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The Gruffalo

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The Gruffalo
Fairuse Gruffalo.jpg
First edition cover
Author(s) Julia Donaldson
Illustrator Axel Scheffler
Country United Kingdom
Language English
Genre(s) Children's fantasy
Publisher Macmillan
Publication date 23 March 1999
Pages 32
ISBN 0-333-71093-2
OCLC Number 59379845
Followed by The Gruffalo's Child

The Gruffalo is a children's book by writer and playwright Julia Donaldson, illustrated by Axel Scheffler, that tells the story of a mouse's walk in the woods. The book has sold over 10.5 million copies, has won several prizes for children's literature, and has been developed into plays on both the West End and Broadway.

The Gruffalo was initially published in 1999 in the UK by Macmillan Children's Books ( ISBN 0-333-71093-2) as a 32-page hardback edition, was followed six months later by a paperback edition, and subsequently by a small-format board book edition. It was penned for readers aged three to seven, and is about 700 words long. It is written in rhyming couplets, featuring repetitive verse with minor variance.


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.

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

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

After being quit of the last animal, the mouse is shocked to encounter a real gruffalo – with all the frightening features the mouse thought that it was inventing. The gruffalo threatens to eat the mouse, but again the mouse is cunning: it tells the gruffalo that it, the mouse, is the scariest animal in the forest. Laughing, the gruffalo agrees to follow the mouse as it demonstrates how feared it is. 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, which 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.


The Gruffalo won the gold award (in the 0–5 years category) of the 1999 Nestlé Smarties Book Prize. It was the UK's bestselling picture book of 2000, 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. In November 2009 the book was voted "best bedtime story" by listeners of BBC Radio 2. In a 2010 survey, the book came first in a list of children's favourite books.


The Gruffalo and has sold over 3.5 million copies in 31 editions worldwide. Translations include Irish , Scottish Gaelic, German (Der Grüffelo), Italian (A spasso col mostro), French (Gruffalo), Russian, Hebrew ("Trofoti"), and Turkish (Tostoraman).

Versions and products

The book was initially sold as a small (roughly A5) board book, 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 hardcover paper page book, the dialogue 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 Gateway Theatre (Chester) 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.

The Tall Stories play was reprised in Australia by Christine Dunstan Productions in 2009, returning to both Australia and New Zealand in 2010. Currently, this is the only reprisal approved of by Tall Stories.

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.

A ridable wheeled Gruffalo children's suitcase is manufactured for Trunki; the case had been featured as a pitch idea on the entrepreneur game show Dragons' Den- and rejected by the show's judges.

Donaldson and Scheffler have collaborated on many other titles; some feature cameos from the gruffalo in other guises.


The book has been adapted into a 30-minute animated film, which was broadcast on BBC One in the UK on 25 December 2009. This new version features Robbie Coltrane in the title role and James Corden as the mouse as well as Helena Bonham Carter and Rob Brydon. The production was animated at the award winning Studio Soi in Germany and produced through Magic Light Pictures.

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