How the Porcupine Got His Quills

By Jessica Faught

In 1990-91, Jessica was a seventh-grade student in Bonnie Farrar's class at Williamsburg Independent School in Williamsburg, Kentucky. Her short story won first place in the short story competition, and grand prize for the best written piece at a Fantasy Fair sponsored by the project Journey Through Fantasy Literature, in May 1991. Reprinted in AppLit with permission, from Journey Through Fantasy Literature:  A Resource Guide for Teachers. Vol. II, pp. 91-92. Ed. Roberta T. Herrin. Developed during a Teachers Institute sponsored by East Tennessee State University and the National Endowment for the Humanities, 1989-91.

See also:
Student Activities on Folktales
Appalachian Animal Tales Index
Index of Student Writing in AppLit
Complete List of AppLit Pages on Folklore (more tale texts, bibliographies, study guides, lesson plans)
How the Cricket Got Its Churp is another pourquoi tale by a student.
AppLit's pages on Cherokee Tales and Tall Tales give other examples and background on pourquoi tales like this one.


Porky Porcupine was sitting at his "thinking seat," a branch in a huge fallen pine tree. He was thinking about how defenseless porcupines were. They had sharp teeth, but that was about it. Fur wasn't much help when it came to defending yourself.

"I wish we had a special weapon," said Porky aloud. "The skunk has his odor to scare away predators, and the turtle has his shell to hide in, but us porcupines don't have anything!" (You see, at the time, porcupines didn't have quills.

Porky thought and thought, but he couldn't come up with any good ideas. It was starting to get dark, so Porky went on home to his snug little house in the forest. It had begun to rain but Porky didn't think much about it as he scampered on home.

The next morning it was still raining. Now Porky was a little worried. There were large puddles gathering, and he knew it would soon be hard to find food. Porky and the other porcupines all ate vegetation and tree bark. Since they couldn't climb trees, they didn't often eat tree bark, though. Porky decided he had better go look for food now, in case of a flood. He got his umbrella and went to go look for some "green vegetation." Already food was getting scarce. He got a reasonable amount of food and started on his way home.

Then, all of a sudden, a mountain lion appeared in the way of Porky's path.

"Oh, no!" thought Porky. The mountain lion was his worst enemy. He had injured several porcupines in the past. But to Porky's dismay and relief, the mountain lion didn't even seem to notice him. Porky took advantage of this and ran off down the hill to his hole. He had made it! Wow!

He got to thinking later that night as it rained harder and hard though, "What if the lion had seen me? What could I have done?" This scared Porky because he would have been helpless. He probably couldn't have done anything to save himself from the evil lion. He decided to call the head porcupine for a meeting of the Prickly Porcupine Personnel the next morning. He wanted to discuss with the other porcupines their persistent problem.

The next morning Porky got up early to go to the meeting. It hardly helped at all. No one came up with any good ideas.

Meanwhile, the rain was getting harder. At times, there was even hail. Porky was running out of food again. The wind was blowing fiercely now, too. Some animals were left homeless because of the wind damage.

Porky finally got up the courage to go out and hunt for food again. He was desperate. All he had left was four dried leaves, a dandelion, and a tree branch. He had never seen a storm that bad in his life. He called the Prickly Porcupine Personnel and all the porcupines went out to look for food together.

The weather was absolutely terrible, especially the wind. The porcupines trudged along with Porky in the lead. There was thunder and lightning, too. The porcupines had sacks with them for food, but not one porcupine could fill his bag even halfway. Finally the porcupines gave up and started their journey back. They were about halfway there when they heard a loud CREAK! The porcupines looked up and realized three giant pine trees were about to land on them. There was a cry of fear from someone and then a huge thud as the trees fell on the porcupines.

"Ouch!" they screamed.

Porky climbed out from under the tree and went to help his friends. To his surprise, none were hurt! But as Porky took a closer look he realized all the porcupines (including himself) had pine needles stuck in their backs!

"They're pine needles!" said Porky, half laughing, half crying. It didn't really hurt, but the idea of pine needles stuck in his back wasn't very comforting, either.

"Hey!" said Porky. "We have something to defend ourselves with now!"

"Yeah!" cried all the porcupines.

"Now if we are attacked by an animal, we can just poke them with our needles. It will definitely wound them," said Porky.

Porky slept well that night (except when his needles poked at the waterbed, and he had to spend an hour and a half sopping up water with a towel).

The next morning he was glad to see that it had stopped raining. He could go get more food, and if he ran into any enemies, he could poke them with his needles, which he'd decided to call quills. Basically, the storm had been worth it! It had changed the porcupine forever!


This page created 8/19/02 by Tina L. Hanlon   |   Site Index   |   Top of Page   |   Last update  09/07/02

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