want others to act toward you.” Show your child how to apply it in his or her own life. Let your child see you apply the Rule in decisions that you make.)
3. Before Babe, no one had even thought that a pig could herd sheep. When Babe first tried to herd sheep, no one believed that he could actually do it. What does Babe’s success tell us? Talking About It —That just because other people think something is impossible and no one has done it before, is no reason to give up your dream. If you try hard, there’s no telling what you can do!
(If your child is at the age when he or she has started thinking about what to do as a grownup ask, “Why do you want to be a . . . .?” Really listen to what your child has to say. You might want to share some dreams that you had when you were a kid. See what things your dreams have in common. Take your child to the library and check out books on his or her areas of interest. Remember, a child’s ideas about what to be as an adult will change many times.)
4. Some characters in the movie had big dreams. Let’s talk about some of them and how they tried to make them come true. Talking About It — Babe wanted to be a sheepdog. Ferdinand wanted to be a rooster. Farmer Hoggett wanted to have a prize-winning sheepdog. By practicing and never giving up, they were able to work toward their goals and accomplish them.
→ Don’t feel obligated to cover everything in this Guide. One or two questions are all that some children will tolerate. However, if your child watches the movie more than once, on each occasion start a new conversation or pick a new activity. This will enhance verbal development and increase the number of lessons your child takes from the film.
5. Fly told Babe that “Sheep are inferior, you need to insult them, bite them”. But Babe was able to get the sheep to do what he wanted even better than Fly or Rex just by being polite and asking. What does this tell you about hitting or kicking? Talking About It —Violence doesn’t solve anything. If someone has a toy that you want to play with, you should ask politely to borrow it. Hitting or fighting with friends usually doesn’t get you what you want.
→ Talk to your child about ways to deal with violence and fights. If someone is trying to pick a fight with them, they should walk away and tell a teacher or an adult. It is important to be the better person and deal with problems in a non-violent manner. Talk about appropriate ways to express frustration: with a letter, or a sit-down talk, or even a painting or drawing. Hitting, kicking, screaming and fighting not only do not get you what you want, but they also get you in trouble.
6. Ferdinand, the duck, knew something that no other animal on the farm knew. What was it? Talking About It — If a farm animal is not a house pet or doesn’t have a job on the farm, like herding sheep, making milk, growing wool on its body, or announcing the morning, that animal will either be sold away or killed for the farmer’s dinner.
→ You can talk about a movie at any time: right after it is over, in the car on the way to school, during quiet time, or before bed.
7. The actor who played Farmer Hoggett, James Cromwell, stopped eating meat after he made this movie. He came to understand that animals have feelings, too. Eating meat means that an animal with feelings has to be killed. Mr. Cromwell started to apply the Golden Rule to animals. For some people this means not eating meat or using any animal products (vegetarians and vegans). They believe that even if eating meat tastes good to us, it’s not good for the cow, the lamb, the pig, or the chicken who was killed. Vegetarians and vegans find plenty of food to eat that isn’t made from killing. Some people don’t want to stop eating meat, but they can still help some animals by eating meat less often. Other people try to only eat meat that is raised on farms that let animals roam free so that at least the animal has a good life before it is slaughtered. However, this meat is more expensive than meat from farms that are run like factories. Ask what your family should do to help animals like Babe, Maa and cows on the farm. Talking About It — The answer to this question will be individual to each family. There are thousands of tasty and nutritious vegetarian and vegan recipes on the Internet. Eating less meat is good, not only for the animals but for our health, and for the environment.
PLAYING FOR GROWTH
1. Animal acts —This is a great game to play with several children, or your whole family. Bring everyone into a yard or a playroom and explain that you are now on a farm full of lots of different animals. When you call out an animal, everyone must make their body look like the animal, and make the noise of the animal. For instance, if you call out “cow”, everyone should get on all fours and moo. The last person to do it is out! Switch roles, and have children call out animals, too. You can expand this to jungle animals, zoo animals, etc.
2. Obstacle course — Babe learned how to act like a sheepdog and he practiced with Farmer Hoggett for the big competition. Set up an obstacle course in the backyard (or create one at a park, using existing benches, trees, slides, etc). Take chairs, pillows, balls, hula-hoops, whatever you have available, and create a path that gets kids jumping, crawling, tiptoeing and using their bodies. Talk about how Farmer Hoggett trained Babe (and Rex) with a “training course”. Time each child and record the times. Compare how much faster they are after a couple of tries!
3. Take a trip to a Farm Sanctuary — If there is a farm sanctuary near you, head down for a visit. Call ahead and schedule a tour. Talk to the caretakers about the unique characteristics of each animal. Find out their names and what must be done to take care of them. You’ll be surprised at what you and your child will learn.
Stories are essential tools for verbal development, social-emotional learning, and character education. Intentional parents can use family movies as a basis for storytelling.
Repeat the story of the movie at bedtime, on a rainy day, or at any quiet time. Let your child correct you if you make a mistake and, better yet, encourage your child to tell you the story. Both of you can invent new adventures for Babe and his friends. Your child’s imaginative and verbal capacities will be enhanced if you invent new characters and create situations that are not in the movie. To learn more about enhancing growth and development through stories told to children, go to How to Tell Bedtime Stories . . . Any Time.
Here is a story to read to your child. If you read it at bedtime and your child falls asleep before you are finished, complete the story some other time.
Once upon a time, on a farm not so far from here, a farmer named Jack lived with his wife and two children, Lucille and Jack, Jr. The children loved to watch the movie “Babe” and they watched it four or five times. Bailey, the sheep dog, would watch it with them while he babysat the kids.
Every night after Bailey and the kids had watched “Babe” and the kids were safely asleep, Bailey shared the story with the other animals on the farm. They were all thrilled when Babe won the sheep herding contest.
Farmer Jack was also inspired by the movie and although he didn’t raise pigs, he thought a pig could be trained to help out around the farm. So, Farmer Jack went to a friend of his who did raise pigs and bought the smartest little piglet he could find. He named his new assistant Sammy. Farmer Jack raised a lot of geese, sheep and cows. He didn’t need Sammy to herd the sheep, that was Bailey’s job and Bailey was very good at it. But Farmer Jack could use a smart, well-trained pig to help with the geese. Everyone said that it was impossible and that a pig that could herd sheep was just a story from a movie.
Soon after he brought Sammy home, Farmer Jack trained the pig to herd the geese and protect the fuzzy little goslings from eagles and hawks. Sammy loved spending time with the geese and pretty soon, all the animals in the surrounding farms knew that there was a pig learning to do farm chores who would probably avoid being killed and cut up for bacon and ham. They were all happy for Sammy.
After one particularly hard day taking care of the geese, a day in which Sammy had to scare off several eagles and one hawk, Sammy came home to find the farmyard empty. He wandered around, calling out for his friends, but nobody answered. He noticed that the barn door was shut and he heard some rustling sounds inside. He snuck around to the back and slipped inside a small hole. There he found the farm animals, crowded around in a circle and talking to each other.
“So you’re going to ask Sammy, then?” said one of the sheep. Sammy heard a small squeaky voice say, “Yes!” Sammy pushed his way to the front. There he saw his sister Tammy. Sammy hadn’t seen her since he had been brought to the farm. He gave her a big hug.
“Tammy? What are you doing here?” he asked.
Tammy said, “They sold all of us, all our brothers and sisters and me, too, but there was a loose board in the side of the slaughterhouse truck. I kicked it out, squeezed through the hole, and, when the truck slowed down, I jumped off. I heard that you were safe here. So I wondered if . . . if maybe you could help me learn how to do some work on the farm, so that I can live a long time, too.”
“Oh, I see,” said Sammy, “And what is it that you want to do exactly?” Tammy smiled. “I want to be a house pet. After all, pigs are smarter than dogs, and dogs learn how to be good house pets. If a dog can do it, why can’t I?”
Sammy knew that being a house pet would be difficult for a pig, but he remembered that a pig herding geese had been something that everyone else had said was impossible. And so, he agreed to help Tammy become a pampered house pet, and the two snuggled in the warm barn, laughing and telling stories until they fell asleep.
(Pause here and ask your child what he or she thinks is going to happen in the story. “Have you ever heard of anyone keeping pigs as pets?” “Do you think Tammy can really become a house pet?” “What would you say to Tammy if she told you she wanted to be your house pet?”)
Farmer Jack wasn’t surprised to find Tammy trotting around after Sammy. He knew that pigs were smart and he suspected that animals on his farm had a way to communicate with the animals on other farms. He checked with the other farmers, and no one was missing a pig. He didn’t think to call the slaughterhouse. Farmer Jack was surprised, however, to find Tammy trying to get him to play with her. But Farmer Jack was busy. He had no time for play.
Tamy was discouraged. But Sammy knew the value of trying again in a different way. “Why not try to win over Mrs. Jack instead?” He asked. “It’s the start of strawberry season, and she’ll be outside everyday picking berries for her jams.”
“What’s the point? If Farmer Jack doesn’t care about me, why would she?” Tammy said sadly.
“You just have to practice, get confident. Believe in yourself and what you can do!” Sammy said and suddenly the front door to the farmhouse opened. Mrs. Jack walked outside with a big basket, ready to pick some strawberries. Sammy nudged Tammy.
Tammy made her way over to Mrs. Jack. At first Mrs. Jack tried to shoo Tammy away, but Tammy kept trying and didn’t give up. If Mrs. Jack dropped a berry, Tammy picked it up with her mouth and put it in the basket. She chased away bees and flies. Pretty soon Mrs. Jack realized what a sweet pig Tammy really was. Her small snout could even reach and pick the berries that Mrs. Jack couldn’t find. The two worked together all day, picking ripe red strawberries.
The next morning, Mrs. Jack went back into the garden with an empty basket. She knelt down to start picking, but stopped and stood back up. “Little pig!” she called. Tammy’s ears perked up, and she trotted right to Mrs, Jack’s side. The two worked away at the strawberry patch. Mrs. Jack even scratched Tammy behind the ears.
Farmer Jack came to see how Mrs. Jack was doing, and was surprised to see the little pig working away by her side. “Well, who do we have here?” he asked with a grin. “You’re not the only one with a pig for a helper!” she laughed. Tammy smiled. Deep in her heart she knew that she was well on her way to becoming a house pet. “Oink, oink, oink!” Tammy snorted. Mrs. Jack chuckled and gave Tammy a kiss on her head.