The Undertaker and I are not particularly fond of the excessively hot summer months. Still, we do try to make the attempt to venture outside during warm months as our physician insists upon it, and I suppose we must stay healthy, as there is always a new grave to dig and a new headstone to erect.
We ventured off the grounds to a state park. I admit, it was lovely hiking through the trees, which thankfully blocked out most of the sun’s harsh rays. I also greatly enjoyed spotting delicate spider webs wound between branches, and watching as hawks circled the skies looking for prey.
During our hike, we encountered very few people, which was quite right by me as I don’t fare well with chit chat with strangers. On our return, we took a new route, and as we approached a bridge over a small stream I spotted an elderly man on it. His back was to us. The small amount of hair that remained on his head was thin and gray. He wore a dark green shirt and pants. The man did not stir as we drew closer and I stopped and whispered to the Undertaker “Be courteous, because that is the Troll.” The Undertaker raised his eyebrows and rolled his eyes at me, clearly finding my statement silly, but I didn’t care, because I was very well sure that the man was a troll who guarded the bridge.
Superstitions regarding trolls spans many cultures and regions, and the man standing on the bridge reminded me of the delightful folktale Three Billy Goats Gruff. This short story was first recorded in 1845 in Norske Folkeeventyr, or Norwegian Folktales, which is a collection of Norwegian folktales and legends collected by teacher Peter Christen Asbjørnsen and minster Jørgen Moe. They both considered the stories in this collection to contain remnants of Old Norse mythology. Their collection was written with a nod to the great Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm in that the Norse collection was also written using simple language, like the Grimm’s fairy tales, while maintaining the basis of the story. The appearance of trolls occurs several times in Asbjørnsen and Moe’s collection, but one of the most famous is that of the Billy Goats who meet a troll at a bridge.
The story goes that there were three Billy Goats who were heading up to a hillside to eat. First, the littlest Billy Goat crossed the bridge, and as he did a big ugly troll appeared demanding to know who was crossing his bridge. When the Billy Goat identified himself, the troll said he was going to gobble him up. The littlest Billy Goat begged him not to, as he was too little and asked that the troll wait for the next Billy Goat. The troll sent off the small goat. As the next Billy Goat crossed the bridge the troll appeared again, angrier, demanding who it was and they went through the same routine as the first time, of the Billy Goat introducing himself and the troll threatening to gobble him up! The second Billy Goat convinced the troll to wait for the third, and again he sent him off. This time, the bridge creaked and moaned under the weight of the third, and largest Billy Goat. When the troll threatened to eat him the large goat had other plans. He charged at the troll piercing the troll’s eyes with his horns and crushed the keeper of the bridge to “bits, body and bones.”
There is much more to learn about the varying legends and myths surrounding trolls and I hope to tell you more about that this week.
Oh, and I failed to mention, after I crossed the bridge with the Undertaker, I turned around and the man was gone. I don’t care what the Undertaker says, I believe that man to be a troll.
More about trolls soon.
To read variations of this tale, go here: http://www.pitt.edu/~dash/