Story Cue Card



Bibliographic Information (best version for telling):  The Three Billy Goats Gruff.  In The Troll with no Heart in His Body: and Other Tales of Trolls from Norway retold by Lise Lunge-Larsen.  Boston:  Houghton Mifflin Company, 1999.


Ethnic Origin:  Norway


Running Time:  5 – 7 minutes


Power Center(s):  The story has three power centers.  Whether the emphasis is placed on the first, second or third power center depends on from whose point of view the story is told.  The first power surge occurs when the tinniest Billy Goat Gruff is driven by fear and hunger to outwit the Troll. The second power surge occurs when the middle Billy Goat Gruff is also driven by his fear and hunger to outwit the Troll.  The third power center occurs when the biggest Billy Goat Gruff is driven by hunger and a need to protect his brothers to rid his family forever of the hideous Troll.


Why I choose these power centers:  In order to enjoy telling this story, I had to understand why the Billy Goats Gruff decided to cross the bridge to go to the lush green meadow in the first place.  I decided that my Billy Goats Gruff had to be motivated by a very strong hunger.  This hunger then enables the tinniest and middle Billy Goat Gruffs to overcome their fears of the Troll and attempt to cross the bridge. I could just as easily have said the goats were motivated by greed for a better meadow but this idea did not appeal to me as much.  Also central to my telling of the story, is the notion that I am telling it from the point of view of the biggest Billy Goat Gruff.  Therefore the highest power surge occurs when he rids his family of the Troll forever.  This interpretation of the story helps me come to grips with the violence preformed by the biggest Billy Goat Gruff against the Troll.  The violence just does not bother me as much if the biggest Billy Goat Gruff is motivated by a need to protect his family (or even to fix what his family members have let slide).  A different teller could just as easily tell this story from the point of view of the tinniest Billy Goat Gruff, the middle Billy Goat Gruff, or even the Troll.


Characters:  Troll, tinniest Billy Goat Gruff, middle Billy Goat Gruff, biggest Billy Goat Gruff



1.   A mountain – (three Billy goats Gruff, of varying sizes, are on their way to a lush green meadow but must first pass over a stone bridge)

2.   Stone bridge – (tinniest Billy Goat is threatened by Troll)

3.   Stone bridge – (middle Billy Goat is threatened by Troll)

4.   Stone bridge – (biggest Billy Goat is threatened by Troll and fights back)

  1. Lush green meadow


Synopsis:  The three Billy Goats Gruff want to go to a lush green meadow.  In order to get there, they have to cross a bridge inhabited by a horrible Troll.  When the tinniest Billy Goat Gruff crosses the bridge he convinces the Troll that he, the tinniest Billy Goat, is much too small to eat.  The middle Billy Goat Gruff also convinces the Troll not to eat him because he is also too small.  When the Troll tries to eat the biggest Billy Goat Gruff, the oldest brother decides to rid his family of the Troll forever.  Once all three Billy Goats Gruff arrive in the meadow, they eat and eat until they become too fat to go home.


Rhymes/Special Phrases/”Flavor”:

Special phrases are used a lot in all the versions of The Three Billy Goats Gruff.  These special phrases are emphasized even more because they are repeated again and again.  The first special phrase, “tripp, trapp, tripp, trapp” is used to emulate the sound that the Goats hooves make as they cross the stone bridge.  One can experiment with how the phrase is said and turn it into something more like a sound affect.  The second special phrase that gets repeated over and over is used to describe the Troll.  The narrator says that the Troll had “eyes as big as saucers and a nose as long as a poker.”  Through facial expressions and voice intonation one can also experiment with this phrase.  The final special phrase is also a rhyme.  The line, “snip, snap, snout.  This tale’s told out!” is used to close the story.


Audience (why is this story appropriate for the audience? Developmental characteristics?):

One reason I chose this story for the preschool (3-5) age group is because in her book, Storytelling: Art & Technique, Ellin Green said it was appropriate for this age group.  One can also find justification for its use with this age group in the “Child’s Developmental Growth” handout.  In the Erik Erikson section it says that, “imaginative play helps children [in this age group] gain sense of the roles and institutions of society.”  In the story, place in family is very important.  The listener is taught that an elder family member will look out for him/her when something bad happens (like when a hideous Troll threatens to eat you).  This story also seems appropriate for this age group when one looks at the Abraham Maslow section.  The second need on Maslow’s hierarchy is a need for safety.  The story begins with “once upon a time…” and ends with “snip, snap, snout.  This tale’s told out” helps set the story in a make believe world as opposed to a present day world.  The fact that this story is clearly set out side of the present time should help a child in this age group feel safe even though the story does have a very violent ending.   According to Piaget’s developmental stages section, repetition is very important for the two to seven age group.  This story is full of repetition (i.e. “tripp, trapp, tripp, trapp” and “eyes as big as saucers and a nose as long as a poker”).  In the Charlotte Huck section of the handout, it says that children in this age group have a “short attention span.”  This story can be told well in five to seven minutes.  Ms. Huck also says that for this age group a “fantasy world is very real.”  Children 3-5 should love this story about talking Billy Goats and Trolls, things that are very much a part of a fantastical world.  In addition, Ms. Huck also says that children in this age group make “absolute judgments of right and wrong.”  This story will fit well into their need for no gray areas.  In The Three Billy Goats Gruff the goats are good, the Troll is bad, and everyone gets their just desserts (the goats get fat and the Troll gets thrown in the river).


Bibliographic Information on other versions/variants (at least two):  The Three Billy-Goats Gruff.  In The Random House Children’s Treasury told by Peter C. Asbjørnsen and Jørgen E. Moe.  New York: Derrydale Books, 1998.


The Three Billy Goats Bruse. In The Boy Who Ate More Than the Giant and Other Swedish Folktales retold by Ulf Löfgren.  New York: William Collins + World Publishing Company, 1978. (Swedish)


The Three Goats.  In Tales of Laughter: a Third Fairy Book edited by Kate Douglas Wiggin  and Nora Archibald Smith.  Garden City, NY:  Doubleday, Page & Company, 1927. (German)


Three Billy Goats Gruff.  In Once Upon a Bedtime Story retold by Jane Yolen  Honesdale, PA: Boyds Bill Press, Inc., 1997.


Brief comparison of all versions/variants in terms of language, rhythm, “tellability,” “flavor,” content, etc.  Stress the differences in style rather than those of content:

            I chose to include three versions and two variants in this cue card.  The Asbjørnsen and Moe, Lunge-Larsen, Yolen versions all tell basically the same story.  The Asbjørnsen and Moe version is probably the most famous version.  Most of the special phrases and rhymes occur in this version.  The Asbjørnsen and Moe version also adds a rhyme that does not appear in all the versions.  That rhyme is probably the most violent line in any of the versions and it reads:

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.

The Lunge-Larsen version expands a little upon the Asbjørnsen and Moe version while the Yolen version expands upon it a lot.  The Asbjørnsen and Moe version tells the basic story.  In the Lunge-Larsen version it is very clear that fear is motivating the tinniest and middle Billy Goats Gruff.  In the Yolen version the dialog and descriptions are developed a lot more than the other versions.  My favorite line from the Yolen version is:

Now, trolls may be mean.  And trolls may be green.  But trolls are also very, very stupid.

One can just hear the children squeal with delight when the word stupid is used.  In the Yolen version, it also becomes clearer that the Troll is being manipulated the goats.

I originally said I would tell this story because I knew it was appropriate for the age group.  I chose it because I was having trouble finding something that both I would enjoy telling and 3 to 5 year children would enjoy listening to.  Then one day I found the Jane Yolen version.  As I was reading the story to myself, I found that it had to be read out loud.  So I read it to my dog and he actually listened!  In Ms. Yolen’s version the characters are developed more than in any of the other versions or variants.  As I read the story out loud, I began to visualize in my head how I could use my face, body, arms, and voice to help tell the story.  Unfortunately, because her version is so long I have had to give up a lot of her character development in a telling for 3 to 5 year olds.  However, I have a paper copy stored in a folder and a mental copy stored in my head in case I have the opportunity to tell this story to slightly older children.

There were two variants of this story a German one and a Swedish one.  The variants are only slightly different than the Asbjørnsen and Moe version.  In the German version the goats are name Brausewind, the troll is actually an elf, and the language is slightly different.  The German version uses “creak, creak” instead of “tripp, trapp, tripp, trapp” and it really is not as effective.  Also the elf or horrible spirit has “eyes as wide as pewter plates” and a nose “as long as the handle of a hoe” which just seems a little to verbose for the age group.  The four-line rhyme used by the biggest Billy Goat to taunt the Troll is slightly different but just as violent.  Finally, the wonderful “snip, snap, snout…” ending does not appear in this version.  In the Swedish variant the goats are named Bruse and the language is slightly different.  Instead of “tripp, trapp, tripp, trapp” they goats hooves make a “clip-clop, clip-clop, clip-clop” noise which I find almost as appealing as the other version.  Another difference is that the Troll has “eyes as big as plates and a nose as long as a broom handle.”  The image is okay but it does not roll off the tongue in the same way.  The rhyme taunting the troll becomes just a spoken line in this variant.  Finally, the story ends “and clippety, clip-clop, this tale’s come to a stop” which I do enjoy.  On the whole all the versions and variants were very similar.  The differences tended to be minor changes in language, further developing of descriptions, and variations in the length of dialogs.