A ‘Verse a Day’ fairy tale told in who knows how many parts…
Do you remember the Billy Goats Gruff, and that fearsome Troll lurking under the bridge they wanted to cross? And that tricky decision to Remain or to Leave to where the grass is always greener. One by one they tried, each asking the Troll to spare them with the promise that a bigger, fatter prize was following behind. How’s that for brotherly love? Perhaps, today, those three brothers might appear something like the Sopranos, or some Goateed Peaky Blinders. Their voices in my head sound perfect when read with an accent from somewhere in deepest Yorkshire…
In a valley of green, back in Fairy Tale days,
Gangs of billy goats fought over which land to graze,
There were billy goats tough, there were billy goats rough,
But no goats were as bad as the Billy Goats Gruff.
These three billy goat brothers ate thistles and thorns,
And they butted their rivals with curly, sharp horns,
Growing fat in a field by a fast waterfall,
Where the thistles were thickest and richest of all…
But one dark autumn evening, the Gruffs felt a chill,
Looking over the valley from high on their hill.
“All our kingdom’s grown muddy!” one growled with a shiver.
“The grass looks much greener beyond the Great River.”
“My brothers! It’s time for us Gruffs to expand!
We must cross that Great River and claim our new land.
But there’s only one bridge, under which lives a troll,
And she’ll drown any strangers who can’t pay her toll.”
“Let me cross over first!” bleated Tiny Goat Gruff,
Who was youngest and smallest, but made of tough stuff.
He was tall as a wolf, with a beard of blood red,
And a hat with a crow’s feather perched on his head.
Tiny rolled out a motorbike, polished and black,
Started up the loud engine and climbed on its back.
And then, dipping his horns, gave his brothers a poke,
Before roaring away in a great cloud of smoke.
Tiny stopped at the crossing and stroked his red beard.
On the bridge, in the moonlight, a figure appeared.
She was really quite small, dressed in rags and old shoes,
And her bald head was covered with goat’s-head tattoos.
“Your whole business,” said Tiny, “is one we’ve admired.
But Gruff Brothers Inc. think it’s time you retired.
I’m taking your bridge, cos that grass looks much greener.”
He tried to look mean… but the Troll looked much meaner.
“My dear Tiny Gruff,” sighed the Troll, “Can you float?
Do you fly? Can you swim? Did you bring your own boat?
This stone bridge is my castle. This river’s my moat.
And we’re stronger by far than some hillbilly goat!”
“Take a look,” she went on, “at my inky-blue head,
Each tattoo shows the face of a goat that lies dead.
They all drowned in this river, one hundred all gone,
If you fight me, I’ll make you one hundred and one!”
Tiny’s hair stood on end, his legs started to shake,
And he bleated: “I think there has been some mistake.
I’m not worth all this bother, I’m just skin and bone.
Please await my big brother and leave me alone!”
“I will let you cross over my bridge,” hissed the Troll,
“If you leave me your bike and your suit as my toll!”
So, poor Tiny was stripped of his bike, suit and pride,
Before galloping off to the opposite side.
Text Copyright © Jason Hook 2019
Illustration Copyright © Christa Hook 2019