Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler's classic picture book The Gruffalo (Macmillan Children's Books) has now been translated into 105 languages and dialects. Donaldson and Scheffler joined Macmillan Children's Books publisher Belinda Ioni Rasmussen, alongside a host of international publishers and translators, for an online celebration of the milestone via Crowdcast on Thursday (21st January).
The much-loved tale was first published in the UK in 1999, alongside editions in Finnish, German, Italian, Japanese, Welsh, Swedish and French. Translations have steadily continued over the years, with more than 20 new rights deals concluded since the book marked its 20th anniversary in 2019.
The Gruffalo has now globally sold more than 17.7 million copies in the original picture book and novelty formats, according to the publisher. Through Nielsen BookScan's UK TCM, it has racked up sales of 2.3 million copies across all editions, for just under £12m.
Online, Donaldson showed off the notebook in which she first wrote The Gruffalo and even performed some multilingual scenes with her husband Malcolm in her back garden. Later, Scheffler revealed some of the original sketches, including a much scarier-looking Gruffalo, before drawing the mouse walking through the deep, dark wood.
Rasmussen explained the book had seen more translation partners than Harry Potter, Peter Rabbit, The Very Hungry Caterpillar and Paddington Bear.
She said: “We couldn’t be more pleased that The Gruffalo has reached this 'astounding' milestone. It is testament to MCB’s strong relationships with international publishers, many of whom are also now our friends as well as our business partners. The Gruffalo is a fun brand to work on and this helps us pull together as one team, albeit across many languages. It truly is a global phenomenon and loved by children and families around the world, but it is important to say that we wouldn’t be here today without the magic that Julia and Axel have given us all with their illustrated classic story.”
According to MCB, research suggests that The Gruffalo is now available in more languages and dialects than any other children’s book published in recent times, except for The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint Exupéry, which reports over 250 translations.
Recent editions have seen it translated into 11 Dutch dialects, as well as Cornish and Armenian, among other tongues. To celebrate, the rights team also performed parts of the book in languages ranging from Hindi to Glaswegian Scots.
Michele Young, rights director at MCB, said: “It is fantastic that translations keep coming for everyone’s favourite monster. In 2020 alone, we welcomed new versions to be published in Armenia, Uzbekistan, Aruba and Belarus, and we have more potential deals on the table. The Gruffalo is a universal story that readers of all ages relate to and, combined with Axel’s distinctive and characterful illustrations, it is the perfect picture book. As a rights team, we are very lucky to have this storybook on our list, as it opens new doors to us and builds relationships. Today, we want to thank all the publishers for coming with us on this extraordinary journey and for their support in making The Gruffalo such a global big success story.”
A video also shared comments from publishers around the world, with the book described as “everything we look for in a read-loud” in the US, and “a member of the family” in Greece. Its Serbian publisher noted: “Our translator used two traditional Serbian dishes for the scrambled snake and gruffalo crumble!”