The Troll Who Wanted To Build A Wall: A Fable

Theodor_Kittelsen_-_Skogtroll,_1906_(Forest_Troll)Long ago, there was a troll who lived in a cave on a mountain. His head was shaped like a pumpkin, his nose like a banana, and he was ten feet tall. His name was Thug, and he loved one thing more than anything else: He loved gold.

Thug had thousands of gold coins in his cave, which he had taken from the men who tried to kill him. During the day, Thug slept on his coins, and when he woke up in the evening, he played with them, tossing them in the air, or throwing them at the walls and ceiling. But as the years went by, his heart became empty, and the coins no longer satisfied him.

One evening, Thug woke up and said, “I want to do something meaningful with my life.”

Outside Thug’s cave, there were many boulders, and he rolled three to the stream at the bottom of the mountain. Then he returned to his cave and got a stone bowl and a hammer. With his hammer, he smashed the boulders into powder, and mixed the powder with water and his dung to make mortar.

“I put my dung to good purpose!” Thug said with a smile.

Thug worked through the night and built a wall that was six feet wide, ten feet high, and one foot thick. He looked with satisfaction at the work of his hands, then went back to his cave to sleep.

In the evening, when Thug woke up, he went for a walk, and saw a rabbit on the forest path.

“Hello, rabbit,” Thug said.

“Hello, Thug,” the rabbit replied.

“Can you tell rabbits to meet me by stream?”

“What for?”

“I have big surprise!” Thug said excitedly.

“Okay,” the rabbit said.

An hour later, the rabbits all gathered by the stream, and they looked at the wall that Thug had built.

“What is that?” a rabbit asked.

“It is small wall,” Thug said. “I want to build big wall, all around mountain.”

“Why?” another rabbit asked.

“To protect you from bad men who come and hunt you with arrows.”

While the rabbits were staring in awe at the small wall, a cougar climbed down from a tree. Her name was Hickory, and she loved one thing more than anything else: She loved to eat rabbits.

“Don’t run!” Hickory said to the rabbits. “I’m not going to hurt you. I’m going to save you.”

“Save us!” a rabbit said sarcastically. “You like to eat us!”

“Yes, that’s true,” Hickory admitted. “But I would never eat all of you. If the troll builds his wall, you will all die!”

Thug pointed at the cougar and said, “That is fake accusation! I want to protect rabbits from hunters.”

“His wall will save our lives,” another rabbit said. “It will keep the bad men out.”

“And I will keep bad animals out too,” Thug promised. “I will throw cougar over wall. She will not eat you anymore!”

Hearing this, the rabbits cheered. Then, with one voice, they chanted, “Thug! Thug! Thug!”

Hickory did not want to lose her food supply. So when the rabbits stopped chanting, she said, “It is true that Thug’s wall will keep you safe from bad men, and the wall will keep you safe from me. But there is one thing the wall will not do.”

“What is that?” a rabbit asked.

“The wall will not keep you safe from Thug! Once he has you surrounded, he will eat all of you!”

“That is fake accusation!” Thug shouted. “I only eat plants, flowers, and people who try to kill me.”

“Don’t be fools, rabbits!” Hickory continued. “Why would a troll who loves gold want to protect you? Once the wall is built, just imagine what he will do! He will smash you all with his hammer.”

The rabbits looked at each other. Then they looked at Thug and trembled.

“Thug is a monster!” a rabbit cried.

“He’s big and ugly!” another rabbit blurted. “He’s evil!”

The cougar continued to sow fear in the hearts of the rabbits: “And if Thug doesn’t kill you, he will catch you and sell you to the hunters for gold!”

“No!” Thug said to the rabbits. “I only want to save you from harm. I want to do something meaningful with my life.”

“No wall!” a rabbit yelled, then all the rabbits chanted, “No wall! No wall! No wall!”

Hickory looked at Thug and smiled. “Go back to your cave, you deplorable troll, and sleep on your pile of gold.”

Thug tried to reason with the rabbits: “If you don’t let me build wall, hunters and cougar will kill you.”

“But not all of us,” a rabbit said.

Another rabbit added, “If you build the wall, we know what you will do!”

Thug kicked the ground and frowned. “Stupid rabbits! If you don’t want my help, I will go.”

Then he went back to his cave and decided he would take care of the trees on the mountain.

After that, Hickory continued to eat one or two rabbits every day, and the hunters came and killed many rabbits with their arrows.

And all because the rabbits wouldn’t take a risk, and let the troll build a wall.


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The Troll Who Went To War: A Fable

Theodor_Kittelsen_-_Skogtroll,_1906_(Forest_Troll)Long ago, a troll lived in a cave on a mountain. He had a head shaped like a pumpkin, a nose like a banana, skin as hard as a rock, and he was ten feet tall. His name was Thug, and he loved one thing more than anything else: He loved trees.

After the sun went down, Thug came out of his cave and talked to the trees. He ate the acorns on the oak trees and said, “You make me feel smart.”

He touched the soft bark of the birch trees and said, “You make me feel gentle,” and he smelled the needles of the pine trees and said, “You make me feel calm.”

Thug didn’t have a friend in the world, but he treated the trees on his mountain like friends.

If a tree had any dead branches, he pruned it by biting the branches off with his teeth. If a tree looked unhealthy, he peed on it to give it nutrients to grow. And if he felt lonely, he hugged a tree and didn’t let go until sunrise, when he went back to his cave to sleep.

Many miles from Thug’s mountain, there was a kingdom ruled by a man named Greybeard. The king had long grey hair, a long grey beard, and he wore a grey robe and a silver crown. When he needed to think, he sat on his throne and pulled on his beard.

King Greybeard felt sad because his people were poor. His land was barren, and the people barely grew enough crops to survive. But one day, he was sitting on his throne when he had an idea.

He summoned Simon, his Right Hand who carried out his orders and gave him counsel. Simon was a bald man, 20 years younger than the king.

King Greybeard ordered him: “Send men to Troll Mountain, and cut down the trees. Pay the men well, so they can provide for their families. We will trade the wood with other kingdoms, and increase our store of gold. I will make my kingdom prosperous again.”

But Simon reminded him: “Many men have gone to cut down the trees, but none have returned. It is said a troll lives on the mountain, and he eats men.”

King Greybeard scoffed. “The troll is a myth. Do as I have commanded.”

And so, Simon sent 50 men to Troll Mountain. After they arrived, they worked until sunset, cutting down many tall trees: oak, birch, and pine.

When Thug woke up, he came down the mountain, and to his horror, dozens of his trees had been chopped down.

He fell to his knees and wept. Then he said, “Men kill my trees. I will make them pay for what they have done.”

Thug returned to his cave and picked up his hammer. His hammer was huge—twice the size of his head. He waited until midnight; then he came down the mountain and smashed all the logger’s tents while they were sleeping. However, one logger managed to escape.

The following morning, the logger appeared before King Greybeard, and told him what the troll had done. The king was greatly dismayed.

Soon after, the families of the dead loggers gathered outside the castle, and demanded that the king kill the troll.

King Greybeard summoned Simon to his throne room and asked him: “What should I do?”

“You must destroy the troll.”

King Greybeard shook his head. “I do not want war. If we attack him, many more men will die.”

“If you do not attack the troll, he will surely attack us. It is better that we fight him on the mountain before he comes here.”

King Greybeard thought it over, and pulled on his long grey beard. Finally, he said, “No, we provoked him by cutting down his trees. He killed the loggers to deter us from coming back. If we leave him be, he will leave us alone.”

A year went by, and the troll did not attack as Simon predicted. However, there was a drought, and the people became even more destitute.

Every day, hundreds gathered outside the castle and demanded bread to eat.

King Greybeard summoned Simon to his throne room and asked him: “What should I do?”

“Buy the people bread. You have plenty of gold.”

“No,” King Greybeard said, clenching his fist. “If I give them bread, they will become dependent on it. The people must create their own wealth. I only spend my gold for the defense of the kingdom, and to build roads and bridges.”

Simon thought for a moment, and then he said, “Troll Mountain has the best trees in the land. “They are by right your trees, for you are a king and can take whatever you want. Put men to work cutting down the trees, but also send your army to protect them. The troll will not attack an entire army.”

King Greybeard nodded his head and smiled. “It is a good plan. Carry it out.”

And so, Simon sent 50 more loggers to cut down the trees on Troll Mountain, and he also sent the king’s army of 100 men to protect them.

When Thug woke up, he came down the mountain, and to his horror, he saw that many more of his trees had been axed.

He fell to his knees and pounded his fists on the ground. Then he chomped his teeth and said, “Men have no respect for my trees. I will make them pay, so they will never cut down my trees again.”

Thug returned to his cave and got his battle axe. It was massive, twice as big as his torso, and sharper than any sword. He waited until midnight; then he attacked the king’s army. The soldiers fired arrows, but the troll’s rock-like skin was too hard, and the arrows fell to the ground. Thug killed every man with his axe, chopping off their heads, or cutting them in two.

As the loggers came out of their tents, Thug stomped on them or strangled them; however, half of the men escaped.

The next morning, when word reached King Greybeard that half of the loggers and all the men in his army were dead, he was filled with great sorrow.

Soon after, the families of the dead gathered outside the castle and demanded that the king go to war with the troll.

King Greybeard summoned Simon to his throne room and asked him: “What should I do?”

“You must raise another army. And you must destroy the troll.”

King Greybeard thought for a long while, and tugged on his long grey beard. Finally, he said, “Raise an army. But do not attack the troll. He slaughtered our army to deter us from cutting down his trees. If we leave him be, he will leave us alone.”

But Simon shook his head. “If you do nothing, the troll will see it as weakness. You must kill him before he attacks us. You must protect your people!”

“These are my orders,” King Greybeard said firmly. “Follow them!”

Simon did as the king commanded. He raised a new army to defend the kingdom, but he didn’t attack the troll.

Another year went by, and there was another drought. The people became even more hopeless. Hundreds gathered outside the castle and demanded bread. They demanded justice for the dead loggers and soldiers. Finally, they demanded that if the king could not give them what they wanted, he should abdicate his throne.

King Greybeard summoned Simon to his throne room and asked him: “What should I do?”

Simon scratched his head, and then he said, “If you do nothing, the people will rebel against you. Therefore, you must send your army to destroy the troll. When the troll is dead, you can cut down the trees. Your people will no longer be poor.”

King Greybeard sighed. “Many men will die, but I see no other choice. Send the army.”

Simon sent the army to Troll Mountain, but Thug was ready for them. After the sun went down, he ran down the mountain with his battle axe in one hand, and his hammer in the other, and he smashed half of the soldiers with his hammer, and the rest he beheaded with his axe.

After slaughtering the entire army, Thug went to the king’s castle and stood outside the defensive wall.

“I demand your king come out!” he thundered.

King Greybeard and Simon came to the balcony and saw the troll standing beyond the wall.

Thug raised his hammer and yelled, “I am Thug! You cut down many of my trees, but you will not cut down any more!”

Thug struck the wall many times until he made a hole in it. And then he stepped through the hole, walked to the castle, and stood below the balcony.

King Greybeard was trembling. “Great and mighty Thug! Have mercy on my people. It was I who ordered men to cut down your trees. Do not punish them because of me.”

Thug said sadly, “You killed many of my friends.”

“Friends? We killed no one.”

“The trees are my friends. You destroyed them!”

King Greybeard put his hands together and pleaded, “I promise you, I will never send any men to your mountain again.”

Thug stared at the king, and scratched his head. And then he said, “I will make sure of that.”

Thug smashed his hammer against the castle, cracking the foundation, and then he smashed it again and again.

King Greybeard turned to Simon: “Evacuate the castle.”

Simon left and did as the king commanded. Then Greybeard tried to reason with the troll.

“Great and mighty Thug!” he cried. “Do what you will to my castle. Do what you will with me, but do not harm my people.”

“Never again!” Thug thundered. “You will never attack my trees again!”

The troll went on smashing and cracking the castle until the foundation was destroyed, and when the balcony fell, King Greybeard was buried in the rubble.

Victorious, Thug raised his hammer in the air and roared. Then he turned and trudged back to his mountain.

After the troll was gone, the people gathered outside the ruined castle, and mourned for King Greybeard. He had saved their lives by sacrificing himself.

The king, who had no sons or daughters, had named Simon his heir, and he was crowned king.

With Greybeard’s store of gold, Simon bought the people bread. And because he was generous, the people loved him.

He also raised a new army to defend the city. But he didn’t send any soldiers to attack the troll. And he didn’t send any loggers to cut down the trees. He knew what would happen if he did.

The troll would destroy them all. And because of that, there was no more war.


This story was published in The Donkey King and Other Stories

The Christian Knight: Trollhunter (2010)

the-trollhunter-trolljegeren-troll-hunter.14179In André Øvredal’s Trollhunter (2010), a college film crew shoots a documentary about a man who hunts down and destroys trolls. The film can be interpreted as an allegory for four aspects of human nature: reason, hatred, courage, and cowardice.

Thomas (Glenn Erland Tosterud) represents rationality and human reason. When Hans (Otto Jespersen) says that he hunts trolls, Thomas responds with disbelief: “You actually believe trolls exist?” Like doubting Thomas of the New Testament, Thomas only believes what he can see. Later, when he sees a three-headed troll in the forest, he is no longer a skeptic. He wants to go with Hans and film more trolls, to prove their existence to the world. Thomas stands for what can be measured and observed by science.

Whereas Thomas is rational, the trolls are not. They hate human beings for no apparent reason, and they hate Christians most of all. Hans says the trolls can “smell the blood of Christian man”, so he empties a pail of “Christian man’s blood” on a bridge in order to lure one. In the climax of the film, Hans taunts the Jotnar by playing the song “What a friend we have in Jesus.” The song is anathema to the giant troll who roars and chases after him.

Hans, who has no fear of the trolls, embodies fortitude, one of the four cardinal virtues.1 Thomas calls him a “superhero.” Before destroying the Jotnar, he stands face to face with the giant troll like David battling Goliath. In sharp contrast, Kalle (Tomas Alf Larsen) has a panic attack when he sees the Mountain Kings. Hans is a man of courage, while Kalle is a coward. They form a binary opposition, as do Thomas and the trolls.

Although it cannot be proven definitively, it is possible that Hans is a Christian. When he pours out the pail of blood on the bridge, an obvious question is raised: Where did he get the Christian man’s blood? Unless it was provided by an unknown donor in the Troll Security Service, the blood must be his own. At the battle on the bridge, he wears a suit of armor like a medieval Crusader. Literally or symbolically, Hans is the lone Christian knight who takes a stand against the evil that threatens Norway.

Notes

  1. Peter Kreeft, “Justice, Wisdom, Courage, and Moderation: The Four Cardinal Virtues,” Catholic Education Resource Centre, http://www.catholiceducation.org/en/culture/catholic-contributions/justice-wisdom-courage-and-moderation-the-four-cardinal-virtues.html

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