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Kevin G Hare

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The Grouchy Troll

Many ages past, when fearful beasts of all sorts roamed the lands, not many would spare a fair thought for a woodland troll.  Save for two children who discovered something different when they wandered too close.

Deep in the green valleys, nestled within the Brendolan mountain ranges, was built a tiny village called Racidian.  The people of this village were merry folk, everyone helping each other so all prospered and all were happy.

Not too far from the west end of town, just at ‘peace-keeping’ distance, there was a small hut.  It was burrowed in the hollow of a sycamore tree and it was inhabited by a troll.  Bark was his name for old and wrinkly he was, ‘Skin like old oak, voice like old dog.’  His father used to say.  Bark was always grouchy.  He chose to stay away from the villagers and the villagers chose to stay away from him.

On one day of days, the merry townsfolk were quite busy preparing a vast feast to celebrate Blooming Day.  Every spring they gathered in the town square to celebrate the awakening of the forest and the flowers after a winter sleep.  Doran and Kara, the youngest twins of Dokoran, were trying very hard to help but everyone kept telling them they were too little and that they were going to get hurt.

“I have an idea, sister!” said Doran.  “Let’s have a look at the old troll!”

Kara protested.  “Doran, you know Father does not allow that.  No one goes there!  He is mean and he will make soup from our bones and skins if we’re caught!”

“You’re a fraidy-fairie!  I know Wilf seen him.  He says the troll is so old he hasn’t any teeth left!” declared Doran.  “Besides, it’s something and that’s better than staying here and doing nothing.”

“All right,” moaned Kara.  “But only for a moment and not too close.  And don’t call me fraidy-fairie!”

So together they trotted off to the west end of town.  They weaved through the crowd, ran past Barger’s bakeshop and with a last quick glance, dashed through the bushes into the woods.  It was darker in the forest and there were strange noises all around.  It wasn’t long before the twins found a path that snaked through the willow birch and evergreen and they decided to follow it.  They both felt the excitement of traveling into the unknown.

Doran and Kara walked for some time, what seemed like hours to them, when they trotted down a hill that sloped to a thicket of hedges at the bottom.  The trees grew taller here and their branches stretched like great arms to block out the sun.  The twins felt cold in that dark place and each thought of turning back but then they heard a sharp snap of a twig some distance away from them.  They froze and listened and feared the worst.  Another snap, the rustle of branches and the flutter of a shadow.  Doran and Kara were too afraid to move and their hearts thumped within them.

Then a flash of pale blue bounded out from behind a tree and deep voice spoke to them.  “What business have you here?”

Both children screamed and they huddled each other as though their world was about to end.  Then slowly Doran peered over his arm at the quirky face of a short, plump troll.  His feet were long and wide, his legs were stubby and bowed, his ears were oversized and his beady eyes stared at them over a very round nose and Doran saw that he did indeed have teeth.  He wore a long, simple shirt, pants that stopped just past his knees and sandals.  Bark the Troll stood just taller than the children.

“I thought you’d be bigger,” Doran said.

“Bigger than you.  That not enough?”

“I suppose, but…”

“Then be off with you!  No business here!”  Bark’s eyes looked the children over.  “Man-childs.  Hark!  Belong in village.  Be off with you!”

Kara stood up.  “You are not going to make us into soup?

“Hark!  Not like your smell, why I like your taste?”

Kara stamped her foot.  “That’s not very nice!”

“I not supposed to be nice.”

“You should say you’re sorry!”

“Can’t,” said Bark.

“Why not?”

“Not sorry.”  Barked turned to go.

Doran saw Kara fighting back tears and he gathered up his courage.  “I won’t have you talk to my sister like that, you brute!”

Bark turned back to glare at the young boy.  His jaw shifted back and forth and his brow moved up and down as he thought hard for something to say.  “Bah!” he said.  “No time for this!  Must finish garden!  Be off with you!”

“Garden?” Kara asked.  “Do you have roses?”

The old troll turned to look at the tiny girl with her big eyes.  “Aye.  Biggest around.”

“I have roses too.  Can I see yours?”

Bark’s face went quirky again as he looked upon the little girl, unsure what to think.  “Aye, you may.”

Doran was amazed at the turn of events but was no less excited to follow Bark into his domain.  The troll of the wood was not the man-eating beast the villagers believed him to be.  They passed through an opening not far along the hedge and instantly the shade gave way to warm sunlight.  His yard was very spacious.  A clear spring ran down a tiny waterfall in the far corner close to where his hut in the tree was built.  The air was filled with blossoming scents of flowers and herbs and puffs of birch smoke wisped from the little chimney.  Kara’s eyes widened with wonder at the landscape that Bark had built, especially all the flowers that had started to bloom.

“Oh Bark, your gardens are very beautiful!” she said.

“Yes, had them for long time.”  He reached for a large rose of the deepest red and gave it to Kara.  “You keep this one.  Remember you were here.”

“Thank you!  I would never forget this place!”

Doran’s eyes lit up with a sprouting idea.  “Say, you must come to the Blooming Day Feast!  The whole village is celebrating spring!”

“Hark!  No, no, no!  I stay away from village.  Men folk hate troll kind.  Pierce my hide with hayforks.”

“Then come with us.  They won’t cause you harm if you are with us.” stated Doran.

Bark lingered for a moment.  “Don’t know.  Not so trusting.”

Kara stood at Bark’s side.  “You have to try, Bark.  You can’t stay alone forever.”

For the second time, the girl held Bark in sway.  “Aye.  But any trouble, I go!  Must get cart.”

A short time later, the three emerged from the edge of the wood.  They walked shyly into town and the villagers soon took notice.  A quiet overcame the crowd as mouths dropped open and eyes gaped in stunned wonder.  Through the thick of the crowd, Dokoran stepped before his children.  It was all they could do but hold their breaths as Dokoran and Bark glared at each other.

“Step aside, children.  This beast knows not his place,” said Dokoran.  A murmur passed about the folk.

Bravely, Kara stepped forward.  “His name is Bark, Father, and he is my friend.  He is kind and has a beautiful garden!”

“It’s true, Father,” added Doran. “He is not as the tales say.  He has been kind to us and we invited him to the Blooming Day Feast.  All should be allowed to celebrate.  That is our way is it not?”

Another silence fell upon the villagers and the twins felt the cold stare from their father.  At length, Bark finally pulled his cart between the villagers and the children and pulled back the tarp that covered it.  The whole of the town gasped in wide wonder at the bounty of fresh flowers, herbs, fruits and vegetables.  Even Dokoran softened at the site of Bark’s cart.

Finally he said, “It seems I have not minded well enough the courage and wisdom of my children.  Today they have taught us a lesson in kindness and the true spirit of Blooming Day!”  He bent to his children’s level and looked upon them joyfully.  “Your disobedience has turned to your favour today, young ones!”

Then he stood and looked to Bark.  “Master Bark, you have lived amongst us since Racidian’s humble beginnings but always outside our borders.  That shall be no longer.  From this day forth, you will be always welcome.  Will you join our feast this day?”

For the first time in a long time, a smile came to the old troll’s face.  “Aye, I will indeed!”

Blooming Day brought with it new meaning after that.  For it was discovered that friendships, like flowers, could bloom in the oddest of surroundings.  The villagers then rejoiced with great cheers as the celebrations went well into the night.  Many stories were shared and Bark was treated as common a villager as anyone there.  He visited often and was visited often and lived his days a much happier troll.


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