Friday, October 26, 2018

There Is A Troll

There Is A Troll
Bobby Derie

"...Aarvak, who has teeth like shovels, and digs among the roots of trees. But Aarvak hates garlic, which is why you should always spread garlic juice around your trees."

Nnad tapped his teeth wisely after this pronouncement, and drew in a puff of smoke from his long-stemmed pipe.

"And there is a troll..." he began again after a moment's thought, but I had already put him out of my mind. There was always a troll, with Nnad.

To him, the world was full of trolls, gliding through the mossy woods at night and in pale misty mornings; trolls throwing rocks at one another from the heights of mountains, building up islands and scooping fish out of rivers with their bare hands to eat them whole. Trolls hid behind and beneath rocks, they lived below the earth and in castles on clouds above the sky; and never once had I seen a single one of Nnad's trolls, for they were always on the other side of the mountain, or asleep within their hidden houses.

When Morda was found headless in the remains of her summer kitchen, Nnad in shaking voice said that the troll Morkar had returned, and for weeks after wore an onion on a string about his neck. When we had run the varg to earth, dirty and half-starved, with Morda's head in one bag and her summer sausages in another, Nnad had claimed he was a thief of Morkar's treasures - but the varg had died anyway, confusion in his eyes as the old man laid the onion-string around his neck.

When the children of Mellion were found in the woods, their livers picked out, Nnad had claimed the troll responsible was Galgost, who preferred such treats above all others, and warned mothers in the neighborhood to cut a rune on the left hand of each of their children. Some of them did, and the wee ones cried as the blood flowed. After Sven Bloody-Hand was found, digging into a tomb, and confessed, Nnad claimed the poor boy must have learnt the hunger from Galgost, and asked how many caves Sven had visited.

When the girl Alamm fled from his farm, blood streaming between her legs, Nnad claimed there was a troll between his legs, one that he kept calm only with regular dips in the glacier-stream that ran through his pasturage, and by judicious cuts with the little knife he always kept at his left hand.

I asked him, as I led him to the woodblock, where Alamm stood with the sword between her hands, what the name of the troll was.

"Nnad." He smiled sadly at me. "It's name is Nnad."


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