The smell of the Three Little Pigs - and the Big Bad Wolf...
An olfactory exhibition is currently running in Norway.
Based on the story the Three Little Pigs, children follow a trail through the exhibition where scent boxes are used to illustrate different parts of the narrative.
It begins with a mini pig farm, where the first box holds the realistic smell of pigs, pee, mud, and poop. The children, who are kindergarten age, can open and close the boxes as they like, and are free to decide how much and how long they want to smell each odor.
Then they come to the first pig's house - the house of straw, which is pink and furnished with mirrors and soft cushions. Inside is a scent box that holds the smell of berries and fruit. The second is a wooden house, which is is green and scented with pine trees and wood. The third - the brick house, contains a child-size stove on which there is a box that smells of hot chocolate, milk, confectionary and cinnamon.
There is also another odor - which appears here and there in the space; the smell of wet dog. This unpleasant pong represents the Big Bad Wolf, which the children can escape by going into the houses of the Three Little Pigs, and smelling the odors they contain. In this way an olfactory dimension is developed to underline the moral of the story; hard work and prudence bring the best rewards.
But it's debatable whether the different rewards enjoyed by the pigs - or the levels of security afforded by the houses they built - are accurately reflected by the odors they contain. I'm not sure there is a clear hierarchy between fruity, forest and gourmand scents, and it's easy to imagine that some may prefer natural to domestic smells, or non foody smells to tasty ones. We are talking about an audience of 3 - 4 year olds though, and some allowance should be made for the immaturity of their olfactory taste and any consequent preference for concrete over abstract odours.
This is a fascinating idea none the less, and I'd like to see more olfactory adornment to storytelling. How about Dr Jekyll and Mister Hyde, set in his home town of Auld Reekie?
The exhibition is part of the Sensory Books project run by the University of Stavanger, which aims to incorporate the sense of smell into children's education.
Professor Natalia Kurcirkova said
Smell is neglected in education. When asked what something smells like, the typical response is it "smells good" or "smells bad". The next generation needs to be better at naming the many smells and scents we have around us.