Troll Tale

by Pablo Schaller

A dancing fire was encircled by a wee village; the village was surrounded by a great forest. This in turn was kept in check by imposing mountains. In the forest, a small mountain (that looked more like a pile of rubble) poked out between the trees. Not to be outdone, the darkening sky juggled sun, moon, stars, and the occasional comet.

It was a warm summer evening and a lone raven glided above the forest, letting out occasional calls. It swooped down towards the village. After some flapping around the bird found a perch above the entrance of the communal hall. People dressed in animal skins were filing in. The bird eyed them curiously.

Sometime after sunset everyone was either seated, standing or laying down inside the communal hall. Being the largest building in the village and containing a huge hearth practical only for cooking large feasts, it was used primarily for keeping the entire villages livestock warm during the winter.

Tonight, Ruktacs eldest member was on her death-chair. As she began her final tale, expectant faces all turned to her, illuminated by the shifting firelight.

Long, long ago, she paused for a breath right here! the floor received the wrath of her grizzly nail and the threat of an emphatic index finger. Our ancestors fought in a great struggle against the trolls. These frightening events took place when my grandparents parents were still babes. Her wrinkled hand moved once more, this time to indicate Ruktacs youngest members gathered in the first few rows with their mothers. A good number of them were more preoccupied by fiddling with jewelry than listening to the story.

We did not lose the war. She paused, eyes smiling. But you see she continued in those early days we were hardier folk. We had to survive the chaos and destruction when Guzhtacks dance created the new world. As you know, it is said that he arrived here to find a single tree amid the mountains. So he danced, crushing the mountains with his feet, making the lands where the forest now grows. It is said that he drank some dew from the tree to satisfy his great thirst; but I call bullshit."

The kids and grandparents burst out laughing, while some parents got outraged.

"Anyhow, it is said that he moved on to find other trees."

Much much later a pack of mountain Trolls descended into our forest from the north. They were the size of four men put together. Despite this, they would deftly hunt the various animals of the forest. They drank their blood in the morning, chewed their flesh at noon, and crunched on their bones in the evening. Our ancestors could find no way to rid them themselves of these trolls.

The weakest trolls could overpower even our strongest forefathers. Our best runners had trouble keeping pace with the trolls even after they had eaten the village shaman. He had been carrying all of his herbs at the time...

She felt herself getting weaker now, but still managed a smile as the audience laughed at the image of the poor shaman.

Ruktacs inhabitants listened with rapt attention as the elder continued her tale.

There followed many fruitless attempts at defeating the trolls. From time to time one of our ancestors would be eaten; even so they never despaired.

But as the years went on they grew fearful and made a great fence around their settlement to protect their lodges and their cattle. Only the men would be allowed to go outside for dangerous jobs such as gathering firewood, water, and the like. After a few years of this, and with the help of much music and copious drinking in the great hall, the women were able to shake their fears and get fed up by the growth of cowardice. Where was the honor? What would the children learn?

One day they kicked the men out of the fortified settlement, and threw their weapons over the wall, telling them to defeat the trolls or die trying.

There were gasps of horror from the crowd. Some husbands edged away from their wives as a joke, much to the amusement of the older children. This gag backfired on the younger children which then had to be cuddled by both parents.

The men had to figure something out quickly, before the trolls noticed them. Legend has it that the men hid in an oak tree for five nights. It was during the days, when the trolls retreated to the darker parts of the forest, that the men began to execute the plan they had devised. You see, the trolls had, for whatever reason, developed a habit. They would gather around the mountain in the forest at sunset, and they would chew on the bones left over from previous hunts.

For five days the men rolled boulders up the mountain. On the evening of the fifth day they remained at the top. They lay in wait for the trolls, anxiously scanning the trees, the sun was dipping over the jagged horizon

Yes my dear? A young child had raised a hand in question. Ummmm, sorry but I forgot my damn question.

Mind your dlanguage! Reprimanded one of his relatives. The kid seemed confused but continued having suddenly recalled his question. Oh! You said Guzhtack crushed the mountains where the forest is. So why is there a mountain there in the forest?

Ah, yes and so he did. But his sister Guzhtilda came by not much later and, appalled by the mess her seemingly crazy brother had made, she swept the rubble into a pile with her hands, making a mountain. That is why the mountain has so many caves and crevasses.

Satisfied, the kid sat back expectantly and then began twiddling a twig with his toes while the elder attempted to recall where she had been in the original story.

The pause grew longer. Murmurs started within crowd. Had she died? She sat deep in the great wooden chair, eyes closed and unmoving. A cry of No! came from a little girl in the congregation. The old woman drew in a ragged breath and opened her eyes, Im not dead yet! She croaked I was just concentrating.

The audience released a collective breath.

So the men had all gathered on top of the mountain. At the moment of sunset the trolls emerged from cover to crunch the on the bones and carcasses below the mountain. The men waited until the sun went down then they pushed the boulders off the mountain. They bounced down at great speed, dislodging even greater boulders as they went. The trolls were crushed!

Some cheers emanated from the crowd, but the elder raised a finger and said Toot.

There was some confusion among the villagers. But she just cackled and looked over at her family members. Inside joke

She raised her finger again to silence the laughter, but this just generated more giggles from the young children.

That is not the end of the story, she continued, after the laughter had died down. The men went home triumphant but exhausted, and all was well, for a time. In the years that followed, sheep that strayed too close to the mountain after dark..."She paused for effect" ...would go missing. People began to speculate whether a troll that had not joined its comrades for bone crunching could still be living within the caves of the mountain.

She sat back in her chair, exhaled, and died. But her story would probably send someone else on quite the adventure.

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