Stories from the Stringam Family Ranches of Southern Alberta

From the 50s and 60s to today . . .

Wednesday, February 5, 2020

Three Goats. And a Troll

It started with a bridge.
Okay, maybe not with a bridge, but with the troll that lived under it.
Or maybe with the three goats that simply wanted to get across.
Let me start again . . .
There were once three goats.
Brothers (or Billys) by the name of Gruff.
They lived in a meadow at the foot of Cold Mountain. Beside the Whispering Woods.
Near Clearwater Stream.
You know the spot.
It was lovely there. Plenty to eat.
Shelter from the occasional storms.
Really fresh, cold water.
Yep. Lovely.
All fall and winter, the three of them ate the lush grass and did goat stuff.
Finally, as summer was just starting peep out along the branches of the trees and creep up into the crevices of Cold Mountain, Big Billy Goat Gruff, hereinafter known as BB, made a momentous proposal.
“Hey, bros! Why don’t we go up the mountain and eat the new, green grass that is sure to be growing there!”
Now, you have to know that, for three goats who hardly—okay, never—went anywhere, this truly was an ‘out-there’ suggestion.
The other two thought about it for .68 seconds.
“I’m for it!” Little Billy (LB) said excitedly.
Middle Billy (MB) shrugged. “Why not? I probably won’t be getting any calls from my publisher any time soon, so what have I got to lose?”
“Let’s do it!” LB took off at a run.
Little brothers. Am I right?
The other two followed at a more sedate pace. Well, MB did.
I think it was BB’s turn to do the dishes, so he was a bit behind the other two.
It should come as no surprise that LB reached the stout, stone bridge crossing Clearwater Stream quite a bit ahead of the others. Without even pausing to consider the possible ramifications involved in crossing an unknown—albeit local—landmark, he started across.
Trip-trap! Trip-trap! Trip-trap!
Okay, that probably doesn’t accurately describe the sound made by four small goat hooves on the aged wooden decking of a local landmark.
Go with me on this . . .
LB had just reached the center of the bridge when something happened.
Something big and loud and scary.
And no, it wasn’t a broadcast of the most recent out-of-control political discussion.
Although that would be equally frightening . . .
No. It was a troll.
One who had taken up residence beneath that very bridge.
And we all know that, in a troll world, possession is 9/10s of the law.
Actually more like 35/36s.
“Who’s trip-trapping on my bridge?!” the troll shouted, leaping onto the bridge.
Do you think this comment suggests another sound may have been acceptable?
What are your thoughts . . .
“Eek!” LB replied. Then, in a shaky ‘little-goat-brother’ voice, “It is I. Little Tinesy Billy Goat Gruff. The littlest, tiniest, not-much-meat-on-him goat in the Gruff family of fine goats.”
The troll blinked. “Umm . . .”
LB rolled his eyes and decided to simplify. “Don’t eat me!”
“But you’re on my bridge. And anyone caught trip-trapping over my bridge gets eaten!”
See? There’s that ‘trip-trapping’ again. Am I right in thinking LB would have done just fine if he’d—I don’t know—salsa danced across?
“Oh, but I’m just so wee,” LB said in his tiniest, squeakiest voice. “There’s not much to eat. You’d lose more calories than you gained. Like eating celery. All work. Small reward.”
The troll stared at him.
LB sighed. “My bigger, fatter, tastier brother is right behind me. Why don’t you wait for him? Much better meat-to-bone ratio.”
The troll thought about this for a moment, then finally shrugged. Why not? “Fine,” he said. “But stick around, just in case.”
LB didn’t wait for the troll to clarify, but trip-trapped the rest of the way across and out of sight.
The troll ducked back beneath the bridge.
A few minutes later, MB appeared. Seeing no one and nothing untoward, he started across. Trip-trap! Trip-trap! Trip-trap!
Notice how it’s a little louder? That’s called Bigger Font.
“Who’s that trip-trapping over my bridge?!” the troll shouted. He leaped onto the bridge in his finest ‘I’m-a-troll-and-I’m-awesomely-scary’ fashion.
MB and the troll regarded each other. “It is I. Middle Billy Goat Gruff,” MB said in his most polite voice. “Is there something I can do for you?” 
“You can bring me lunch!” The troll laughed his most troll-like laugh. Which, you have to admit is pretty rough and creaky and . . . okay, yes . . . scary.
“I’d be happy to,” said MB, still in his ‘I-don’t-know-you-but-why-can’t-we-be-friends?’ voice. What is it I can get you?”
“YOU!” The troll shouted gleefully and started forward.
“Oh you don’t want to eat me!” MB put up a hoof to ward the large, and decidedly over-eager troll off.
“I don’t?”
“Oh, no! I’m much too small and puny.”
The troll frowned. “You look pretty good to me.”
“Well, trust me, I’m not. I’m in terrible shape and I never eat a proper diet. My BMI is through the roof! You can do much better.”
The troll looked around. “How?”
MB leaned closer. “Okay, I probably shouldn’t tell you this,” he said conspiratorially, “but there is another goat right behind me who is MUCH bigger than I am. And he works out. Totally eats right. Low fat. Low sodium. If you eat him, not only will there be more, but it will be much better for you!”
The troll pursed his huge troll-lips thoughtfully. “Okay,” he said finally. “But stick around, just in case.”
MB nodded and completely ignoring what the troll asked, skedaddled.
Once more, the troll took up his patented ‘troll’ position beneath the bridge.
This may be a good time to explore the whole ‘troll-beneath-the-bridge’ thing. I mean, why on earth would one choose to live beneath a bridge? Damp to wet conditions pretty much constantly. Noisy, as the whole ‘trip-trapping’ would suggest. Subject to the whims of the weather. Fishermen.
I mean, really?!
And another thing, what makes him think it is HIS bridge? Does he have title?
Did he, you know, pay someone for it?
These are questions that need explanation.
Back to our story . . .
BB arrived. Assuming his brothers were trip-trapping happily further ahead, he leaped onto the bridge and started across.
Trip-trap! Trip-trap! Trip-trap!
Yow! He certainly is a big fellow.
Once again, the troll shouted, “Who’s that trip-trapping over my bridge!” And made a truly spectacular appearance on the mountain side of the bridge.
I don’t know about you, but I’m scared . . .
“It is I! The Big Billy Goat Gruff. And what makes it your bridge?”
See? I’m not the only one who is wondering.
“Ummm . . .” said the troll.
“Never mind. What do you want?”
“Lunch!” the troll shouted, pouncing.
But BB was very large indeed. And had a fine, large pair of horns to go with his enormous size.
Quicker than you can blink, he had used those horns to toss that old troll right over the side.
Okay, you’re right, the chances of the old guy getting hurt were probably quite slim.
Truth to tell, it was his ego that took the brunt of everything. First of all, he’d been soundly defeated by a goat. And secondly, as he was going over, he screamed like a little girl.
I’m not lying. He did.
He hit the stream with an enormous splash, then waded to the bank and pulled himself out. He stood there for a moment, turned and looked up at BB, silhouetted against the afternoon sky, then sighed and started walking. Down the stream and out of sight.
BB nodded and finished crossing the bridge.
The three brothers spent a happy, lovely summer on the slopes of Cold Mountain. Growing fat on the rich grasses and just generally enjoying themselves.
As the weather began to cool, they once more made their way back down the mountain to their old meadows.
They did exhibit some caution when crossing the little bridge, but the troll hadn’t returned.
He was happily ensconced under another bridge further downstream. Finding new goats to annoy.
Some trolls never learn.


  1. I remember this in Kindergarten! The teacher had felt figures she'd use to tell the story. So sweet. Happy memories.

  2. That was a treat to read! Love the twist to the "Three Billy Goats Gruff"! It sounds just like you, Diane. Love how you weave a story.
    Love, Chris

  3. Great twist on an old classic! I can just imagine what those Billy goats smelled like in the late spring. In real life that troll would've pushed himSELF over the edge, if the troll was the male of the species. Mind you I remember some girls in school... Never mind...

  4. I love your modern take on this old story and your sense of humour, Diane! Sooo many good lines!

    I'm also picturing how wonderful this would be as an animated video, with the bedraggled troll sighing in defeat and turning to trudge away ... I can see it in the screen in my head :)

  5. Is it wrong of me to feel sorry for the troll?

  6. Well told! Trolls simply love the damp conditions under bridges, maybe that's what makes them trolls.


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