September 16, 2011

The Three Billy Goats Gruff, By Sasha Davydova

Sasha Davydova: My name is Sasha Davydova, and I am a student at the NYC LAB School. I moved from St. Petersburg, Russia when I was ten, moved back for two years at the end of middle school, but settled permanently in New York City (and the LAB school!) at the end of my freshman year (’09).  I read a lot, I write a lot, I draw a lot, I take pictures and drink peppermint tea, and I am not usually this depressing. J
That about sums it up.

Those damned mosquitoes. I rolled over to my other side. Urgh, another rash. Pain. Kept my eyes closed, struggling to hold on to the last flakes of deep, almost comatose sleep that leaves you more tired than you were before you lay your head to rest… but they are inevitably falling away – not unlike those large tufts of moss and fungus caking off the inside wall of my bridge.

Meeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeebzp. Meeeeeeep. Bzp.
I felt the insect crawling on me, searching for a place to settle and feed on. Slapping it away, I finally cracked open my eyes – only to withdraw further back into the wet hole that I call home. The sight of sunlight outside… Even seen from the darkest shade, it sliced painfully into my cataract-clouded eyes.

    My stomach rumbled in sync with the susurrus of running water. How many days went by since I had last eaten? I did not know. I burrowed deeper into the dirt and cradled myself in my own long, bony, scaly arms. Sigh. Just like my mother used to do, and although memories of her have long since had been veiled by a plant-like, solitary existence, echoes of past warmth set in a hint of a smile. A sneer, what it would have seemed like to anybody looking.
My murky, soiled grayish limb extended to touch the mold on the nearby wall. Mother… this is all had left of her. Home. And I, fading away like a ripple on my stream when it seeps into the ground.

Hours pass.

Trip, trap, trip, trap, trip, trap
I jerk awake from a hazy slumber and listen intently to the unfamiliar sound. Could it really be that something, or somebody was finally approaching this desolate place? My mouth watered, deteriorating muscles tensed.

Trip, trap, trip, trap, trip, trap
It was getting closer. I sucked in a deep breath.
“Who’s that tripping over my bridge?” I roared hoarsely.
The sound stopped.
I could hear the creature shuffling. It was now right above me. I could smell the warmth of its milky skin, teasing my nostrils with the promise of food – and delicious food at that – finally, after countless days of crippling hunger. The creature squeaked a reply in a tiny, but surprisingly calm voice. Its voice was so thin I could not hear it. Frankly, I did not give a damn.
“Now I’m coming to gobble you up,” I growled, heaving myself up with more difficulty than I’d like to admit to.
However, the creature’s words halted me to a stop.
“Oh, no! Pray don’t take me. I’m too little, that I am. Wait a bit till the second Billy Goat Gruff comes. He’s much bigger.”
I breathed heavily, anticipation clouding my mind, peeking through the cracks in the bridge at the animal. It was, in fact, quite skinny and unappealing. Skin and bones… No matter how much I craved to dig my teeth into its little neck, I stopped myself. Pray don’t take me… I withdrew back into the shadows.
“Very well… be off with you, little one.”
There was no need to take a life just yet. Better to have a chicken tomorrow than an egg now, like my mother used to say. Patience is key; and boy, if anything builds it, it’s living in a hole under a bridge without seeing the light of day for many years. I was prepared to wait.
Before long, another set of hooves was approaching from a distance. At this point, my mouth was salivating like never before. The sounds were definitely more solid, I could hear the substance of this one in its steps. I crept out of my hole and peeked through the cracks again. It was to the likes of the first one - white, stringy hair, though slightly bigger horns and some meat on its bones. This is it, just right for my meal. I got ready to spring. As the clacks reached me right overhead, I called out to the thing.

….Trip, trap, trip, trap, trip, trap
What just happened? I was utterly confounded. Why did I trust these strange animals?
My stomach protested violently to my reserve. This is it. Enough of waiting for the better meal. Greed is going to be the death of me. Whatever comes next, will not pass.
And then, the sounds came.
This was not purely trippity trappiting anymore. These steps echoed with authority, these clacks held a power unfamiliar to me. I felt a chilling ripple of fear roll through my body.  Nevertheless, I called out – for what I strangely knew was going to be the last time.
“Who’s that tramping over my bridge?”
“It is I! The Billy Goat Gruff,” the creature called out in a raspy, guttural voice. I snarled quietly from my shadows. I could sense that my greed had brought me to my end.  Regardless… I mustered up the remnants of my once-petrifying roar.
“Now, I am coming to gobble you up!”
No more waiting, no more darkness. No more hunger. I leaped onto the bridge, and it creaked and groaned under the weight of our two bodies. This animal was something. It had rich, thick white fur, huge curled horns, a long snout and a devilish beard, sharp hooves that left severe markings on the weakening wood, red glowing eyes. Its body was huge, strong, taut, with ripples of muscle and fat rolling under thick skin. We faced each other for a fraction of a moment, though it seemed like a longer time than all my lonely nights under the creaking bridge combined.
It cried out in a singsong voice, making it all the more terrifying. I closed my eyes. In my gut, I knew I wasn’t going to eat anybody today. Or ever again, really.

"Well, come along! I’ve got two spears,
And I’ll poke your eyeballs out at your ears;
I’ve got besides two curling-stones,
And I’ll crush you to bits, body and bones."

…And then, it came. It kicked me into the ground, foaming at its mouth. I did not feel its hooves shredding and crushing my tendons. I did not feel its teeth ripping and chewing on my already ruptured skin. I did not feel it gutting me with its horns, its eyes wild as they seeped my pain, its ears twitching with satanic joy as they bathed in my last cries. I did not feel it stabbing out my eyes, but as I last saw the last of the sun, crying blood, I thought of my mother and my home that I have failed to protect.

I’m sorry.

No doubt, fade out…
Snip, snap, snout.

The tale’s told out.

Image: I couldn't find an out-of-copyright image to go with this tale, a surprise since it is so well-known. So here is picture by Richard Doyle, where the goats are having a lovely time! KW


  1. I’ve always loved to argue the moral of this story.

    On the one hand it is talking about greed and ending up with nothing because you wanted more, bigger, better. A person should be thankful for what they have and not want more than their fair share. No one likes a braggart. Even though we may cheer people on publically it is human nature to not want people to have more than we do.

    On the other hand; aren’t good things supposed to come to those who wait? We teach our children to be patient and steadfast, that anything worth having is worth waiting for. So why is the troll punished for waiting. Is it because of his reasons? Because he is waiting for a bigger payout? Doesn’t everyone deserve the best they can get? Why should you setting for less?

    I do agree that it is a good tale about not being too greedy, which is a lesson everyone needs to understand. But I feel that the tale of the Dog and the Bone is much better at conveying that message. The dog, after all, is already in possession of one bone but loses it when he tries to get a second one – which was in reality only the reflection of his own bone in the water.

    That being said I really did enjoy this version of the tale. From my memory of older versions we are cheering on the goats and cursing the troll under the bridge. At least I was.

    This version gives us another moral to consider: Is it fair to deceive someone, to trick them into getting what you want? The smaller goats did trick the troll into waiting because they were pretty confident that the biggest of them could take on the troll and win. I found myself feeling sorry for the troll who was only doing what is in his nature to do – eat things. Does the troll have less right to live because he is a carnivore than the goats do because they are herbivores?
    - Freyja of Sessrumnir

  2. "The Three Billy Goats Gruff" was my favorite story as a child. I liked the different point of view in this version. I always remembered thinking that the troll was a villainous character, when he was really only doing what's natural to him. If he was really a villain, he would have murdered each billy goat that crossed, but he only wanted to eat one. Since he hadn't had food in so long, he was willing to wait to eat the largest, so he can probably overindulge, just as many people would do that have been without food and suddenly have an over abundance of food. As far as the billy goats go, I don't feel as if they did anything wrong. They out witted the troll, without lying to him. I don't really blame them for what they did. It just reminds me of three brothers, where the younger two know that the oldest brother can take care of himself and protect them too. Therefore, the youngest two save themselves and leave the largest, oldest brother to take care of the threat.

    ***Angella M.***