A revealing fairy tale
|Grundlebletch von Hoogenspit
Once upon a time there was a troll (his name was Grundlebletch von Hoogenspit) who lived deep underground in a cave. Yes, he was a cave troll and, accordingly, he had no time at all for forest trolls, considering them flighty and irresponsible with silly ideas of going out in the daytime, unprotected from the harsh light of the searing sun.
Every day Grundle (as his friends called him) would wander through the tunnels radiating from his cave, searching for the worms, burrowing beetles and larvae that formed the basis of his diet. He had never tasted the flesh of creatures that walked above the ground, protected by the sunlight as they were, so he did not yearn for anything more tasty than his daily fare.
But do not think that Grundle was devoid of imagination. Cave trolls are a serious bunch and they think profound thoughts regarding such things as the decomposition time required for a leaf to turn into soil, why dirt dislodged from the roof of a tunnel always falls downwards rather than any other direction, what makes the mole run from a troll in such obvious terror. Cave trolls, indeed, are the intellectuals of their species.
One day Grundle discovered an unexplored tunnel. It was right at the edge of his range (which explains why he had never seen it before) and he stood immobile for long minutes while deciding whether to see where it led. Grundle was exceptional amongst cave trolls in that he sometimes allowed curiosity to get the better of him and so he set off up the new tunnel.
After some time he became aware that the tunnel was heading upwards, not steeply but steadily. The thought occurred to him that he might be on his way to the outside. He stopped and pondered for a while, wondering if he was being led astray. His curiosity won in the end, however, and he continued on his way.
There began to be a faint glow of light in the darkness but Grundle’s eyes were fixed on the floor, avoiding intrusive roots and protruding rocks. Then suddenly he was at the end of the tunnel. Still concentrating on the floor, Grundle kept going until finally he was right out there in the open. He stood in horror as he realised the terrible thing he had done. The sun shone powerfully overhead and he knew he had only minutes before he would be shrivelled up like a dead leaf. He must find shelter quickly!
Now, you and I would know that all he had to do was turn around and walk the few paces back to the tunnel but trolls don’t think like that. Their thought processes proceed in straight lines and do not countenance deflection from their chosen path. This is why any company of orcs and goblins will always put the trolls in the front of the column. If anyone is going to walk into an ambush, let it be the trolls - they won’t stop.
There was, therefore, only one way for Grundle to go. He began to run forward. Well, I say “run” but trolls don’t really run. They accelerate slowly into a lurching, swaying sort of stumble that is, surprisingly, a lot faster than you would expect. And Grundle was spurred by his growing fear of dehydration and mummification by the sun.
Ahead of Grundle there was what we would describe as a river. Grundle did not even consider what it might be, seeing only that there was a stone arch that crossed the water thingy (as he later named it). Under the arch he could see darkness, darkness that offered shelter and survival. With a desperate last effort he threw himself forward and landed with a mighty splash in the water flowing under the bridge. Darkness enveloped him and he lay back in relief in the water, not caring that the stony bed of the river was uncomfortable (to say the least).
In his subsequent examination of his situation, Grundle realised that he was rather limited in his options. He was forced to spend daylight hours in the shadows under the bridge and at night he dared little more than brief food foraging expeditions as close to the bridge as possible.
Eventually, Grundle accepted his lot and even began to enjoy it. Memories of his cave faded until he imagined that he had dreamt the place. There came a day when a female forest troll walked into Grundle’s home under the bridge and they became friends. In time they were married and, a bit later, they produced a brood of baby trollettes.
And that, of course, is how bridge trolls came about. Take my advice and cross bridges quickly, especially the arched kind made of stones.
Word Count: 802