An Ogre learns to outwit bullying brothers.
|“Pung and the Terrible Trolls”|
In which Professor Proot teaches:
Why being stronger does not always mean coming out on top
That there are better ways to stop bullies
If you asked any Avalonian, they would agree that Pung is a funny name. If you were named Pung I imagine that you would have an awful time at school, or with your big brothers. Names that rhyme with dung should not be allowed, just like those that rhyme with “stinky,” “snotty,” or “poo.” Unfortunately, Pung’s parents were not thinking of such things as the words with which his name rhymed. As most parents do, they named him after a great Ogre hero, Pung the Gent, who, so the stories say, saved the swamps from an evil witch and wooed a Faery princess for good measure.
At least, that is how the Ogres tell it.
Anyone who could make a simple rhyme picked on Pung. Such was the taunting that even the toughest of Ogres would be bothered by hearing “Pung, Pung, smells like dung” everyday, and Pung was nothing like the toughest of Ogres. As Ogres went, he was actually quite small and, most unfortunately, quite bright. While the bigger Ogres spent their time lifting rocks, or seeing who could stuff the most Stinkberries into their mouths at once, Pung passed the time making songs and rhymes about the world around him. In spite of the joking and heckling, he did the best not to let the unkind words from the Ogres bother him.
Taunting Trolls, however, were quite a different matter all together.
Hamhock and Bash were two such Trolls, and brothers—which is never a good mix. Trolls are taller than Ogres but thinner, not as strong, but much, much meaner. This is not to say that Ogres cannot be mean, it is just that Trolls make meanness an art. For example, if you invited a Troll and an Ogre to dinner, and you were serving apple pie with ice cream, the Ogre would probably eat half the pie. The Troll, on the other hand, would eat all the pie, the ice cream and, just for good measure, the plates and cutlery too.
They are that mean.
Little Pung wanted nothing to do with Trolls. Instead, all he wanted to do was collect swamp apples and make up words that rhyme with things like “swamp” and “apple.”
I like dapple apple scrapple,
Dapple apple scrapple tea,
But though I like those dapple apples,
Apple scrapple does not like me.
Now, it is one thing to be a small Ogre but quite another to be a small, clever Ogre, especially where there are Trolls about. Trolls are a jealous sort. They are also dim-witted and stubborn. Unfortunately they are also big, and big mixed with dim-witted and stubborn is the recipe for disaster pie, in case you did not know.
One day, Hamhock and Bash were hiding beneath the bridge that leads to the swamp apple orchard. Here, the water was quite deep and so smelly and green that not even an Ogre would bathe in it. It is not, of course, that I am suggesting Ogres bathed, but if they did, they would not do so here.
The Troll brothers were playing “I Spy.”
“I spy, with my pickled eye, something that smells like Witches feet,” Hamhock would say.
Confused, Bash looked about him but all he saw was the water, and as I have mentioned, the water smelled much worse than a Witches feet.
“Oh,” he complained. “I hate it when you make them hard. Okay, I give up. What is it?”
“It’s YOU,” Hamhock yelled before rolling over in a fit of laughter.
Bash scratched his head, still not getting it. “Okay,” Bash said, “my turn. I spy, with my pickled eye, something that looks like a Dragon’s rump.”
Stumped, Hamhock also scratched his head. Finally, he gave up. “Dah, can you give me uh hint? I haven’t seen a Dragon’s rump since I looked into that well.”
And so it went.
As much fun as "I Spy" was for the brothers, the thing they most enjoyed was playing tricks on travelers crossing the bridge. Hamhock and Bash thought it great fun to jump out and scare people loaded down with swamp apples and such. Their victims would be so frightened by the sight of two Trolls that they often stumbled off the bridge and into the water. This was glorious fun, and the brothers would laugh all the way from the bottoms of their bellies as their victims dragged themselves from the putrid pool.
Pung, however, knew the brothers were there, and being a clever Ogre knew how to sneak past troublesome Trolls on the tips of his toes. The thing about tiptoeing is that have to be careful. One day, Pung was so happy with his harvest of swamp apples that he forgot about the brothers beneath the bridge and the need to tiptoe. Instead, he skipped and sang with joy, and nothing brings the out Trolls quicker than a happy, skipping Ogre.
“Duh, hello lit-tle Ogre,” Hamhock said, while Bash snuck up behind Pung.
Pung, however, knew the other brother was there. “If you try to scare me,” he said to Bash, “I’ll drop all these delicious swamp apples into the water and you won’t get to eat them.”
“Oh, no, Hamhock, what are we going to do now?” Bash said, genuinely confused.
Hamhock scratched his head. “What’s your name, lit-tle Ogre,” he asked, dim-wittedly.
The brothers looked at each other with surprise, and then fell about themselves in laughter. In fact, Bash laughed so hard he almost toppled off the bridge. Hamhock, seeing his brother stumble, fell into such a fit of mirth that he was unable to breathe for quite some time. Then, as expected, the Trolls started calling him names.
“Pung the dung,” Bash said, rolling.
“Pung slung in the dung,” Hamhock added, not wanting to be outdone by his smarter twin. Then, an idea came to the brothers--a most dastardly idea.
“Give us duh apples, or Pung gets flung in da dung,” Bash said, pointing to the water beneath the bridge.
Pung found himself with only one way out of his predicament. Either way, he would lose his precious swamp apples. Sadly, he handed his hoard to the Trolls. There would be no swamp apple pie or dapple apple tea tonight. However, there would be a bath. Once Hamhock had the apples, Bash picked up the little Ogre and dropped him into the stinking drink.
I told you Trolls were mean.
Now Pung was angry. Pulling himself from the water, Pung wailed at the brothers, “I’m going to tell on you. I’ll bring the biggest Ogre I can find with me and he’ll squash you flat.”
The brothers, however, knew the way of things. One Ogre could surely squash one Troll, but a pair of Trolls…well, let’s just say that he cannot. Filling their mouths with swamp apples, they laughed at Pung who could do nothing but run home.
The whole incident was most embarrassing to the little Ogre, and rather than tell the tale of how Trolls had outwitted him he kept the matter to himself, which for Pung meant just being Pung.
The Troll brothers, however, had learned something, which for them was quite extraordinary. The next time they saw him with an armful of apples they repeated their act and Pung ended up stinking, wet and without the ingredients for his swamp apple soup.
Try as he might, from that day on he was unable to get across the bridge without losing all his apples. To be fair, he was becoming quite the swimmer, but that is not why he crossed the bridge in the first place. Each time, he threatened to bring the biggest Ogre he could find to sort the brothers out, but Pung knew this was not the way to outwit the Trolls. Even if he could find a big enough Ogre to squash the brothers, the next time they would bring another Troll. Pung would then have to find two Ogres and before long there would be nothing but squashing and brawling on the bridge, and Pung would not be able to pass anyway. No, he decided, he would have to find another way.
So it was that Pung went to see Queen Mab.
“That is a most disturbing story,” she told him, “but you did the right thing to tell me. There is nothing more despicable that a bully, except for two bullies.” The Queen pondered Pung’s predicament for a while until she found the answer to his problem.
“I want you to gather a basket of apples from my trees,” she said, “then bring them here and we will bake the brothers a pie.”
“A pie,” Pung wailed, “but why? I want them to leave me alone, not bake them a pie.”
“There is a saying,” said the Queen, “that if you want to catch bees, you will do better with honey than vinegar. Have you heard it?”
“Yes, of course,” Pung said, “but what has that to do with Trolls?”
“Because there is another saying: if you want to be rid of Trolls, bake them a pie. Now, go fetch those apples.”
There was actually no such saying. Queen Mab had just made it up.
Pung was confused, but he did as the Queen said because she was the Queen and that is all there is to say on the matter. Mab’s apples were quite different from swamp apples. Hers were large, red and smelled delicious, whereas swamp apples were small and green, and smelled a little like fermented cabbage.
“Such a shame,” he thought, “to waste such a delight on the Trolls.” The Queen, however, had commanded him to collect them, and so he took the basket back to her kitchen.
“Now,” she said, “I want you to gather a handful of bloat-cherries.”
For those of you who have never seen a bloat cherry, they look very much like a regular cherries except that they only grow in Dragon’s dung. Ogres find these a delectable treat, not a bit bothered by the burps they bring. Since Pung knew his way around the swamp, it was not difficult to find the cherries. While he was away, the Queen had busied herself by gathering chocolate drops from the famous Chocolate Bees of Avalon. Of course, those of you who have read the tale of Izzy know that these are to be avoided.
“Now,” the Queen said, “here’s how you get rid of Trolls.” The Queen summoned her baker—I’m sure you did not expect Her Majesty to bake—and ordered him to bake half the apples into the most delicious pie he could make. While the pie was baking, Mab took the remaining apples, cut them in half, and scooped out the cores. She then placed two bloat cherries and two chocolate drops from the hive of the Famous Chocolate Bees of Avalon into the center of each apple, and then put the halves back together. Calling upon her Faery magic, Mab wove a spell that mended the apples and transmogrified them to look like swamp apples. When the baker returned with the pie, she explained to Pung what it was he was to do and sent him on his way.
Being a clever Ogre, Pung giggled at the cleverness of the plan. He hid the apples and the pie under his coat and pretended to sneak into the swamp apple orchard. He knew, however, that Hamhock and Bash had seen him cross the bridge. When he returned, he carried a basket of swamp apples and chomped loudly on a piece of the most delicious pie he had ever tasted.
“Look,” Bash said, “lit-tle Pung about to be flung in the dung.”
Hamhock began laughing until he caught the scent of the delicious pie.
“Swamp apple pie,” Pung replied. “It’s delicious.”
The Trolls drooled at the smell of the pie.
“Give us the pie and we won’t flung Pung in the dung,” Hamhock lied.
Of course, a pie with a slice missing is not enough for a single Troll and certainly insufficient for two. Bash, being mean, snatched what was left of Pung’s slice and ate it down. The Trolls had only whetted their appetite. Now they were ravenous and spied the basket of swamp apples.
“I spy with my pickled eye, something dat smells like swamp apple pie,” Bash said.
Pung and Hamhock were stunned by the poetry of the Troll. Hamhock shrugged his shoulders as if to say, “don’t ask me where that came from.” The moment lasted only, well, a moment. The Trolls grabbed the basket and devoured the apples and made a great show of swallowing, just to rub salt into Pung's wound.
Before they had a chance to throw Pung into the water, however, something got their attention. Hamhock belched. Now, a belching Troll is not an extraordinary sight but Hamhock’s was enough to make an Ogre proud. (Ogres are the reigning Avalonian belching champions, for the curious among you who keep up with such things.) Bash followed with an even larger belch. Hamhock groaned, holding his hands to his belly that was now three times its normal size. He belched again. At first it was comical to Pung to watch the Trolls relieve the swelling in their bellies with burps but soon the brothers began to grow large, festering boils over their hands and faces. The Famous Chocolate Bees of Avalon had struck again.
I should mention that Trolls, being used to things such as boils, could not leave them alone without touching them. This means that the boils will not go away, as I am sure your mothers have told each of you. Bash reached out to press one of Hamhock’s boils, but the movement squeezed a tremendous blast of air from his belly in another impressive belch.
Now, I have made it clear that Trolls are dim-witted, but even the brothers knew they were into something bad. As the effects of the bloat cherry worked on the Trolls, things suddenly became as bad as they can get.
“Oy, Bash,” Hamhock said with a nose pinched between two fingers, “give me a warning next time, will ya?”
Bash could only groan. Soon, the two were belching, burping and, well…I’m sure you can imagine what else. They might have been fine if they had stayed still, but being mean, they could not help but pick at each other’s boils despite their predicament.
Before long, however, they were begging Pung for help.
“Only if you promise to leave me alone,” Pung said.
At first this only made the Trolls mad, but each time they move to flung…I mean, fling Pung into the swamp, they cringed and cramped under the pressure of the bloat-berries and the stings of the drops from the Famous Chocolate Bees of Avalon. Even Trolls can only do so much belching and, well, let us agree that the pressure got too much for them. They finally agreed to leave Pung alone.
“You have to promise,” Pung said.
As all of you know, some people will say one thing and then, as soon as things are in their favor, go back on their word. Nobody, however, goes back on a promise, not Ogres, faeries, or even Trolls. Yes, I said it and it is worth repeating: not even Trolls.
“I promise,” said Hamhock.
“I promise,” said Bash.
And so it was that Pung was freed to gather swamp apples without having to worry about bullies. Hamhock and Bash went to see the Queen. There, after an embarrassing display in front of Her Majesty and all the prettiest Faeries in Avalon, Mab cured the brothers, but not before making them both promise to stay away from bridges. Now a traveler can cross Avalon and never be troubled by Hamhock or Bash.
Of course, the teasing never went away, but Pung did not mind. He had the Swamp Apples all to himself. Pung, it is sung, bakes swamp apple pies filled with chocolate and dung.
Pung dines alone.