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Bridge Trolls

Do you remember the story of the Three Billy Goats Gruff? I didn’t remember all the details, but the character of the troll really stuck with me. Throughout the years, I’ve occasionally encountered people that I’ve thought of as “bridge trolls.” I know that isn’t very nice, but then, sometimes we meet people who aren’t very nice, too!

Over the weekend, I visited with a friend who lives in a small town nearby. We spent a day visiting small local shops and antique stores. And when I came upon this illustration of the Big Billy Goat and the Troll from a 1938 version of the story, I simply had to buy it. I mean, seriously, who else feels such a strong connection with the bridge troll? It was meant to be.

Of course, then I had to look up the story to remember how it went, and I was sad to learn that the billy goats triumphed by apparently killing the mean old bridge troll. Sure, he threatened to eat them, but he also never actually did. Poor guy. Also, it strikes me that a lot of children’s stories and songs are seriously morbid. I mean, the big billy goat actually says to the troll:

Well, come along! I’ve got two spears,
And I’ll poke your eyeballs out at your ears;
I’ve got besides two curling-stones,
And I’ll crush you to bits, body and bones.

Sheesh! I’m feeling more and more sympathetic for this poor little troll. And maybe I will start being a little warmer towards the “bridge trolls” in my own life, too. Maybe. Either way, I’ve now got this fabulous bit of bridge troll art for my wall, and I love it.

Are there any bridge trolls in your life? Or any other creatures from weird children’s stories that you’ve held on to the way I have the bridge troll?

7 thoughts on “Bridge Trolls

  1. The version I read to you when you were small wasn’t so ugly. I think in that version the goats won by kicking him into the water or something. 🙂 I’m doing the internet version of antique shopping today. I’m trying to find a motion lamp to surprise your dad with.

  2. My Grandma used to sing a song about crows and a dead horse. Except both my brother and I thought the horse was alive when the crows would “ride across his bare back bones” and “peck his eyes out one by one.”
    Now that I think about, I can’t believe she sung that to us! It terrified us but I think we kind of liked it too.

  3. I don’t remember being phased by all the grusome stuff in children’s stories when I was young. I guess maybe kids just take in stride? I mean, why weren’t we more upset when the witch tried to cook Hansel and Gretel? But then, if it was gross, I’m sure my brother and I thought it was awesome.

  4. I was in first grade in 1941, so that might have been the picture in the Three Billy Goats Gruff book that was on our book shelf at school. (no kindergarten in those days). I remember the teacher reading the book to us, but like Janice, I think it ended more like her version. And ones we bought for our kids in the 50’s I know were nicer, but I was always caught up with the ” tramp, tramp, tramp,” Who goes on my bridge part. We’d always act it out, and I think got to laughing so much we never did anything to the troll, other than maybe ran him off into the woods… so the bridge was “safe”….. Glad you found the “art”.
    I’m amused at what you say about the gruesomeness of the old stories of witches, dwarfs, etc… and you are right. But maybe we’ve over done the politically correct stuff???? Except…. your age now has these horrible movies, I wouldn’t think of going to see. I’d be scared out of my socks… And some people brag about how many times 10 they’ve seen such and such a Halloween horror flick or something….. Interesting, huh!!!! Lets go back to the days when kids could make mud pies, and maybe even eat a bite, and sing songs like they were written never mind they might slight some group or other…
    Is that the exact picture you remember????? Good for you!

  5. I probably should have said, that at that time in my life, I doubt I’d ever seen a bridge…. living in the flat land of western Nebraska, where the prairie meets the skyline… so the fascination was partly on just what was a bridge, and why would it go “tramp, tramp, tramp” Alot of a 4-7 yr. old to take in???? you think???

  6. I always loved the troll stories because they were unsettling. I remember every time we’d stop at the little bridge on the way to Highland Lake to look for the turtle, I would wonder what was underneath.

    Now I much prefer the original versions of the fairy tales. The cleaned up stories make the world seem far safer than it is, and I think that’s exactly the opposite of the intentions behind the stories.

  7. It wasn’t that long ago that I read a version of that story to my children. they’re in college now…I wonder if they remember.

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