Now, just to be very clear from the outset, I have never been in any doubt about the existence or otherwise of Gruffalos. I know they exist: I know that they have terrible tusks and terrible claws and terrible teeth in terrible jaws, I know they mate for life and prefer temperate climates and wooded areas. But none of us have ever seen one.
So we are going to Animaland, a chameleon-shaped landmass off Fantasea, to seek out the Gruffalo. I shinned up my lookout post and kept an eye out for any white or pink whales.
The Gruffalo wasn’t easy to find. We asked an owl, and a fox, but they were no use at all. At last we found a mouse, who pointed us – rather twitchily – in the right direction.
The Gruffalo was leaning up against an oak tree, scratching his back and humming.
He glared at us as he approached, and bared his teeth. Then he let out the most terrible roar.
We stood on deck, in a line, and our hair blew backwards in the gale.
Then the Captain retrieved her hat, and set it back on her head. ‘When they said you had terrible teeth in your terrible jaws, my dear,’ she said, ‘I didn’t realise it meant you hadn’t brushed them for years.’
The Gruffalo glared. He was opening his mouth to roar at us again, this time with extra spittle, when Copy Kat interrupted him.
‘When did you last see a dentist? Dental hygiene is really quite important, you know.’
The Gruffalo blushed. ‘In 1999, I think,’ he said. ‘I don’t like the noise the machines make.’
‘Would you like a toothbrush?’ asked In-The-Know Joe. ‘I’m sure we have a spare one.’
The Gruffalo smiled: and although his teeth were truly atrocious, his smile was beautiful. ‘That would actually be nice,’ he said. ‘I’ve had a scrap of deer meat caught in my back teeth since 2007.’
I ran and found the spare toothbrush and some Colgate, and we all watched as, very carefully, very thoroughly, the Gruffalo brushed his teeth.
He spat, neatly and politely, over the gangplank. ‘Ugh!’ He made a face. ‘I hate mint. Is this dental hygiene? If so, it is not delicious.’
‘You get used to it,’ said Satnav Stephen.
The Gruffalo looked hopefully around the ship. ‘You wouldn’t have anything to take the taste away, would you?’ he asked.
‘We were just about to have afternoon tea,’ said Cook Conomos. ‘Would you like some?’
‘I’ve never had any. Is it like Dental Hygiene?’
‘No,’ said Cook Conomos. ‘You’ll love it.’ Cook Conomos began brewing tea, and uncovered a dish of toasted sandwiches. The smell of it wafted out of the ship and out into the forest.
There was a knock on the side of the ship.
‘I’ll bet you ten pounds,’ said the Captain, and a smile began to play at the corner of her mouth, ‘that that’s the Tiger.’
‘Did I smell tea?’ said a Tigerish voice.
‘My old friend!’ cried the Captain. ‘We meet again! After all these years! You don’t look a day older!’
‘Neither do you!’ cried the Tiger.
‘My dear Tiger,’ said the Captain, ‘I was six.’
‘Well, perhaps a little taller,’ said the Tiger.
At that moment there was another knock on the ship’s door.
Cook Conomos opened it.
Her face was very straight as she turned to the Captain, but there was something about her eyes that suggested she was trying not to laugh.
‘Captain,’ she said. ‘We’re going to need quite a lot more cake.’
‘Who is it?’
‘Well, it’s dogs.’
‘Quite. They’re all Dalmatians. I assume. Some of them might not be: it’s hard to tell, there’s so many of them and they keep moving. But – yes, I think it’s safe to say, we have 101 Dalmatians to tea -’
The Ever After’s crew began to chip in:
‘Plus the Tiger -’
‘And the Gruffalo -’
‘And a bear,’ said the Gruffalo, ‘who’s just arrived and who claims, as far as I can tell, to be called poo.’
‘Oh lovely! How is he?’
‘Well, at the moment, he’s opening all the jars in the galley in the hope that they might be honey, or jam or marmalade -’
‘Did someone say marmalade?’ came a voice. A furry face peered round the ship’s door.
‘Is this the same bear? Or another bear?’
‘I,’ said the bear with great dignity, ‘am an entirely other bear.’
‘Of course you are! Let me take your suitcase,’ said Copy Kat. ‘You must be tired. Is it raining outside?’
The bear began to pull off his raincoat and wellingtons. ‘Not right now, no,’ he said. His voice was gentle and earnest. ‘But one never knows, with Animaland.’
‘One never does,’ said the Captain. ‘I wonder if -’
At that moment there was hideous, bone-shaking noise outside the ship. Everyone froze. Pooh put down the honey pot.
Joe looked out of the portal. His face, as he looked up, was inscrutable.
‘Ah,’ he said. ‘I think we have a problem.’
Gruffalo image by Katy Riddell inspired by Axel Scheffler’s illustrations for the Gruffalo stories written by Julia Donaldson and published by Macmillan Children’s Books.
Winnie the Pooh image by Katy Riddell inspired by E. H. Shepard’s illustrations for the Winnie the Pooh stories by A. A. Milne.