A mouse took a stroll through a deep, dark, wood. A fox saw the mouse, and the mouse looked good.
“Where are you going to, little brown mouse? Come and have lunch in my underground house.”
“It’s terribly kind of you, fox, but no. I’m having lunch with a Gruffalo.”
“A Gruffalo? What’s a Gruffalo?”
“A Gruffalo, why, didn’t you know? He has terrible tusks and terrible claws, and terrible teeth in his terrible jaws.”
“Where are you meeting him?”
“Here by these rocks. And his favourite food is roasted fox.”
“Roasted fox? I’m off,” fox said. And quick as the wind, he turned and fled.
“Silly old fox, doesn’t he know? There’s no such thing as a Gruffalo.”
[ … ]
But who is this creature with terrible claws, and terrible teeth in his terrible jaws? He has knobbly knees and turned out toes, and a poisonous wart at the end of his nose. His eyes are orange, his tongue is black and he has purple prickles all over his back.
“Oh help, oh no, it’s a Gruffalo!”
“A mouse? A fucking mouse? How can that little bastard be the scariest thing in this wood?” The Gruffalo stomped on a vole, crushing its tiny body under the heel of his ferocious foot. It didn’t make him feel any better, despite the satisfying crunch. His mood really was as black as his tongue.
“I had him. A couple of slices of bread, a little brown sauce, and a little brown mouse. I could have eaten him. My favourite food, too. How the hell did I get outsmarted by my favourite food?”
All was quiet in the deep, dark wood, save for the Gruffalo beating a path back home through the undergrowth. Then after a bit, the Gruffalo heard a rustling in the trees ahead. It was fox, with a sly grin on his face.
“Why hello”, said fox, “he he. Did you just get your ass kicked by a mouse? Seriously, I was ready for eating that wee shrimp, but I already had a lovely lunch planned, and I didn’t want to spoil my appetite. Not that the wee squirt would have put me off my lunch much. There’s so little meat on him, he’d hardly count as a snack.”
“You’d take on the mouse, would you?” said the Gruffalo, trying to put on a brave face. “I’ve seen him rip the entrails from an owl and wear them as a souvenir.”
“You’re having me on”, said the fox, but he didn’t sound quite so sure. Admittedly, he hadn’t seen Owl for a while. “Anyway, I’m off for that lunch.”
“Not so fast”, said the Gruffalo. “My favourite food might be a little brown mouse panini, but I’m hungry and I’ll settle for a fox Bento box.” Quick as the wind, he lashed out at Fox with his terrible claws, and ripped open his jugular. Fox twitched for a few seconds, then lay still.
“Ach, sod it, scrawny wee fox, there’s hardly any meat on him – looks like he’s barely even been living on mice lately”, thought the Gruffalo. “I can’t be arsed dragging him back and preparing Bento Box Fox.” And with two crunches of his terrible teeth in his terrible jaws, fox was gone.
On through the wood the Gruffalo stomped. His mood still hadn’t improved when he heard a hoot in the trees ahead. The story of Owl’s demise was overstated – there he was, swooping overhead. He crapped pellets on the Grufallo’s head, hooting, “Why Gruffalo, hello! Loser. I must have eaten more mice than you’ve had hot dinners!”
“Come down here and say that, Owl, I’ll show you. Brown mouse baguette might be my favourite snack, but I’d settle for disembowelled owl.”
Owl was feeling cocky, so he landed on a nearby branch, still hooting raucously. “I can’t believe you got beat by that mouse. How stupid are you?”
The Gruffalo snapped and lunged at Owl, catching him by the talons. Startled, Owl lashed out with his beak, and pecked blindly. He caught the Gruffalo right on the wart at the end of his nose. The wart burst, spreading a thick, green, liquid across Owl’s eyes and feathers.
“Aargh, it burns, it burns!” screamed Owl. He wasn’t kidding. Owl’s feathers had started smoking, and turning into a bubbling goo. “I can’t see, I’m blind, I’m blind!” screeched Owl in a panic. The corrosive poison in the Grufallo’s wart was fast acting. Minutes later, Owl was nothing but a bubbling, oozing mess.
“What a waste”, said the Gruffalo, nursing his now wart-less nose. “I could have coped with a bowl of owl soup, but I’m not eating that. It looks like melted ice cream…” The Gruffalo continued tramping through the deep, dark wood, leaving the owl puddle behind. After a while, he heard a slithering, and a sniggering, in the leaves ahead.
“Ss-ss-ss-ss”, sniggered Snake. “Ssseriously. A mouse? How sssad are you?” Snake disengaged his lower jaw, spreading his mouth open wide, fangs glistening. But he couldn’t keep it up for long – he was still creasing himself laughing. “I’ve eaten bigger things whole.”
The Gruffalo was sick of this humiliation. He had to cover it up, make sure nobody could tell the story again. “There’s nothing worth eating on him, but I could always use a snakeskin belt”, he thought. He kicked out and his turned out toes caught snake, stunning him. He lifted snake up and, holding him behind him like a towel, rubbed him up and down the purple prickles on his back. The sharp prickles tore at snake’s skin, quickly ripping him in two.
“Well, that was silly”, thought the Gruffalo, “he’s too small for a belt, but I could always make a pair of garters.”
“What a day”, thought the Gruffalo miserably. “I’m humiliated by that bastard mouse, mocked by Fox, crapped on by an owl and sniggered at by a snake. What have I become?” He couldn’t face going home. Surely the tale would have spread – after all, he hadn’t yet dealt with the source. He still had this nagging doubt, “but what if he really that scary?”
It was inescapable.
All was quiet through the deep, dark, wood. The mouse spotted the lifeless body of the Gruffalo, swinging from the branch of a tree, hanging by a makeshift snake rope. He felt a small twinge of guilt. But the final hemp dance of the Gruffalo had caused a nut to fall from the tree, which took the mouse’s mind off the horrific scene. The nut? The nut was good.