Luke Holm earned bachelor degrees in English and Philosophy from NIU. He is a middle school teacher and a creative writer.
The Three Billy Goats Gruff
"The True Story of the Three Billy Goats Gruff" is a fractured fairy tale based off of original Norwegian fairy tail "The Three Billy Goats Gruff," collected by Peter Christen Asbjornsen and Jorgen Moe in their Norske Folkeeventyr published in the early 1840s. The original story tells of three billy goats in an "eat me when I'm fatter" plot. The smaller billy goats trick the troll, while the largest pokes out the troll's eyes and crushes him to bits under his hooves.
Like "The True Story of the Three Little Pigs," a fractured fairy tale told by Jon Scieszka and illustrated by Lane Smith, "The True Story of the Three Billy Goats Gruff" narrates the story from the original antagonist's point of view. Toll, the toll troll, and his family are harassed by the three billy goats. Joining fractured fairy tale universes, Toll is friends with Al, the wolf from "The True Story of Three Little Pigs." Together, the two teach the billy goats a lesson once and for all.
The True Story of The Three Billy Goats Gruff
Many people don’t realize that the classic fairy tales are told from a biased perspective. I won’t name names, but certain narrators made a lot of money casting many of us as the antagonist and some lame underdog as the hero. Now, I’m not saying that all villains were wrongly depicted, but I will tell you that a lot of us were given a bad name and we don’t deserve it.
For example, everyone’s heard about those noisy porkers who were eaten up not too long ago by my buddy Al. If you did your research, you’d find that Al did nothing wrong. It was those hairy pigs who were the real jerks of the tale. Of course, no one talks about his side of the story. Parents go on letting their children believe that wolves are evil and pigs are princes. Do you let your kids read this garbage? I suppose you don’t believe me. Why would you? You probably don’t realize that you’ve been brainwashed to believe a bias. Here, I’ll show you what I mean.
I remember the day my wife made an honest troll out of me. It was the happiest moment of my life. She looked absolutely radiant as she walked down the mucky aisle with long lengths of mangled hair braided across her scaly scalp. A delicate necklace of toad tongues was strung around her neck and she had rolled a customary wad of maggots into the pockets of her cheeks.
The scene was so breathtaking that I almost began to cry. It was exactly how I had always imagined it would be. My only regret was that my mother, bless her soul, wasn’t around to see her baby join the ranks of happily married trolls that scattered our dark, dense forest.
Near the end of the ceremony, I was told I could kiss my bride. Leaning forward, my wife followed the tradition of passing half of the maggots into my mouth. It was a superstitious custom that predicted a long and happy marriage. Everyone cheered as we shared our first meal together. I gazed longingly into her oily, black eyes. I was in love.
It had been a small wedding with only a couple creatures able to attend. Al was one of them. He was and is my best friend, despite what they say about him slaughtering those nasty pigs. As a whole, the tenants of our forest have gotten a bad rap. People tend to use us as a punching bag in their twisted tales of deception. Rarely does anyone learn who we really are.
In truth, we live simple lives. What we do have, we share. We are a close knit community of outcasts just trying to get by. That night the forest was alive and filled with love. We romped around in my in-law’s swamp, and danced until morning broke over the horizon. Then we went to sleep.
The next day, my wife and I found a small nook under a rickety old bridge that we thought would be perfect for raising a family. A stream of clear, fresh water ran right outside our home and we had easy access to the road whenever we needed to travel. I decided to take up the job of maintaining the bridge, ensuring its reliability for weary travelers.
Every time someone passed by, we would hear the noisy hooves of horses trotting above and I would jump outside to collect a toll. Why a toll? Well, it should be obvious that it costs money to ensure proper upkeep of the bridge. It was a nominal fee, and I don’t think anyone ever minded. More so, they just wanted to get to the other side and get on with their adventures.
Married life was good and, within a couple of months, we had two little babies running around and getting into all sorts of trouble. One day, they wandered into a farmer’s field and started pulling at the beards of some of the sleeping billy goats. The old grumps chased them right into a tree and wouldn’t let them down for over an hour.
When I heard about this, I was furious. I marched right over to their pasture to give them a piece of my mind. But when I got there, they were as rude as could be and threatened to chase me into a tree if I didn’t leave them alone.
“You can call us Gruff,” they chanted. “You might as well leave, unless you like to play rough.”
It was three against one and I’ve always been more of a pacifist than a fighter, so I headed back to the woods where creatures were friendlier and the air wasn’t so hot.
That evening, I was so frustrated that I shut down the entire bridge. I didn’t want to see anyone and that was the best way to deter strangers. Al, however, was no stranger. He saw my sign and decided to stop by to see what was wrong. I told him all about the rude goats from before and he insisted that someone should teach them a lesson. I told him that wasn’t necessary. I’d just warn my children to stay away from their fields so we could avoid them altogether. Even though Al was as upset as I was, he agreed to take the high road and stalked off to his neck of the woods.
After that day, we avoided the goats and life carried on as usual. I opened up the bridge and started teaching my children the fine art of being a toll troll. We made friends with some of the neighbors down the creek and my family eventually forgot about the incident on the farm.
The next summer, there was a terrible drought all throughout the valley that killed most of the farmer’s crops and grass. The forest had stored great wells of water to draw from, but the rest of the countryside was hurting pretty bad. That year, I made more money than I had throughout my entire career combined! Everyone wanted to pass over my bridge so as to get to the lusher parts of the forest. We felt very blessed.
One afternoon, I heard a group of beasts stumbling over my bridge.
Trip trap, trip trap, trip trap.
I jumped out to take their toll. When I came outside, I was shocked to see the billy goats from years before. Their tiny hooves wedged between the boards, causing them to trip and get stuck every couple of steps. I hoped they didn’t recognize me, but they turned up their noses and started to make fun.
“It’s the ugly troll,” one mocked, pointing to my nose. “It looks like you tripped and fell on a pole.”
“How about his eyes,” the other one jeered. “I can’t tell if he is scared or if he’s surprised!"
The third one continued and wouldn’t let up. “Remember when he ran away like a mouse? Maybe we should give him our grandma’s old blouse.” They continued like this for some time until I mustered up the courage to collect their fee.
They bahed loudly at my request, in annoying, segmented sounds. “You expect us to pay you to cross this death trap? It’s boards are so old, they look like they’ll snap. This is the worst bridge we have ever dared cross. Step aside now or you’re going to get tossed.”
I got embarrassed. I stuttered as I tried to explain how hard I worked to maintain the bridge. The ugliest goat lowered his head and knocked me clear off the platform. I splashed down into the water and they laughed as they stumbled across the remaining parts of the bridge to the other side.
From the water, I could see my family peering down at me from our nook. I felt like a failure, and didn’t feel worthy to manage the bridge any longer. Embarrassed, I ran deep into the forest to be lost and forgotten by those who mattered in the world.
Alone, I was bitter and hated the billy goats. They had taken from me everything that was good in my life; my family, my job, my dignity. I felt as if I would and could never face the world again. I was too ashamed to return home and I began to wander aimlessly into the thicker parts of the woods.
It became dark out and I got lost. As I crashed through the forest, I heard a great howling sound not too far away. I ran toward it and burst into a clearing. Al jumped ten feet backwards and yelped like a pup.
“Whoa, Toll,” he cried, trying to act cool but clearly shaken up. “You can’t be runnin’ around, creating such fright. Whatcha doin’ out here, in the middle of the night?”
I explained the incident with the billy goats.
“They didn’t hurt you, did they?” he asked.
I told him just my ego.
“Well, that ain’t right. How’s an honest creature supposed to make a livin’ around here with beasts like that trampin’ around? It’s time to stand up and hold our own ground. We’re going to take revenge, my dear troll. I’ll make those goats pay the dearest of tolls.” With an ivory grin, he tilted his head back and bayed at the moon.
We stayed up all night and created a plan to teach those billy goats a lesson once and for all. In the morning, we made our way back to my bridge and I told my family what we were going to do. It was well known that the billy goats were terrified of Al, especially after the whole incident with those bearded pigs.
My wife argued that this might set a bad example for the kids, but I explained to her that sometimes a troll has to stand up for himself. She understood, but worried that I might get hurt. The wonderful thing about this plan, I explained, was that it only required that I do my job and nothing more. After our next encounter, those bully goats would be gone forever.
It didn’t take long for the billy goats to come staggering over my bridge once again.
Trip trap, trip trap, trip trap.
As expected, they kept getting their hooves stuck between the boards. This was part of the plan. I swung up to the top of the bridge and kindly insisted that they pay the toll.
“We’ve had enough of your tired tones,” one said. “Now step aside or I’ll smash your bones! We are the billy goat brothers called Gruff. Let us pass now or life’s gunna get tough.” He lowered his head and started to stomp the ground.
I was terrified, but I knew that this was my last chance to reclaim my honor. He tried to charge at me, but he was too far away and clumsily stuttered toward my end of the bridge.
Before he reached me, Al jumped to my rescue, towering well over the three goats. They recoiled in fear. They turned to run, but their hooves were held fast by the bridge. They bayed for someone to save them, but no one would heeded their cry.
“You know,” Al snarled. “I haven’t had a good meal since those three little porkers. I still remember how tender they’d been. What do you say I bring you the same end?”
He licked his lips and prowled slowly toward the terrified goats. They stumbled backwards trying to get away, but became so stuck that there was no escape.
I heard one of my children gasp and realized that they were watching this scene take place. What kind of father was I to let them see such violence? Just as Al was about to strike, I yelled for him to "Stop!"
Al hesitated and turned with a wild fire in his eyes. I said, "Think of the kids," and begged him to not let them see such things. He softened for a moment and I knew that he had changed his mind.
Turning to the goats, he growled, “I’ll free you for a friend, just one single time. But if I see you again, your beards will be mine.” He let out an ear shattering howl and lunged off into the woods.
The billy goats were frozen with fear. I walked over to them and gently released their hooves from the gaps of my bridge. Once they were free, they turned and stumbled back to their pasture as quickly as they could.
My wife came up behind me and wrapped her long arms around my portly belly. One of my children asked if Al was going to eat the billy goats and I told him no, Al was a vegetarian.
He asked, “What about the three little pigs, though?”
I told him that that was just a story someone made up to scare little kids. Al wouldn’t hurt a fly.
You see, people are always making up stories. I later heard a rumor that the billy goats had stabbed out my eyes and that they were the real heroes. Imagine that! As gruesome and entertaining as that might be, I can assure you that my vision is absolutely clear.
I see why people and creatures make up such fanciful tales. It’s because they are scared of the truth. Well, in this case, it’s the truth that set them free. Just ask those three billy goats. That is, if they’ve got the guts to tell you what really happened that fateful day; on the bridge, in the woods, with the troll, and his best buddy, Al.
© 2018 JourneyHolm