The story so far
The Gruffalo is one of the world’s best-loved monsters. Since it was first published in 1999, the award-winning story of his encounter with the little brown mouse in the deep dark wood has continued to delight children and adults the world over.
Created by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler, the most successful author/illustrator partnership in picture book publishing, The Gruffalo is a modern classic, and both mouse and monster have become stars of stage and screen as well as story-time favourites.
It all began when Julia Donaldson came across a Chinese tale about a clever girl who tricks a hungry tiger into believing she is the Queen of the Jungle and scares him away. Julia thought this would make the basis for a good picture book story, but couldn’t think of anything to rhyme with ‘tiger’ – so she created her own monster whose name had to end in O, to rhyme with ‘doesn’t he know’. In fact, if you’ve ever wondered why the Gruffalo looks the way he does, that also has a lot to do with things that just happened to rhyme, like toes and nose, and black and back.
But of course the Gruffalo as we know him didn’t come fully to life until Axel Scheffler picked up his pencil and drew him. He might have looked quite different; at first, Axel sketched out a monster who was even more frightening than the one we know! He also thought about making the animals wear clothes, but in the end this didn’t happen, perhaps to Axel’s relief: imagine trying to dress a snake!
Five years after the publication of The Gruffalo, The Gruffalo’s Child was introduced to the world, starring in her very own adventure – and proved an instant hit. It was voted The Children’s Book of the Year at the British Book of the Year Awards in 2005.
The Gruffalo, too, has won many awards, including the Nestlé Smarties Prize and the Blue Peter Award for The Best Book to Read Aloud – and in 2009 was voted the UK’s favourite bedtime story. But Gruffalo fans are everywhere: the story has been translated into over 100 languages, including Thai, Russian, Scots and Maori . . . and for Classics scholars, there is even a Latin edition.
Truly an international phenomenon, both books have been made into hugely successful films, featuring the voices of Robbie Coltrane, James Corden, John Hurt and Helena Bonham Carter, as well as being adapted for the stage. And of course you can find a multitude of monstrously good Gruffalo gifts and merchandise in the Gruffalo Shop.