The Gruffalo

The Gruffalo

infobox Book |
name = The Gruffalo

image_caption = First edition cover
author = Julia Donaldson
illustrator = Axel Scheffler
country = United Kingdom
language = English
series =
genre = Children's
publisher = Macmillan
pub_date = 23 March 1999
pages = 32
isbn = ISBN 0-333-71093-2
followed_by = The Gruffalo's Child

"The Gruffalo" is a children's book by writer/playwright Julia Donaldson and illustrated by Axel Scheffler, telling the story of a mouse taking a walk through a deep, dark wood. The book has sold over 3.5 million copies, has won several prizes for children's literature, and has been made into a West End and Broadway play.

"The Gruffalo" was initially published in 1999 in the UK by Macmillan Children's Books (ISBN 0-333-71093-2) and first printed as a 32-page hardback edition, followed six months later by a paperback edition and later by a small-format board book edition. It is intended for young readers aged from three to seven, and is about 700 words long. It is written in rhyming couplets, with a certain amount of repetition but variety within that repetition.


The protagonist of "The Gruffalo" is a mouse. The story of the mouse's walk through the woods unfolds in two phases; in both, the mouse uses cunning to evade danger.

The mouse goes for a walk in the forest and on his way encounters several dangerous animals (a fox, an owl, and a snake). Each of these animals, clearly intent on eating the mouse, invites him back to their home for a meal. The cunning mouse declines each offer. To dissuade further advances, he tells each animal that he is going to dine with his friend, a gruffalo, whose favourite food happens to be the relevant animal. The mouse describes the outlandish features of the gruffalo's monstrous anatomy. Frightened that the gruffalo might eat them, each animal flees. The mouse gloats to himself; he knows the gruffalo is a fictional monster:

: "Silly old fox/owl/snake, doesn't he know?": "there's no such thing as a gruffalo!"

After he has seen off the last animal, however, the mouse is shocked to encounter a real gruffalo, bearlike and hideous and with all the frightening features the mouse "thought" that he was inventing. True to his reputation, the gruffalo threatens to eat the mouse, but again the mouse is cunning. He tells the gruffalo that he, the mouse, is the scariest animal in the forest. Laughing, the gruffalo agrees to follow the mouse as he demonstrates how everyone is afraid of him. The two walk through the forest, encountering in turn the animals that had earlier menaced the mouse. Each is terrified by the sight of the pair and runs off, and each time the gruffalo becomes more impressed with the mouse's apparent toughness. Exploiting this, the mouse threatens to eat the gruffalo, who himself flees.

The story is based on a traditional Chinese folk tale of a fox that borrows the terror of a tiger. Donaldson was unable to think of rhymes for "tiger" so invented one for "know" instead. [,6000,1292836,00.html] []


"The Gruffalo" won the gold award (in the 0–5 years category) of the 1999 Nestlé Smarties Book Prize. It won the 2000 Nottingham/Experian Children's Book award, and the "Blue Peter" Best Book To Read Aloud award. The audio version won the Best Children's Audio award in the Spoken Book Awards.

It was the UK's bestselling picture book of 2000 and has gone on to sell over 3.5 million copies in 31 editions worldwide. Translations include Irish , Scottish Gaelic, German ("Der Grüffelo"), Italian ("A spasso col mostro"), French ("Gruffalo") and Hebrew ("Trofoti").

Further Gruffalo products

The book was initially sold as a small (roughly A5) boardbook, and later as a larger (roughly A4) paperback version. An audio book version, narrated by Imelda Staunton, was released in 2002, and a jigsaw book version (ISBN 1-4050-3496-3) was published in 2004. The book is also sold packaged with a gruffalo soft toy. At some point in the print run of the hard cover paper page book the dialog was subtly changed. There are two different ISBN numbers for the book. However, the older ISBN number that relates to the original text is no longer available.

The "Gruffalo song" was released with the audiobook, as a standalone CD single, and on a musical CD with other songs from Donaldson's books.

The book was made into a 50-minute musical stage play by the Tall Stories theatre troupe, first performed at Chester Gateway Theatre in 2001, performed by a cast of 3 (the mouse, the gruffalo and the predators, with the latter two taking turns as narrator). It came to London's West End in July 2005, when it opened at the Criterion Theatre. The play has toured the UK, including a stint at London's Royal National Theatre, and visited overseas venues such as New York City (Broadway) and Warsaw. Andrew Lloyd Webber's Really Useful Group made a DVD version of the Tall Stories stageshow.

Donaldson and Scheffler's sequel, 2004's "The Gruffalo's Child" (which tells the story of the gruffalo's child, warned by its parent of the terrifying mouse) won the "Best Children's Book" award in the 2005 British Book Awards. The Tall Stories theatre troupe is preparing a play of the sequel for a tour in 2007.


* [] , the book's website
* [ the author's website]
* [ The Gruffalo play] , from Tall Stories
* [ Julia Donaldson video podcast] , the author discusses The Gruffallo on []
* [,12668,861603,00.html Review] of a 2002 performance at the Soho Theatre, "The Guardian", 17 December 2002
* [,,14936-1702714,00.html Review] of the Criterion staging, "The Times", 22 July 2005

External links

* [ Review of the book]
* [ Really Useful Group's page on their film version of the play]
* [ ESL resources for primary school teachers.]

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