Thursday, 15 July 2010

Pretty Rough for the Billy Goats Gruff


Another twisted fairy story. This time I've just taken the story of the Billy Goats Gruff and updated it  a little, relating what really would have happened if the troll hadn't been quite as stupid as he was in the original tale.

(Twisted Fairytales III)

Pretty Rough for the Billy Goats Gruff

There were once three brothers called ‘The Billy Goats Gruff’.

Now if truth be told, they probably weren’t actually brothers. It was certain that they were at least half brothers, because nobody could deny that they’d all come out of the same mother, but apart from the fact that goats don’t usually breed for life, all the other goats knew that their mother, Nanny Goat Gruff had particularly loose morals, even for a goat. It was therefore almost certain that the three brothers all had different fathers, which would account for the vast differences in their sizes.

Had Nanny Goat Gruff ever possessed a book of baby names together with the ability to read it, and if she could have been bothered, she’d probably have named her sons something like Frank, Simon and Gavin, but not having the book, the talent or the inclination, she left her sons unnamed. The other goats recognised them more from their appearance than anything else and since goats as a species are not renowned for their imagination, they became known as ‘Big Billy Goat Gruff’, ‘Middle Billy Goat Gruff’ and ‘Little Billy Goat Gruff’.

One day, as Little Billy Goat Gruff munched on the dry grass, he gazed across the river to the lush, greener pasture on the other side, and longed to be able to graze there. He knew there must be a way across, because on Sundays the shepherd and his dogs would lead the sheep through this very field and head upstream, and a little later, the sheep would appear grazing in the field over on the other bank. Now he had no idea whether sheep could swim or not, but the very fact that they went upstream implied to him that the chances of crossing the river were better there. Little Billy Goat Gruff was the clever one amongst the three of them; his brother Middle Billy Goat Gruff would never have thought of that, and his other brother Big Billy Goat Gruff probably couldn’t be arsed to even consider it.

There was talk amongst the other goats of a bridge upstream. It was said that it was guarded by a troll who was known to eat anything that attempted to cross his bridge, including goats. Nevertheless, Little Billy Goat Gruff told his brothers that he intended to cross over and off he went on his way upstream.

When he arrived at the bridge, he started to cross, but underneath, the troll that guarded it watched him until he reached the halfway point, then suddenly jumped up and blocked his way.

“Where do you think you’re going boyo?” asked the troll. “This is my bridge, and nobody crosses it without my permission.”

Little Billy Goat Gruff was a little frightened by the big ugly troll standing over him, but being a clever goat he decided he’d try to talk his way out of it. “I’m off to the opposite bank to graze on the green grass,” he said. “Look how small and thin I am. I need to eat that lush green grass, so that I can grow as big as my brothers.”

“Well I don’t think I’ll let you,” said the troll, “I’m hungry you see, and I’ve had barely a scrap to eat since breakfast time. I could let you cross, but I think I’ll eat you instead.”

Little Billy Goat Gruff had to think quickly. “Why bother with a little thing like me?” he asked, “I’d hardly be more than a snack for you. Why not wait until my brother tries to follow me across then you can eat him instead? There’s much more meat on him.”

The troll thought for a while. He looked up at the sun and noticed that it wasn’t at its fullest height yet. “Well,” he said, “I don’t usually have my lunch until about noon, and that won’t be for an hour or two yet, but I do have a terrible nagging hunger.”

“Oh,” said Little Billy Goat Gruff, “My brother is sure to be along by noon. He’ll be here well in time for your lunch.”

The troll stroked his chin as he considered his options. Little Billy Goat Gruff smiled inwardly to himself. He was sure he’d talked himself out of trouble.

“You’re right,” said the troll after spending a moment or two considering. “I’ll have your brother for lunch when he comes along.”

Little Billy Goat Gruff started as if to continue his journey across the bridge, but the troll stopped him, grabbing him around the throat.

“However,” he said, “I am terribly hungry, and though you speak truthfully when you say the little meat you have on you is unlikely to fill me, you will make a tasty snack to keep me going until lunchtime.”

“Oh shit!” thought Little Billy Goat Gruff as the troll dragged him under the bridge. There was a little pleading and complaining on the part of the goat for a short time, and then the only sounds coming from under the bridge were the sounds of the troll chomping flesh and crunching bones followed after a while by a satisfied burping sound.

Just before noon, Middle Billy Goat Gruff approached the bridge. He stood at one side and peered across to the green grass on the opposite bank. He saw no sign of his brother. Middle Billy Goat Gruff wasn’t as clever as his brother, but he was braver, though he was also a little cautious.

The troll watched the goat from under the bridge. So this was the promised brother was it? Well, there was certainly more meat on it, that was true. He realised that this goat wouldn’t be as easy to overpower as its smaller brother had been, but he was still hungry after his snack and had set his heart on a proper meal. As the goat stepped onto the bridge, the troll jumped up from underneath and barred its way.

“And where do you think you’re going, my lad?” he asked the goat. “This is my bridge, and if you want to cross it you’ll have to take me on first.”

Middle Billy Goat Gruff looked the troll up and down. He looked like a tough one this troll. The goat was pretty sure that he’d have had a chance of beating him, had he managed to surprise the troll first; getting a good butt of the horns into the creature’s crotch before it noticed would certainly have given him an advantage.

“You think you’re big enough to stop me, do you?” asked Middle Billy Goat Gruff. “You seriously think you’re hard enough to take me?” This was a technique the goat had used before in sparring fights with other goats. He found that it often helped to appear confident and tougher than he really was; that way his opponents started to doubt their own abilities and even began to fear him a little.

“Oh, I’m sure I am,” said the troll. “I’m sure I can stop you, certain I can take you, and I’m even positive I can eat you.”

At this point Middle Billy Goat Gruff realised that his blustering technique hadn’t worked this time. “Sod it,” he thought, “I might have to fight him after all.” What would his clever little brother do in this situation? Of course: he’d bluff his way out of it.

“Why try to make a meal out of me?” he said to the troll. “First of all, you can be certain I’ll make a fight of it, so you won’t best me easily, and if you’re going to work that hard for a meal, wouldn’t it be better to make it a feast? My brother will be along in a moment or two. There’s a lot more meat on him. The meal you get from him will be worth the struggle.”

The troll looked at Middle Billy Goat Gruff. The animal had a point: it did look as though it’d put up an awful struggle for the size of the meal it’d make. After a while he said: “Well the thing is, as much as I appreciate you’re likely to put up a fight, and even though I believe you that your brother may have a lot more meat on him, I also realise that your brother is likely to be an even tougher opponent than you.”

Middle Billy Goat Gruff didn’t like the sound of this. He braced himself ready for combat.

“However, I do like a challenge,” the troll continued, “and normally I’d relish the idea of going up against your big brother. But I ate your little brother, not two hours ago and to be honest, it took the edge off my appetite. I’m still hungry, but I think the extra meat on your brother would probably go to waste, so I’ll just settle for you I think.”

“OK then you big ugly bugger: Have some of this,” shouted Middle Billy Goat Gruff as he charged the troll catching him full force in the middle of the belly. The troll grabbed the goat’s horns and wrestled him to the ground. The pair of them rolled over a couple of times and gradually the troll managed to drag the goat under the bridge. The sounds of the struggle continued for a while and then there was silence; a moment later, the only sounds coming from under the bridge were the sounds of troll jaws munching on goat flesh.

Later, the troll snoozed under the bridge; he’d enjoyed his two course meal. Goat meat wasn’t one of his favourites, but it was palatable. Tomorrow was Sunday, and the men and dogs would be leading their sheep across his bridge. Perhaps if he looked out for stragglers from the flock he could catch a couple of stray lambs. Yes, lamb would be lovely for his Sunday lunch.

Suddenly the bridge above him shook. He peered out from underneath it and saw the biggest goat he’d ever seen standing on his bridge. So this was the third brother was it? It was enormous this one, almost as large as a small bull. Its legs and shoulders were covered with muscle; its back was straight and strong, and its horns looked like deadly weapons as they curved upward and backward from the top of its massive skull. Steam appeared to come from its nostrils as it breathed and the whites of its eyes were marbled with blue and red veins as it gazed across the bridge to the other bank. The bridge shook again and then again as Big Billy Goat Gruff slowly walked across the bridge unchallenged.

“I’m buggered if I’m going up there,” thought the troll. “I wouldn’t want to face that big ugly sod at the best of times, and certainly not when I’m struggling with a full stomach.”

Big Billy Goat Gruff walked over the bridge, and the troll fell back to his snoozing, thinking about tomorrow’s lunch.

Big Billy Goat Gruff slowly munched the lush green grass. He was the quiet one of what had once been the three brothers. Not so much strong and silent: more quiet and timid. He may have looked like he was as hard as nails, but in reality, he was as soft as shit, and if he had come to blows with the troll from under the bridge, it’s a fair bet that the troll would have absolutely twatted him with very little effort at all.

The moral of this story is that you don’t have to be big and tough to get on in this world, you just have to look the part. Sometimes appearances can be deceiving, and if people think that you’re harder than you are, it can often prevent you from getting beaten, or even eaten for that matter.

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