There has been some confusion about what I mean when I talk about a troll. This might help clear up any confusion…or maybe just entertain a bit. It was originally posted here.
Once upon a time, there was a nanny goat who lived to wander from field to field, tasting the grass and bushes as she went. It was a simple life: wander, taste, chew, wander again. Sunshine and air and a million flavors were her world.
The only problem was that the most complex, interesting flavors were to be found in isolated meadows, only accessible by bridge. And where there were bridges, there were trolls.
Most of the trolls were the sort that crouched under their bridges, calling out to all who went over, “Don’t go! Don’t go! No one likes the bushes over there.” These were easily ignored, their calls drowned out by the noise of goat feet trip-tropping across the bridge, but there were other sorts of trolls.
One day, as the nanny goat trip-tropped toward yet another meadow, a troll appeared in the middle of the bridge ahead of her. “You can’t go that way!”
“Why not?” asked the nanny goat, gruffly of course.
“Goats don’t cross bridges!”
The nanny goat tripped forward another couple of steps. “But I’m a goat, and I cross bridges.”
“Goats don’t cross bridges! Goats only eat!”
The nanny goat eyed the troll. It was small but otherwise unremarkable. It didn’t look poisonous, but she knew she couldn’t tell just by looking. Oh, well, she thought…and ate the troll.
It was strangely tasty, but she could tell it held no nutritional value whatsoever. On she went with her normal grazing. Still, she never looked at trolls quite the same way again.
The next time she had trouble getting into a meadow, it was the bridge itself that was interesting, rather than the troll. As usual, she ignored the troll that sat under the bridge and cried out aspersions against the flavor of the forage in the meadow. Trip trop, trip trop, she was across the bridge in no time. She took a step into the meadow…
…and found herself on the bridge again. Or was it a new bridge? It was hard to tell. Same trollish imprecations but a slightly different voice. She crossed again.
She was back at the beginning of the bridge once more, with the troll (or was it a new troll?) calling out again.
Clearly there was something strange about this bridge, so the nanny goat set out to find out what it was. She measured its length, its width and depth. She tested the strength of the timbers it was built from. She even listened to the troll, as repetitive as it got.
Then, when she had the full measure of the bridge, she paced it out, stepping hard in the weakest spots and leaving a trail of hoofprints behind. This time, the bridge let her off into the field.
It was months later when the goat met the noisy troll.
“Oh,” shouted the troll, “Look at me! Look at me!” It danced all over the bridge, shouting as it went. “I’m so much more interesting than any meadow. Look at me!”
The nanny goat looked, but all she saw was a troll. She was hungry, and she remembered that trolls weren’t very filling. She looked past the troll at the meadow. Her mouth watered.
“Look at me!”
But the goat didn’t look at the troll. Instead, she looked to the side.
“No, no! Look at me!”
And there it was. A log, needing only to be pushed across the chasm. The troll didn’t even notice when the nanny goat left the bridge. It danced and shouted as she pushed, danced and shouted as she tripped and tropped her way across, danced and shouted as she enjoyed the grass in the meadow. It may still be dancing and shouting to this very day.
Occasionally, the goat would come across trolls who didn’t know they were trolls. She pitied them, for they were young and inexperienced and didn’t know to wait for cloudy days or sunset to come out from under their bridges. Those that didn’t learn were turned to stone when the sun came out and shone upon them.
Admittedly, the nanny goat was not the patient sort. Sometimes she blew the clouds away herself.
Then there was the troll that insisted it was no troll at all, just a simple thing out looking for meadows like anyone else. The goat watched for a while, curious about what sort of creature she had encountered. She was a little sad when she realized it had no intention of leaving the bridge at all.
The nanny goat stepped up to the troll. “You’re in my way. That isn’t a good place to be.”
“I’m not in your way. You can walk around me.” The troll pointed down at the one board not covered by its warty feet.
The goat snorted. “A half-rotten board is supposed to support everyone who wants to visit this meadow? That little thing will break before I’m halfway to where I want to be. No. I will be taking this bridge whether you’re on it or not. I suggest you move.”
“Threats! Imprecations! Insults! You’re not a goat. You’re a monster!”
The goat stepped closer. “Move.”
“Oh, help! Monster!”
It remained planted firmly across the bridge, and the goat sighed. She had so hoped it wasn’t a troll. No help for it now, though. Head lowered, she took one step after another toward the noisy thing.
“Monster! Oh, mon–ster!” This last was squeaked from the safety of the troll’s den under the bridge.
Laughing quietly, the nanny goat finished crossing the bridge. She couldn’t resist, though, one last, noisy trop directly over the troll’s den.
Then she was out into sunny fields again, and she forgot all about the troll as she browsed and grazed. Of course, from time to time, she looked off toward the distant meadows and listened to their call. And as they called, she wondered what bridges she would have to cross to reach them–and what kind of trolls she would find on the way.
To be continued?