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The Gruffalo

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The Gruffalo
Fairuse Gruffalo.jpg
The first edition.
AuthorJulia Donaldson
IllustratorAxel Scheffler
CountryUnited Kingdom
GenreChildren's fantasy
Publication date
23 March 1999
Followed byThe Gruffalo's Child 

The Gruffalo is a British children's picture book by writer and playwright Julia Donaldson, illustrated by Axel Scheffler, that tells the story of a mouse, the protagonist of the book, taking a walk in the woods. The book has sold over 13 million copies,[1] has won several prizes for children's literature, and has been developed into plays on both the West End and Broadway and even an Oscar nominated animated film.

The Gruffalo was initially published in 1999 in the United Kingdom 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.


A mouse walks through the wood and encounters predators (first a fox, then an owl, and finally a snake). Each of these animals, clearly intending to eat the mouse, invites him to their home for a meal. The cunning mouse declines each offer and uses clever tricks to evade danger and dissuade further advances. He tells each animal that he plans to dine with his friend, a "Gruffalo"; a monstrous creature whose frightening features he describes. He tells them the Gruffalo's favourite food is the relevant animal. Frightened that the Gruffalo might eat them, each animal flees. Convinced the Gruffalo is fictional, the mouse gloats thus:

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

However, after getting rid of the last animal, the mouse is shocked to encounter a real Gruffalo – with all the frightening features the mouse thought that he was inventing. 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 wood. Laughing, the Gruffalo agrees to follow the mouse as he demonstrates how feared he is. The two walk through the wood, encountering in turn the animals that had menaced the mouse. Each is terrified by the sight of the pair and escapes to his home – and each time the Gruffalo becomes more impressed with the mouse's apparent toughness. Exploiting this, the mouse threatens to eat the Gruffalo, who flees; leaving the mouse to eat a nut in peace.

The story is based on a Chinese folk tale of a fox that borrows the terror of a tiger. Donaldson was unable to think of rhymes for "tiger" so instead she invented a word that rhymes with "know".[2][3]


The Gruffalo won the gold award (in the 0–5 years category) of the 1999 Nestlé Smarties Book Prize. It was the UK's best-selling 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.[4] In November 2009 the book was voted "best bedtime story" by listeners of BBC Radio 2.[5] In a 2010 survey by UK charity Booktime, the book came first in a list of children's favourite books.[6]


The Dean Heritage Centre in the Forest of Dean, England was given permission by author Julia Donaldson, illustrator Axel Scheffler and the publisher's Macmillan Children's Books, London, UK, to create a "Gruffalo trail" within the national park.[7]

During the time that Julia Donaldson lived in Bearsden, Gruffalo sculptures were installed around Kilmardinny Loch using natural materials, such as a beech tree trunk for the largest one.[8]


The Gruffalo has sold over 13 million copies in 59 editions worldwide.[1] Translations include:

Versions and products[edit]

The book was initially sold as an A4 paperback book in 1999, and later as a smaller A5 board book version in 2002. An audiobook 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.[citation needed]

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.[citation needed]

Donaldson and Scheffler's sequel, 2004's The Gruffalo's Child (which tells the story of the gruffalo's daughter, warned by her father of the terrifying mouse) won the "Best Children's Book" award in the 2005 British Book Awards.

A Gruffalo Woodland Trail has been created at the Dean Heritage Centre, Soudley in the Forest of Dean, UK. The trail depicts the scenes from the book and has been carved by local chainsaw artists out of local redwood. Other Gruffalo-themed woodland walks in Great Britain include Kilmardinny Loch in Bearsden[10] (mentioned above), Mount Vernon Park in Glasgow,[11] Ardkinglas in Argyll,[12] Whinlatter Forest Park in Cumbria,[13] and several locations managed by Forestry England.[14]

A rideable 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[citation needed] but was rejected by the show's judges.

Donaldson and Scheffler have collaborated on many other titles; some feature cameos from the Gruffalo in other guises,[15] including as Christmas tree decoration in Stick Man, a drawing by a child in The Snail and the Whale and a fish in Tiddler.

A commemorative UK 50p coin featuring "The Gruffalo" was issued in 2019.[16]



The book has been adapted into a 27-minute animated film,[17] which was broadcast on BBC One in the UK on 25 December 2009.[18] This version features Robbie Coltrane in the title role, James Corden as the mouse, Helena Bonham Carter as the mother squirrel narrator, and Rob Brydon as the Snake.[19] The production was animated at Studio Soi[20] in Germany and produced through Magic Light Pictures.[21] The film also has the voices of John Hurt as the Owl and Tom Wilkinson as the Fox. It was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Short Film (Animated) on 25 January 2011. The film was also nominated for a BAFTA in 2010.[22]


The Gruffalo has been adapted for the stage by Tall Stories theatre company, premiering in 2001. The production has visited the West End for the last five years, including a staging at the Lyric Theatre, London during Christmas, most recently 2014. The Tall Stories production has also toured the UK and internationally, including performances at Sydney Opera House in September 2011 and in the UK most years. It returned to the Lyric Theatre, London in Summer 2015.

The Gruffalo has also been adapted for the stage by Meneer Monster. The production has toured around The Netherlands and Belgium in 2014, and will continue in 2015. The Meneer Monster production performed around 250 times. In June 2014 Meneer Monster made a South African version of the Gruffalo with twenty Market Theatre Laboratory students in Johannesburg.


Chessington World of Adventures opened a ride called 'The Gruffalo River Ride Adventure', using the original water transit system used on The Bubbleworks Ride.

Media appearances[edit]

The book appears in the Doctor Who series 5 episode "The Hungry Earth": Mo reads it to his son, then later by himself before the "strange event" happens.


  1. ^ a b Marshall, Konrad (27 February 2015). "The Gruffalo author Julia Donaldson reveals where ideas bubble up from". The Canberra Times. Fairfax Media Ltd. Retrieved 2 March 2015.
  2. ^ McCrum, Robert (29 August 2004). "Interview: Julia Donaldson". The Guardian. London.
  3. ^ Information on Julia Donaldson, children's author and creator of The Gruffalo
  4. ^ h2g2 - 'The Gruffalo' and 'The Gruffalo's Child' - Children's Stories
  5. ^ BBC - Radio 2 - Jeremy Vine - Jeremy Vine's Bedtime Stories
  6. ^ "Gruffalo tops list of children's favorite books". BBC News. 18 October 2010. Retrieved 19 October 2010.
  7. ^ "Dean Heritage Centre". Dean Heritage Centre. Archived from the original on 12 January 2013. Retrieved 5 April 2012.
  8. ^ "Finding the Gruffalo (in Bearsden…)". Glasgow With Kids. 29 October 2015. Retrieved 27 February 2018.
  9. ^ The Gruffalo, Zangak Publishing House
  10. ^ the Gruffalo (in Bearsden…), Glasgow With Kids, 29 October 2015
  11. ^ Vandals steal Gruffalo trail statue after ransacking east end community space, Glasgow Live, 26 December 2019
  12. ^ The Gruffalo Trail,
  13. ^ Whinlatter Forest, Braithwaite, Cumbria, Kids Days Out, 16 August 2015
  14. ^ Gruffalo orienteering forest courses, Forestry England
  15. ^ "Julia Donaldson & Axel Scheffler Character Cameos".
  16. ^ "Royal Mint". Retrieved 12 May 2019.
  17. ^ "Gruffalo to menace Christmas TV". BBC. 22 June 2009. Retrieved 27 December 2009.
  18. ^ "The Gruffalo, Christmas Day, BBC1, 5.30 pm". Daily Mirror. UK. 24 December 2009. Retrieved 27 December 2009.
  19. ^ "The Gruffalo BBC One Christmas special". BBC. 22 June 2009. Retrieved 27 December 2009.
  20. ^ Studio Soi
  21. ^ Magic Light Pictures – The Gruffalo
  22. ^ "The Gruffalo Oscar nomination". Licensing Today Worldwide. 28 January 2011. Retrieved 20 February 2011.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]

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