Rollo leaned his chest on his knees and reached out to gently finger the lovely and delicate pink flower blowing in the wind. He sighed as he compared his large and hairy green finger next to the fragile, dancing petals.
Heaving another sigh, he let his bulky arms fall to the ground and dropped his head onto his knees. It seemed he just couldn’t do anything right. He was so disappointed in himself, for no matter how hard he tried, he just couldn’t be a good troll.
All the trolls he knew lived under bridges or in caves, terrorizing and eating the people or animals that crossed the bridge, or going out to fight for evil against kings and kingdoms. Oh, he’d tried it all! He was raised to be a good troll. He knew what it took, and he followed the usual troll sorts of career choices: he’d chosen a bridge as soon as he was big enough and secreted himself under it, waiting for a yummy human or animal to cross. But the first creature to arrive on the bridge was a large and beautifully luminescent blue bird, and he was so distracted by it’s loveliness that he forgot to terrorize and eat it.
He stayed for awhile, determined to be stronger and meaner next time. Each time a creature approached, he would think hard about how to be a good troll and strategize how to jump out and catch the creature, be it bear, goat, man or child. But when the moment came something always happened: he stumbled on a stone and fell instead of jumping onto the bridge, or he reached out for them and missed. Once an old lady even scolded him and told him to leave her alone and get back under his bridge. And he sheepishly slunk away, just as she had commanded him.
Finally the Troll Development Council evicted him from the bridge. Trolls had a reputation to uphold, after all, and he just wasn’t getting the job done. Move on, they ordered him, and let a better troll have the spoils and loot from this bridge if he wasn’t going to take them.
He wasn’t just a bad troll. He was a wrong troll. He despaired of ever being able to troll at all. And he was hungry.
There was a cave troll barracks in the neighborhood, and he thought if he had good examples to follow he would be able to train himself to be better. It took quite a bit of persuasion, but they finally were convinced to allow him to join them. He moved into the smelly, dank barracks, brushed some bones and pieces of discarded weapons from the dark corner they assigned him, and settled in to learn how to fight for evil.
The next day he excitedly joined the ranks with a large mace, although he kept it to himself that his stomach was very wobbly and shivery. He yelled and shouted and banged his mace on his shield just like all the others as they marched to the battle.
It was a bit of a hike, so he had time to gather information from the other trolls about their assignment: it turned out that they were to attack from the flank. He understood that, but what he wanted to know was why were they fighting?
The trolls around him stared in disbelief. Because they were, um, trolls?
“No, no,” replied Rollo. “Of course we fight because we are trolls. But what is this fight about? What is it that our evil commander wants so much that we must fight?”
The other trolls murmured among themselves. They didn’t know. What did it matter? This is what trolls did. Trolls fight. They yelled, banged their weapons on their shields once more and started a loud, ugly, rhythmic chant as they marched.
Rollo stopped marching.
He didn’t see the point of marching or battling when he didn’t understand the goal. Turning his back to the ranks, he paced back along the path to the cave. Carefully returning his mace and shield to their proper place, he looked around at the mess in the cave, grabbed a broom and started sweeping. At least he could help by cleaning up the cave.
At the end of the day when the trolls returned, bloody, angry and sore from battle, the sergeant troll stormed up to Rollo, shoved his ugly, warty face into Rollo’s, and screamed “NEVER LEAVE THE RANKS WITHOUT PERMISSION! WHERE WERE YOU TODAY? NEVERMIND! YOU ARE DISHONORABLY DISCHARGED!”
“Sarge!” Shouted another troll. “Look what he’s done ta the cave! Our snacks and good luck charms are gone, and it smells…Whew! It smells…FRESH in here.” And he wretched and ran out of the cave.
The sergeant and two or three other trolls piled on top of Rollo and beat at him, cursing and swearing. Finally they dragged him out of the cave and tossed him as far as they could. He landed hard in the dust, and lay there hoping they would leave.
He wasn’t just a bad troll. He was a wrong troll. He despaired of ever being able to troll at all. He was still hungry, and now he was hurt, too.