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Today's Story by Cathy C. Hall

“The Trolls,” moaned the Little Boy. “Now I’ll never know what the big, hairy Trolls love to eat.”

A Trade for Treasure

“Make me a story,” said the Little Boy.

The Old Woman smiled. She had a talent for stories.

What will you give me?

The Little Boy reached into his pocket and pulled out a stick of gum (mostly still in the wrapper), a bent paper clip, two dimes and his lucky blue jay feather. He was saving the gum for later, even though he didn’t much care for the flavor. And he depended on his lucky feather every single day. He could give the paper clip, a useless bit of metal. But he wanted a good story. That left only the dimes for trading. He figured he could lose one and still keep his wealth. So he gave a coin to the Old Woman.

She shrugged and put the dime in her pocket.

Once upon a time-

“Heard it,” said the Little Boy.

All stories must have a beginning.

The Little Boy sighed. “Okay,” he said. “But I want an exciting story. And scary!” He sat down crossed-legged at her feet. “Not too scary,” he said.

Once upon a time, in a kingdom far away, there was a scary, but not too scary Forest.

“A forest?” asked the Boy. “That’s not very exciting.”

Once upon a time, in a kingdom far away, there was a scary, but not too scary Cave. The entrance to the Cave was small, for this not too scary Cave was home for a ragtag band of Gnomes.

“Gnomes?” asked the Boy. “Gnomes don’t live in caves. Big, hairy trolls live in caves.”

Big, hairy Trolls always come with Treasure. Trolls will cost you.

The Little Boy dug around in his pocket, a finger catching the loop of the bent paper clip. The clip wouldn’t even hold papers together any more, much less pay for trolls and treasure. His fingers slid past the paper clip, over the lucky feather that he positively couldn’t live without, under the gum (mostly still in the wrapper), which he was still saving for later, all the way to the other dime. If he gave the storyteller his money, she’d have twenty cents. A treasure!  That seemed a fair trade. So he handed the coin to the Old Woman. She slipped it in her pocket.

Trolls are rude, loud, and altogether disagreeable on the best of days. But big, hairy Cave Trolls are even more disagreeable. Unlike ordinary Trolls who will steal a Treasure in the blink of an eye, big, hairy Trolls work for their Treasure.

From the time these Trolls awake each morning (which, if I’m being honest, is closer to noonday than morning) till an entirely too early supper, they whack away inside their Cave home, mining for gems.

Despite the undisputed truth that these Trolls only manage a few, paltry hours of work each day, they still mine a mountain of Treasure. For big, hairy Trolls have incredibly over-developed biceps, so that each swing of the axe produces a waterfall of diamonds, rubies and emeralds.

Now, I’m sure you already know how much trolls love Treasure.

The Little Boy nodded.

But do you know what trolls love to eat?

He gulped and shook his head. The Old Woman leaned over and whispered.

Not fried chicken or double cheeseburgers. Not chocolate cake or candy bars or clams. Not tater tots or tofu or turtle soup. And definitely not vegetables.

“Nobody likes vegetables,” said the Little Boy.

Just so. The people who lived in the village next to the Cave did not know what Trolls loved to eat, either. Not that they hadn’t been trying to discover the secret for as long as anyone could remember. You see, many, many years ago, when the village was young, the King of the Trolls struck a deal with the very first Mayor:

If you can name our favorite food, and provide it every day,

You shall have your pick of gems. That will be your pay.

The village could trade for the Trolls’ Treasure, if only the people could name the favorite food!

That is why every day, the Mayor and the village people would gather in the square to choose a food for the Trolls. The Baker brought scrumptious pastries, the butcher brought his best cuts of meat, and the Dairy Man brought his most pungent cheeses. The people carefully considered the delicious fares for the trade, and upon deciding, loaded the chosen food into a wagon. Then the Mayor would ride out and dump the contents of the wagon at the mouth of the Cave. Next, the Mayor would wait, rather far away from the Cave, because as you know, big, hairy Trolls are not fond of personal hygiene.

Eventually, a big, hairy, not to mention smelly, Troll would poke his head out of the Cave.

Porridge! The mayor would yell the name of the delivered delicacy from his vantage point 10 yards downwind. Perhaps he’d shout Prunes! Or Pumpkin! Or Petunias! The Troll would drag the porridge, or prunes or pumpkins or petunias inside the Cave. But no Treasure had ever appeared afterward for the trade.

The End.

“What?” sputtered the Little Boy. “You can’t end there.”

That’s an exciting, not too scary Troll story.

“But you’ve only told the beginning! Nothing’s really happened yet! I mean, where’s the bad guy! What about a fair maiden? ”

A Bad Guy? A Fair Maiden? That story will cost you.

The Little Boy thought about what was left in his pocket: the gum (mostly still in the wrapper), his exceedingly lucky blue jay feather, and the useless bent paper clip. He wanted more story, with a fair maiden and a bad guy. He would give up the gum. After all, it wasn’t a very good flavor.

“Strawberry Kiwi,” he said, holding out the stick of gum (mostly still in the wrapper).

The Old Woman put the gum in her pocket.

Now, where were we?

“No treasure ever appeared,” said The Little Boy. “Not for porridge or pumpkin or petunias, or any of the other foods.”

Ah, yes. The village people had grown weary of sending food to the Trolls. And the Mayor, in checking the village accounting books, had noticed an alarming trend.  If the village did not get any gems that very week, their coffers would be empty. The village would be kaput!

It was an awful dilemma.

“I knew there was more!” shouted the Boy.

Just so. That very day, a fortuitous event occurred.

“Yes!” said the Little Boy, pumping his fist in the air. “What’s fortuitous?”


“Oh, like lucky,” said the Little Boy, smiling. He was very happy that he’d given up his gum and not his feather. He needed his fortuitous feather.

A visitor arrived at the village. He drove into town on a fine, ebony carriage with isinglass windows. A team of creamy white horses stopped at the Inn and a Fair Maiden, with flaxen hair and rosy cheeks, peered out of the window.

Young Harold the Brave, so called because he’d chased a garden snake out of the Mayor’s house, watched as the Fair Maiden stepped out of the carriage. Her delicate feet were clad in soft, leather boots. Her gown was pink with red roses scattered about the hem, and on her head was a dainty round pillbox hat from which a sheer veil hung.

In short, she looked remarkably close to what Harold had pictured a Princess to be, and he was well and truly smitten.

The Mayor was smitten too, though for a completely different reason.

Up until that day, the Mayor had delivered fine victuals from the major food groups. The village people had chosen fruits and vegetables, sweets and meats, fowl and fish, or eggs and breads for the Trolls. But so far, these traditional fares had not proved to be the Trolls’ favorite food. Seeing the flaxen-haired vision that stepped out of the carriage, the Mayor had an idea.

“Uh, oh,” said the Little Boy.

The mayor wondered if the Trolls’ favorite food might not be listed on the basic food pyramid. In point of fact, the Mayor thought the Trolls might really enjoy a certain flaxen-haired beauty.

The Little Boy gasped and his eyes widened with horror.

The more the Mayor considered this idea, the more he liked it. He was sure that a tasty repast of Fair Maiden, and possibly her coachman, would be exactly what the Trolls so longingly desired. He could already imagine the mound of sparkling rubies, emeralds and diamonds, piled high in the village coffers!

But in all his imaginings, the Mayor could not imagine how he would get the Fair Maiden and her coachman into the wagon. And he certainly had no idea whatsoever as to how he’d convince the pair to hang about the mouth of the Cave, in order to satisfy the Trolls’ hunger.

He decided to call a meeting of the village, to put the problem before his people.

“See here,” said the Mayor. “It seems to me that we have the perfect opportunity in which to gain a Treasure and thereby save our village.”

“Here, here!” the village people cried.

“It seems to me that we have traded every possible foodstuff the village has to offer, except for one.”

The Mayor paused. The crowd moved in closer so as not to miss a single word.


The people gasped. That was not the word they had expected.

“Oh, not us, people,” said the Mayor, very quickly indeed. “I mean the young, flaxen-haired Fair Maiden who’s just ridden into town. And possibly her coachman.”

The village people sighed with relief.

“What say you?” The Mayor waited.

One by one, the village people began to raise their arms, forming the letter “Y,” followed by the letter “E.” Unfortunately, they had never learned the letter “S” but the Mayor got the message.

“Now that we’re agreed,” said the Mayor, “does anyone have any bright ideas about how we shall get the Fair Maiden to the Cave, and convince her to hang about, waiting to be eaten?”

One young fellow raised his hand.

“We should conk her over the head with my baseball bat,” said the young fellow, who was actually Bart, a well-known Bad Guy. “Then we can tie her hands and feet and throw her out of the wagon so she lands in front of the Cave. Even if she wakes up, she won’t be able to go anywhere! And we should conk the coachman on the head, too, just in case the big, hairy Trolls prefer male people over female people.”

“Hurray!” shouted the village people.

“Then it’s settled,” said the Mayor. “Thank goodness we have a well-known Bad Guy like Bart around to put things right!”

The End.

“No, no, no!” shouted the Little Boy. “That can’t be how the story ends! It’s just getting good!” The Little Boy stood and stamped his little foot. “The princess has to be saved, the bad guy has to get what’s coming to him!”

So now it’s a saved Princess and a Bad Guy getting his comeuppance? That story’s going to cost you.

The Little Boy squirmed. All he had left was his incredibly lucky blue jay feather and a useless, bent paper clip. His hands began to sweat at the thought of losing his lucky feather. He’d had his feather for at least a whole summer and he’d taken it along with him on a fishing trip and hooked three trout.  But who would save the princess, if not him? And he definitely wanted the Bad Guy to get his comeuppance, whatever that was. The paper clip was nothing, just a bit of junk. But the feather! He wiped his hands and took a deep breath. He would do it; he would give up his lucky feather. He handed it over quickly, so he couldn’t change his mind.

The Old Woman put the feather in her pocket.

The village people surrounded the Inn and began to call for the flaxen-haired Fair Maiden. But as they did not know her proper name, they mostly called, “Hey, you! Young Lady!”

The maiden looked around, wondering if the village people could be calling for her. But as she was new in town and a stranger in the village, she ignored their calls. Finally, Bart the well-known Bad Guy had an idea.

“Uh, oh,” said the Little Boy. “Not another idea.”

“Come out, come out,” called Bart, the Bad Guy. “I’m talking to you, flaxen-haired Fair Maiden who just rode into town!”

The maiden stared out the window.

“Yes, you!” said the Bad Guy. “The Fair Maiden in the pink gown with the red roses on the hem.”

All the village people joined in the cry. “Yes, you! With the soft, leather boots and the pink gown!”

“You, Fair Maiden! With the flaxen hair and the rose-hemmed dress!”

The maiden pointed at herself and all the village people nodded their heads. Bart the Bad Guy held his baseball bat high over his head, ready to conk the Fair Maiden right on the top of her pretty pillbox hat the moment she walked out the door.

The situation appeared grim, indeed. But as fate would have it, Harold the Brave heard the village people shouting and making a ruckus calling to the Fair Maiden whom he well and truly adored. He made his way to the square to see what all the fuss was about.

Now, Harold was not only Brave, but Wise, too. So when he saw Bart, the well-known Bad Guy, standing outside the door of the Inn, holding a baseball bat, he put two and two together quicker than you could say, “Stand away, you blackguard!” Which happened to be exactly what Harold the Brave said.

Running at full speed, Harold dashed up the steps of the Inn, brandishing a rake in one hand and a shovel in the other. Harold the Brave always carried a rake and a shovel, as he liked to be prepared in the event of any snake-chasing.

“Stand away, you blackguard,” yelled Harold the Brave again, reiterating his demand. He charged Bart the Bad Guy, poking the rake and shovel in Bart’s general direction.

“Take that,” said Bart the Bad Guy, swinging the bat back and forth, trying to hit either the shovel or the rake. He was not that picky.

Whack! Thwack! Bam! Crack! It was a full-blown sword fight, if you substitute a baseball bat, shovel and rake for swords. The flaxen-haired Fair Maiden watched the whole fight from a large picture window in the front of the Inn.

With a final, ear-splitting clang, Harold the Brave’s shovel and rake simultaneously connected with Bart the Bad Guy’s bat at such an angle that the bat flew across the village square, knocking the Mayor out cold.

“Come out, Fair Maiden,” said Harold the Brave. “Yes, you with the flaxen hair, pink dress and red rose hem. You are perfectly safe now.”

The coachman opened the door. “May I present Charlotte, the Princess Phone representative in this area?”

The village people oohed and ahhed. They’d been on a list for weeks, waiting for the Princess! Sadly, Bart the Bad Guy would NOT be getting a Princess.  Harold the Brave, who coincidentally was also a serviceman from the phone company, had just that morning disconnected Bart’s telephone.

The End.

“That’s it?” asked the Little Boy. “That’s the end?” The Boy did not understand, but he felt like crying.

It’s a very exciting story. It’s scary, but not too scary. There’s a Fair Maiden who’s saved, and a Bad Guy who gets what’s coming to him. And it’s not easy to get a Princess worked into a story late in the plot, either, but that’s in there, too. Plus the big, hairy Trolls.

“The Trolls,” moaned the Little Boy. “Now I’ll never know what the big, hairy Trolls love to eat.”

What will you give? To get what you want?

The little boy pulled his pockets inside out, even though he knew he had only the worthless bent paper clip. A teensy, tiny tear fell from the Little Boy’s eye and dribbled all the way down his cheek, leaving a dirty streak.

“It’s all I have left,” said the Little Boy, opening his palm to show the clip. A bent paper clip was not good for anything. Now, he would never get what he wanted.

But the Old Woman took the paper clip. She did not put it in her pocket. Instead, she began to twist it at the bent spot.

In all the commotion, no one had prepared anything to bring to the big, hairy Trolls. And since all of the village people had given the last of their funds to the Princess Phone representative, it was, as they say, a moot point. There was nothing left in the entire village to prepare anyway. The village cupboard was bare.

Unless you count the mice. And really, it would be quite impossible to count the mice as the village was completely infested with the varmints. A mouse or two were even now crawling over the Mayor as he lay groaning in the street.

“For crying out loud!” The Mayor bellowed through the village upon waking. “Will no one rid us of these mice?”

Out of the blue, a Pied Piper appeared before the Mayor. The one very important thing to know about Pied Pipers is that they are quite convenient when it comes to ridding towns of rats. And what is a mouse, but a smaller version of a rat?  The other very important thing to know is that stories may have what is called a deus ex machina. Which is exactly what this particular Pied Piper happened to be.

“A deus what?” asked the Little Boy.

“I shall rid the village of your mice! And rats, too. Really, pretty much any rodents you might have,” said the Pied Piper, who showed up most serendipitously to solve the problem. He lifted his pipe to his lips and began to play a soulful tune of longing, at least as far as rodents are concerned. From every corner of the village, the mice heard the notes and skittered over to the Pied Piper. At last, he began to walk, and the vermin, enraptured by his music, followed.

The Piper tootled along, taking the road that lead out of the village and right to the Cave of the big, hairy Trolls. So that when the Pied Piper passed by with the furry creatures in tow, round about suppertime, what should he see but a big, hairy, not to mention smelly Troll waiting for his village delivery.

“My,” said the Pied Piper, “how fortuitous!” He knew that of all the delicacies in the world, big, hairy Trolls love smelly rodents best. Like calls to like, his mother always said.

“Mice!” said the Pied Piper, calling to the Troll. “Mice for sale!”

The big, hairy Troll lumbered into the Cave and reappeared within seconds, carrying a large armful of diamonds, rubies and emeralds. He gave the gems for the mice, right there on the spot.

“Goodness,” said the Fair Maiden whom we now know as the Princess phone representative, “did you see that?”

She was looking out from a window of the Inn, high above the village, so that she saw the Pied Piper, and the rodent trade-off. Harold the Brave, who was checking her room for garden snakes, had not seen a thing. But as she was an honest Fair Maiden, she told Harold the whole story. And as Harold was not only Brave, but also Wise, he went straight to his farm. There he found a few deaf mice, happily making a home in a haystack. Harold the Brave fetched the family and carefully placed them in a box in his barn. He knew that in a few short weeks, there would be four times as many vermin burrowing in the box. And where there are mice and big, hairy Trolls, there is sure to be a trade for Treasure.

The End.

The Old Woman, who had been twisting the paper clip where it was bent, heard a snap. A small bit of the clip broke off. She reached into her pocket and pulled out a pair of glasses. Then she pulled out a stem that had come apart from the glasses. She fit the stem into the glasses, lining up the holes.

“Mice,” said the Little Boy, a faraway look in his eyes. “I thought it would be something …special. But all along, it was just a smelly, little mouse that the big, hairy trolls wanted.”

The Old Woman dropped the piece of paper clip through the holes and found that it fit perfectly. She put her now repaired glasses on and nodded.

Just so, a mouse. But it is often the need of a thing that gives it value.

“That is a good story,” said the Little Boy, smiling.

She could finally see the Little Boy clearly and she smiled back at his freckles and the spot where his left front tooth had not yet come in.

Thank you.

She did have a talent for stories, even if she said so herself.


Cathy C. Hall is a humor writer from Georgia. She writes for adults and children, both fiction and non-fiction. But she has a need to write the occasional fable, complete with the village people. Find out more at her blog: cathychall.blogspot.com.


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