Literature: Three Billy Goats Gruff
"The Three Billy Goats Gruff" is a traditional Norwegian Fairy Tale, collected by Peter Christen Asbjørnsen and Jorgen Moe, concerning three billy goats (that's a term for a male goat) who are siblings (or in other variants a grandfather, father and son) and a troll who lives under a bridge. The goats want to cross the bridge to get to the plentiful grass on the other side.The youngest and smallest goat crosses the bridge first. (At this point, if reading to a small child, it is traditional to say "trip trap, trip trap". Please imagine your own trip-trappings for the sake of efficiency.) The troll pops up and says; "Who's that trip-trapping over my bridge?"The goat pleads with the troll to let him go because he's only small and skinny, but his brother is much bigger and meatier. Stupidly, the troll agrees to this, and lets the little goat go on his way.Next the second goat comes along, and the process is repeated. The medium-sized goat tells the troll to wait for his bigger brother. (At this point, we can only hope that these goats knew their eldest sibling would be capable, as otherwise, serious questions must be raised about their filial loyalty) The troll, greed getting the better of him, agrees to wait for the third goat.The third goat, unfortunately for the troll, turns out to be a badass among goats, and when the troll pops up to say his catch phrase, trounces the troll and throws him off the bridge. The goats all then live happily on the other side of the bridge. The End.The moral of the story, presumably, is that the grass actually is greener on the other side, patience is not a virtue, violence solves everything, pass the buck if you're scared of facing a problem, and you shouldn't mess with goats. A Family-Unfriendly Aesop perhaps, it still remains a very popular story.
This story provides examples of:
- Always Chaotic Evil: Trolls, presumably.
- Alternate Character Interpretation: One can read the fable with the troll as the protagonist, which can change the moral to something along the lines of "you shouldn't just keep waiting for something better to come along."
- An Aesop: In addition to the four mentioned in the article, and the one just above this entry there are others.
- The eldest sibling should protect the the younger ones.
- If you're not strong, be clever..
- Be careful crossing bridges.
- Don't pass on something perfectly good now for something better in the future — you know what you have, but not what you might get.
- Badass: The third goat.
- Rule of Three
- Talking Animal
- Troll Bridge
- Youngest Child Wins: Inverted.
- Though there is one version where the biggest brother actually starts off, and the youngest brother knocks the troll clear out of the story.
This story is referenced in:Film
- In The Troll Hunter, Hans ties three increasingly large billy goats to the top of a bridge as bait for a troll.
- In The Dresden Files, the Gruffs are the Summer Court's, more specifically Titania's, elite wetworks assets, and they always operate in teams of three. Their primary duty is killing trolls and in the Dresdenverse, trolls are tough, even by the standards of the supernatural. Eldest Brother Gruff is capable of pimp-smacking fallen angels without breaking a sweat.
- It's worth noting that the gruffs, as per the tale, get progressively bigger, up to the second eldest "Tiny" Gruff, who's twelve feet tall. Eldest Gruff, the most powerful by a landslide and a half, is five feet tall and capable of destroying Fallen angels and killing Senior Council members in fair combat.
- Discworld's trolls have a longstanding rivalry with goats.
- "Troll Bridge", a short story by Neil Gaiman, is a variation in which, instead of a succession of goats, there's a single human who twice manages to persuade the troll that if it lets him go, there'll be more of him to eat next time he crosses the bridge. The third encounter, of course, goes rather differently.
- Used, very appropriately, in John Barth's Giles Goat Boy. The protagonist, who has been raised from childhood among a herd of goats, is visited by an old lady who reads him the story as an opening gambit in her attempts to reacculturate him to humanity.
- King's Quest I, where you have to lead a billy goat along to a Troll guarding a bridge.
- The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion: An Easter Egg to be found is that one of the bridges in the game has a dead troll under it, with a rather pathetic note on its corpse, referencing this story.
- The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim also has it's own Easter Egg on the tale here.
- In Simon the Sorcerer, you can find a troll blocking a bridge with a picket line while engaged in negotiations with the goats, who happen to be his employers.
- Animaniacs has its own version with the Warners as the goats.