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Three Billy Goats Gruff

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"Three Billy Goats Gruff" Norwegian: De tre bukkene Bruse is a Norwegian fairy tale The fairy tale was collected by Peter Christen Asbjørnsen and Jørgen Moe in their Norske Folkeeventyr, first published between 1841 and 1844 It has an "eat-me-when-I'm-fatter" plot Aarne-Thompson type 122E The first version of the story in English appeared in George Webbe Dasent's translation of some of the Norske Folkeeventyr, published as Popular Tales from the Norse in 1859


  • 1 Plot
  • 2 Adaptations and cultural references
    • 21 Audiobooks
    • 22 Comics
    • 23 Films
    • 24 Games
    • 25 Literature
    • 26 Music
    • 27 Radio productions
    • 28 Stage productions
    • 29 Television
  • 3 References
  • 4 External links


The story introduces three male goats, sometimes identified as a youngster, father and grandfather, but more often described as brothers In other adaptations, there is a baby or child goat, mama goat and papa goat "Gruff" was used as their family name in the earliest English translation, by Dasent; the original Norwegian version used the name "Bruse"

In the story, there is almost no grass left for them to eat near where they live, so they must cross a river to get to "sæter" a meadow or hillside on the other side of a stream in order to eat and fatten themselves up To do so, however, they must first cross a bridge, under which lives a fearsome and hideous troll, who is so territorial that he eats anyone who tries to cross the bridge

The smallest billy goat is the first to cross and is stopped abruptly by the troll who threatens to "gobble him up!" However, the little goat convinces the troll to wait for his big brother to come across, because he is larger and would make for a more gratifying feast The greedy troll agrees and lets the smallest goat cross

The medium-sized goat passes next He is more cautious than his brother, but is also stopped by the troll and given the same threat The second billy goat is allowed to cross as well after he tells the troll to wait for the biggest billy goat because he is the largest of the three

The third billy goat then gets on the bridge and is stopped by the hungry troll who threatens to devour him However, the third billy goat challenges the troll and knocks him off the bridge with his horns The troll falls into the stream and is carried away by the current From then on the bridge is safe, and all three goats are able to go to the rich fields around the summer farm in the hills, and they all live happily ever after

Adaptations and cultural references


  • Scholastic Corporation produced an audio recording in 1963, with music composed and directed by Arthur Rubinstein, narrated by Bob Thomas, and cover illustration by Susan Blair and Ellen Appleby It was first made available as a phonograph record, and then on Compact Cassette
  • TaleThings offers a storybook program "app" for iOS and Android mobile devices that is a humorous retelling of the classic tale It features animated visuals and narration in any of six languages


  • Bill Willingham's 2002 comic book Fables contains mention of the goats, and the troll is an ongoing character


  • In the Norwegian film Trollhunter 2010, the titular character attempts to bait a troll by placing three goats on a bridge
  • Mike Flanagan's Kickstarter-funded film Absentia 2011 is a modern-day retelling centered around a tunnel, a series of abductions, and a troll-like creature
  • "Team Juan" at the Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and Design at the University of Dundee produced a version with a Spanish twist on the story: The 3 Billy Piñatas 2015


  • The tale also comes into play during the first King's Quest 1983 game A troll is guarding a bridge Graham needs to cross The optimum solution to the puzzle is to lure a goat over to the bridge Upon seeing the troll, the goat is angered, and butts it into the river below
  • The tale also comes into play during Magicland Dizzy 1990 A troll is guarding a bridge Dizzy needs to cross He says the only way to cross is to give him 30 diamonds before kicking Dizzy in the air away from him, but this is a red herring, as there are 30 in the whole game with one behind him and many in the Ice Palace afterwards The only solution to the puzzle, is to cut the rope holding the goat using the dagger, before hitting him with the stick to make him charge towards the troll Along his way, the goat butts the troll into the air
  • The tale is also included in the video game Simon the Sorcerer 1993
  • In the video game The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim 2011, near a place called Purewater Run, there is a stone bridge near a waterfall If it is the player's first time there, they will see three goats; upon looking under the bridge, they will find a dead troll
  • In 2016 Saturn Animation Studio has produced an interactive adaptation of Three Billy Goats Gruff for mobile devices
  • A game adaptation for tablets and mobile phones is developed by the Norwegian game studio Agens The game was made with support from the Norwegian Film Institute in 2011


  • An abbreviated version of this tale is used in "3-Part Puzzle" by Gordon R Dickson, translated into an ET language as "The THREE Name Domestic Animals Name" and the horrendous, carnivorous, mythical creature The ET Envoy is puzzled over the glee that children show over this "simple and boring" "lesson in tactics"
  • Stephen King's It 1986 alludes to this story
  • Golden Books did a version of the story that was similar to the book The only difference is that when the troll is washed away by the stream, he is later mentioned to have moved into a cave
  • Terry Pratchett's Discworld novel Lords and Ladies 1992 refers to this story, as does a joke made in the first chapter of Monstrous Regiment 2003
  • Neil Gaiman adapted the story for Snow White, Blood Red 1993, an anthology of children's fairy tales retold for adults In Gaiman's version entitled "Troll Bridge", the troll approaches a young boy who has crossed his bridge and demands to "eat his life" The boy eventually persuades the troll to wait until he has lived a little more, after which he will return to the bridge The goats in this adaptation are represented by the protagonist as a child, a teenager and finally a middle-aged man The story was nominated for a 1994 World Fantasy Award
  • The Billy Goats Gruff make an appearance in Jim Butcher, book Small Favor 2008, the tenth novel of the Dresden Files series
  • Andri Snær Magnason's retells the story in the children's book Tímakistan 2013 This variant features a kid, its mother, and her husband When the mother goat tells the troll to eat her husband instead of her, "the troll lost his appetite 'What's the world coming to', he cried 'The kid tells me to eat its mother, and she tells me to eat her husband! Crazy family!'" The troll goes home leaving the goats uneaten
  • The tale is the inspiration of Kevin P Futers's novel The Adventures of the Billy Goats Gruff, which is set in seventh-century Northumbria and includes goats are named Edgar, Bert, and Frith


  • The tale appears to be cryptically referenced in the song "John Brown" 1988 by indie-rock band Masters of Reality The lyrics are usually understood to be "John Brown, bring him down; pull his body to the ground Left him up, for long enough; let me be the Baby Gruff"
  • James Scott Balentine composed Kinderkonzerts, a chamber music setting for string quintet and narrator, with the text adapted by Stephanie Sant’Ambrogio, for the Cactus Pear Music Festival
  • The song "Much Chubbier" by Nerdcore rapper MC Frontalot on his album Question Bedtime 2014 is a retelling of the story

Radio productions

  • A version of the story written and performed by Frank Luther was often played on the BBC Radio programme Children's Favourites, in the 1950s and early 1960s

Stage productions

  • Gwen Edwards adapted the story into a popular children's musical called Billy, Goat, Gruff: The Musical summer 2007, at Barter Theatre in Abingdon, Virginia
  • Lazy Bee Scripts published Billy Goat Gruff 2009, a simple play for young children
  • A musical adaptation by British composing team George Stiles and Anthony Drewe was commissioned by the Singapore Repertory Theatre It premiered there in 2015 and is making its North American debut in 2017 at the Aurora Theatre in Lawrenceville, Georgia


  • In 2008, the BBC created a modern adaptation for its Fairy Tales TV series In this, the story was given a twist in that the troll was presented as a tragic, cruelly maligned victim:

The troll character is dirty and smelly and everybody is frightened of him, and I think that heightens the pathos of the ending, because it’s a witch hunt, without any evidence

  • In a segment about "patent trolls" on Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, it is referenced with "trolls actually do something, they control bridge-access for goats and ask people fun riddles"


  1. ^ Encyclopedia of American folklore: Facts on File library of American literature Author: Linda S Watts Publisher: Infobase Publishing, 2007 ISBN 0-8160-5699-4, ISBN 978-0-8160-5699-6 page 383
  2. ^ Answerscom: Asbjørnsen and Moe
  3. ^ Dasent, G W Dasent "The Three Billy-Goats Gruff" Popular Tales from the Norse p 313 
  4. ^ "The Goats that Got Away" The story’s original Norwegian title in full a bit less snappy than the English one we know was De tre Bukkene Bruse, som skulde gaa til Sæters og gjøre seg fede which roughly translates as ‘The three Billy-Goats Gruff who were going to mountain pastures to fatten themselves up’ ‘Bruse’, which is the name of the goats, was translated as ‘Gruff’ in the first English version, and this translation has stuck ever since but in fact the word refers to the hairy tuft on a goat’s forehead 
  5. ^ Three Billy Goats Gruff on YouTube
  6. ^ Scholastic Records CC 0612, Long Play 33-1/3 RPM
  7. ^ http://wwwtalethingscom TaleThings
  8. ^ Dickson, Gordon 1988 Beginnings Baen Books pp 51–53 ISBN 0-671-65429-2 
  9. ^ Neil Gaiman, "Smoke and Mirrors"
  10. ^ 'Þá missti tröllkarlinn matarlystina Hvert er heimurinn að fara hrópaði hann Kiðlingurinn segir mér að éta móður sína og hún segir mér að éta manninn sinn Hvílík fjölskylda!'; Andri Snær Magnason, Tímakistan Reykjavík: Mál og Menning, 2013, p 131
  11. ^ "Masters of Reality "John Brown" lyrics" geniuscom 
  12. ^ Balentine, James Scott composer & Sant’Ambrogio, Stephanie "Kinderkonzerts" Cactus Pear Music Festival Guildhian Music CS1 maint: Uses authors parameter link
  13. ^ "Children's Favourites" Whirligig-tvcouk 2005-11-28 Retrieved 2010-06-09 
  14. ^ "It's curtains up on Barter's '07 season" GoTricitiescom Archived from the original on 2007-05-02 
  15. ^ "Billy Goat Gruff" Lazy Bee Scripts 2009 
  16. ^ Horne, Mathew & Deacon, Michael Postscript May 1, 2008 "Once upon a time" Daily Telegraph CS1 maint: Multiple names: authors list link

External links

  • Norwegian version, ePub and audio books in Speex format available
  • SurLaLune website: annotated Three Billy Goats Gruff in the version from Peter Christen Asbjørnsen and Jørgen Moe, Popular Tales from the Norse George Webbe Dasent, translator Edinburgh: David Douglass, 1888
  • Three Billy Goats Gruff with other regional variations and 122E stories

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Three Billy Goats Gruff

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