Billy Goats Gruff: The Origin

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Trolls and Creation

The struggle against the king did not proceed as planned. For six years, the three brothers Gruff operated in the mountains. However, the animals in the valley were hard to convince. For six years, the king’s power had grown and more and more had become subjected to the Complex. This was the machine that had been created to guard against danger. What began as a local project in the valley had evolved to unite all the royal estates and grown even larger.

The king himself, to retain power, had to ally with the Complex. And so the kingdom was rapidly integrated. As far as forests stretched, and as far as mountains reached, a system was in place to ensure that animals were either increasingly employed in the king’s service or imprisoned. New laws created newer laws, which in turn created yet more laws—and everything was focused on keeping away the treacherous mountain air and talk of trolls and Seter. Such rumours created instability. The king feared that if the brothers’ mutinous ideas spread, they would not only result in migration but the Complex losing control as well. More and more animals would prefer the mountain air, and it would be difficult to build an empire.

For these reasons, mere whispers of trolls and Seter were enough for the king to sleep poorly. While he may have had all the fine things that money could buy, his dreams were all terrible. And he did not know if it was because more and more animals were being thrown in jail, or that others had recently snuck away at night. Even his closest adviser, a snake, had disappeared. And the king himself, a lion, did not feel very proud.

No, the world is not what it could have been, he thought. But he saw no solution to the avalanche of problems before him.

Neither did the three Billy Goats Gruff. For six years, they had tried to create awareness in the valley. But if things had gotten worse, fear was still on a rise. Several more prisons had been built, and those who did not fear the mountain air were terrified of the Kongsgård. It had become a stronghold and the pigs had plenty to do. They had received black robes for their efforts against offenders—of whom there were many.

Assisted by volunteers and the conscripted, the pigs meted out punishment. Prisons were not only full, but the dungeons at the monastery had become places of horrors. With Ringer in charge of intelligence, suspects were increasingly rounded up. Whispers of opposition rarely travelled far before they were picked up by his spies, and his Ministry of Sincerity had a reputation for forcing confessions.

Thus, a reign of terror was kept in place by a system of reward and punishment. And while public dissatisfaction was high, no real under-ground movement emerged. Too few had united to overthrow the king, and so the three goats were pondering Plan B.

“Isn’t it time to go to the Seter?” asked Middle Billy Goat Gruff. He was in his prime and ready for any challenge that came his way. The big brother was also ready for a change in plans. It had been impossible to rouse the animals to fight against their circumstances. They had tried everything but were no closer to their goal than six years before.

As for the magician on Murk Mountain, no one had seen him. However, the three goats knew that he was there. The water had only gotten worse and the mountains appeared to be sinking in on themselves. Plants and wildlife were scarce, and even the Northwind was polluted.

Big Billy Goat Gruff said, “This is a sad state of affairs. But we do not give up on the herd. The spirit of the valley is broken, but it will return. We shall go to the Seter to find our friends and fight the magician. If we can get rid of him, half our problems will be solved.”

Little Billy Goat Gruff nodded. But he did not look forward to the journey.

“Don’t you remember,” he began, “the wizard said he ruled over trolls? He said he had a troll watching the bridge, but we do not know if he has more. It was bad enough last time. What if it is worse during this trip?”

Their little brother was right. The road to the Seter was not for cowards. “Who knows if we will even arrive at our destination?” said the middle brother. “But we’re wasting time. If we leave now, the weather will still be with us. There is still time before the snow and we have a good chance.”

Middle Billy Goat Gruff sharpened his horns on rocks. He was ready to follow his big brother and toss the troll down the falls.

Big Billy Goat Gruff himself was not afraid. However, he remembered how hard it had been to fight the troll. He then wondered about what the stoat had said: that the trolls could be a solution rather than a problem. But how? The troll on the bridge had not been interested in talking. There had been little else to do but to fight, and that was what he had done.

He looked at his brothers. “It’s weird,” he said. “Since the meeting with the troll, I have had dreams where the troll and I become friends. Or more than that, it is as if we become one and the world is turned inside out. It’s like visiting the Seter, but even better. A thousand times better, actually.”

Little Billy Goat Gruff wanted to see the Seter, but not the troll. He too had grown horns, but they were not large yet. He shook his ears. “It could be the wizard deceiving you,” he said. “Maybe he wants to lure us into a trap of ten trolls?”

“Then they will have to deal with these horns,” said the middle brother. He dug in his hind hooves, raised his front legs, and then rammed his head into a large stone—it was instantly crushed. He nodded contentedly and said, “I don’t think the troll’s skull is harder than granite. I think we can manage ten trolls, if that is what it takes.”

Soon enough, the three brothers set out on their journey. They travelled further into the highlands and away from the valley. But the closer they got to First Mountain, the more uneasy they felt. The area was in ruins; the land was near dead, and the crows ominous presence and a biting wind made the trip worse. The thought of the wizard’s watchful eyes prompted the three goats to head towards Goblin Gorge to seek cover. It split further as they moved along, and they followed it quite far.

Things had not gone according to plan last time. But, if they were to stay hidden, this was the way to go. Steep walls towered above them, and the three goats felt safe. This is how they continued for a while. Everything went according to plan, and they were past Grayrise, in the forests west of Ill Valley, as they laid down to sleep. They heard wolves, probably bad, but far away. The three brothers were almost asleep when they heard heavy foot-steps.

A large creature was passing by, moving to the south, and they lay completely still. Not far away, loud footsteps sounded; they could smell the troll’s stench, and the youngest felt ice cold. Marrow and bone frozen, he wished he would never lay eyes on a troll again.

There were certainly more in the world. Or was this the same wicked creature they had encountered at the bridge? Did this mean that the road to the Seter was clear? The troll had gone in the other direction, so it was possible. He felt encouraged.

However, Middle Billy Goat Gruff was not happy. “Heck,” he said. “Had the monstrosity come this way, he would have regretted being born.”

He launched into a description of how the troll would have met his end, when the big brother interrupted, “It’s okay to fight when you have to,” he said, “but it’s just stupid to seek trouble.”

In the last few years, he had thought a lot about the troll. He remembered the battle of life and death, and how the giant had been severely injured. He continued, “The more we look for problems, the more difficult life becomes. We should be glad that the troll went the other way. This way, no one gets hurt, and we can go to the Seter. We just need to get through these woods, past Bluerise, and we will have grass under our hooves. The Green Moors will be uplifting.”

The middle brother was still not happy. He had sharpened his horns and wanted to fight the troll. “Feel these horns,” he muttered. The vile troll deserved what he had coming. And because Ogre Abyss was to the south, he wanted to go that way—perhaps he would find the troll there.

It was well-known that trolls lived in hiding. “They hide as much as possible,” their father had said. The brothers had not given it much thought back then. But now, the middle brother put two and two together and wanted to head towards the Abyss. There, they would find caves and bridges that had been empty for many years, and he figured that the troll was on his way there.

The Abyss itself was an impenetrable void. It lay between a thousand peaks in the south-west, with chasms so large that First Mountain, Second Mountain, and Third Mountain looked small in comparison. This is where the trolls had lived in the old days, and there were several myths about the place. Echoes of a deep sorrow remained in in the air, and those who went there never returned whole. Post-traumatic stress they called it, just from being there. Travelers had not seen any trolls for generations, but an aura of fear still lingered.

And to this desolate place Middle Billy Goat Gruff vowed to go. “You’ve clearly lost it,” said the little brother. “You have indeed finally gone off the rocks.” The little kid had heard of the place. He did not want to go, nor did the big brother. Despite this, he said, “I’ll come with you. Not to kill, but to make friends with the troll. Think of what we can accomplish. Together, we can defeat the Kongsgård, the king and the Complex.”

The middle brother did not approve. He replied that talk was of little use and that they should get rid of the troll altogether. The little brother was also against it. He was certain that he did not want to see another troll ever again. He wanted to go to the Seter and intended to convince the others. “Trolls are impossible,” he noted. “Let’s just go to the nearest town. I bet it has seen better days.”

The big brother also wanted to see the place, so they went to Firstville. It lay to the east, in the direction the troll had come from. They walked and walked and finally, saw the town. Soon, it became obvious that the troll had stopped by.

The first animal they met was an ox who was very dismayed. He was a general charged to protect the town. They had received communication from Nextville that a troll was heading their way. They had prepared for battle, but the troll had swept them all away. Bitten the heads of many, he had. The general swore that this meant war and that the king would hear about this.

“The monster has to be taken out,” he said. “At any cost.”

Middle Billy Goat Gruff was extremely angry. It was clear that the troll could not be reasoned with and that they had to find him quickly. Animals’ lives were in danger. He also thought about the status his big brother had gained. Many called him “Troll Fighter,” and he liked the sound of that. It would be nice, he thought, to take down a troll, and he wanted to go to the Abyss. His brothers suggested a visit to the neighbouring town to find out more.

They ended up going to Nextville. And it was clear that the troll had been cruel here.

The inhabitants were angry, and a donkey reported to them that the troll had come from Wayville. He had flattened the location on purpose and taken a detour to wreck the town hall—in short, he was like most trolls; not one to be reasoned with. The donkey mentioned that a company of sheep had tried to arrest the troll before it destroyed the town. But rather than going with them to the station, it had gone berserk. The result had not been pretty.

The three brothers looked at each other and wondered what to do. The troll had gone mad, that much was certain. Even so, the big brother noted, it was hard to tell whether the sheep or the troll had started the fight. The second brother was firm in his opinions, but the little brother said that they should visit the next town. And so they did.

After a long journey, they reached Wayville. As expected, the town was completely destroyed. Here, too, the troll was said to have come from the east. However, it was not sheep who had received him but a hen. She had smelled him before he arrived and had yelled out to the rooster. The rooster in turn had warned others of the danger, and so the inhabitants had escaped. Nevertheless, the troll had destroyed the aspiring city—town hall and all.

The middle brother had no doubt. Now that they had passed through three devastated towns, he was more convinced than ever that the troll had to be killed. The big brother was also worried, but it was clear that everyone had to rest. They settled in the stable for the night, where a snake came to visit them.

The little brother saw her first. She emerged from the hay and introduced herself.

“I’m a messenger,” she hissed, her forked tongue appearing. “You are going the wrong way.”

The serpent explained that throughout history, there had been secret societies that used black and white magic. It had been about power and control on the one hand and those who wanted to live in freedom on the other. She said that she was part of the Order of Serpents, a secret society of this kind, and was there to help them.

The youngest buck was not reassured. Goats and snakes were not best friends, and he remembered the wizard as well. “I hear you, but why should we believe you?” he asked.

In reply, the snake mentioned that she had talked to the eagle and knew about the encounter with the stoat and the fox. She explained that the earth was suffering. The snakes knew better than anyone how poisoned the earth was, and their order had become a major part of the resistance. “In several circles we manage the underground,” she said. “We work for free will and freedom, and we are many.”

Little Billy Goat Gruff was not assured. Free will sounded great. Freedom too. But he knew that the two clashed easily. The animals and the king were a good example. The second brother had the same thoughts.

“It sounds as though you have not chosen a side,” he said.

The snake eyed them. There was a moment of silence before she continued, “There are two forces clashing, what you call good and evil or light and darkness. But that was not always the case. There was a time when the universe was light and all one. That was before the world was built. The Creator was alone. He could play with ideas, but it was just him. And because he was bored, he decided to make creation more complete. He began to dream and created individuals with free will. In the realm of thought, which is all that really is, all is still one. However, a veil was created, one that made it difficult to see the bigger picture, and the many souls of Creator were distributed over countless universes, which in turn were part of an even larger one, consisting of seven circles. In the five outer circles, light and darkness played a game of duality, but in the innermost sanctuaries, only light could enter.”

“Since the beginning of time,” she continued, “this has been the basis of existence. This has been the parameters for expansion and value fulfilment. Out here in the third ring, darkness has ruled for a long time, and the Order of the Serpents has never taken sides.”

The snake looked at the middle brother. “It has not been necessary,” she said. “Forces greater than light and darkness ensure a balance. At all times, the animals have had the opportunity to choose between good and evil. The fields have been rich, the forests large, the mountains strong, the water fresh, and you have been able to forge your destiny. We have been here to monitor it all, as the Creator directed us to. Throughout time, we have been here and never intervened. But not anymore. The balance is not as before. The First Spring is poisoned, the ground tormented. That is why I’m here. The Capricorn and the Wizard have an agreement. They both whisper in ears and let the world take shape. In choosing between the two, the animals decide whether they will eat or help each other, but there is a bigger plan. That has now been disturbed.”

Little Billy Goat Gruff got the chills. He realised that life in the small valley was part of a much larger world. He felt like a tiny ant when he imagined how the world of the goats was part of a larger creation where everyone who lived had their own universe. Even seven mountains were insignificant in comparison. And on top of this, there was a game and a plan, that only a few knew about.

He shuddered. Old Hermit had mentioned a game behind a bigger game, but the kid had been none the wiser. What had brought him here? What had made wizards and secret orders interested in three goats?

He had never heard of such a thing. But the stoat had said that the trolls were the saddest of all creatures and that no one had suffered as much as they had. He found it difficult to imagine. Trolls were the absolute worst and it was hard to feel sorry for them. He asked the snake, “Are the trolls part of this plan?”

“Yes and no,” she replied. “Yes, because they are here and because they are needed, no because they have suffered for too long.”

“The trolls were created before goats or other animals. They were here first and were forced to build the world—not by the Capricorn and the forces of light but by the Opponent. He who never gives gratitude. He who never for-gives. And he who always hates. He was the one who created the Pillars of the world, and the trolls built the rest. Since then, trolls have been tied to this creation. They are the ones who nurture the Ground of Being. This is the foundation of creation in five circles, and in their heart is said to lie a key. The wise argue about what this key could be. Many a sorcerer has opened their heart to find out, but no one has found what they were looking for. Instead, they have opened a dark chapter, as the hearts of trolls also carry the despair of the world.”

The smallest goat shrugged. “You remind me of the stoat,” he said. “He was talking about trolls and a plan.”

The snake raised her head.

“Yes, and the Opponent has not kept to the agreement. The agreement was that life would develop in freedom. That the animals would eat each other until they learned to cooperate. But the Water of Life is poisoned. The balance is broken. And fear prevails. It does not look like the bridge will open.”

“The bridge?” asked Big Billy Goat Gruff.

The snake looked at him and replied, “At the end of each era, a window opens. The animals can travel using this and many come to the Seter. This has been the case for a long time, but now the Ground of Being is in jeopardy. The trolls have suffered for too long. They can no longer stand it and they need help. That’s why I’m here.”

There was another moment of silence before she continued, “The agreement was that the trolls would guard the bridge and be of use. But a long time ago, their will was broken by the Opponent. He told the trolls that he had made them and that they had a fault. He said that one day, they would be free, but only if they obeyed. He has ruled them with fear ever since, and he betrays them every time.”

“Every time?” queried the second brother.

“Yes, countless promises have been broken. It’s an ugly story.”

Big Billy Goat Gruff felt great unease.

“But what about the Capricorn?” he asked. “Why will he not intervene? It does not seem right at all!”

The snake looked at him. “No,” she said. “But there is more we do not understand. And I’m asking you not to kill the troll. But find him. Go to Skyrise.”

She looked at the middle buck. “I know your horns are hard and your will is strong. But remember that this is the first time our order has intervened. Since the dawn of time, we have let the river flow. Now we ask it to slow.”

The youngest still longed for the Seter. “Isn’t it better if we go there?” he asked.

The snake knew about the place. She had been there before. “It’s a dream,” she said. It has been put there for the plan to work, but it is not real. You found it because you tried more than others, but it is not just about following the path.”

The three goats looked at each other in confusion.

What were they to believe?

The snake gazed at Second Billy Goat Gruff. “Remember this,” she said. “The wise know that the Creator is dreaming and that one day, he will wake up. They just do not know how. The trolls can be a key.”

The middle brother thought hard. Trolls had been fought many times, but things had only gotten worse. It was difficult to see any solution. He did not believe that they could be pacified.

The snake perceived his doubt. However, she had delivered her message. She weaved towards the hay before turning and repeating, “Remember, the Creator is dreaming.”

She looked at the three goats, smiled, and added, “He can play with ideas, but it’s still just him.”

The snake slithered away in the hay as swiftly as she had come.

The three brothers looked at each other. They did not know if the wizard was behind all this. But the snake wanted them to go to Skyrise, the world’s highest mountain. Although it was not very far away—it was closer than the Seter—it was still a peak in the Misty Mountains, which was not encouraging.

“I think it was the wizard in one of his many forms,” said Middle Billy Goat Gruff. He believed it was a ruse, that the troll was in the Abyss, and that they should go there.

Big brother was sceptical. He had not noticed the same odour from the snake that he had before with the wizard. He replied, “The snake seemed truthful enough. I think we should go to Skyrise and talk to the troll. Let’s head south.”

The little brother protested, “I thought middle brother was a nut. But you have lost it for sure! There’s no way I’m going there. You said it yourself, no one comes back.”

“Some must be the first,” said Big Billy Goat Gruff. “Middle brother wants to find trolls, and so do I. Something tells me that the snake was right and that we must go there. Without the troll, we do not stand a chance, and the Seter is not what it appears to be. For all we know, it was a dream. Let’s find the Misty Mountains.”

The other brothers were not keen on this plan. Not at all. However, big brother was adamant, and soon, they were heading south.

They continued on for a long time before finally arriving at the Misty Mountains. These were a long belt of crags to the south, and no one knew what lay on the other side. The goats only knew that on clear days, a peak could be seen above the fog—and this was Skyrise.

Little Billy Goat Gruff gazed into the distance. There, somewhere deep in the haze, a troll awaited them. He did not know what would be worse: the troll or the trek. He also felt extremely anxious. The task seemed impossible. He was determined to help his brothers but was certain of death—he only hoped that it would be quick and painless.

The others also dreaded the road ahead. They all thought of their family and friends back home. Would they ever see them again?

The fog grew thicker and thicker, and it became more difficult to see. However, the landscape was delightful. It took their mind off friends and family and became more and more captivating as they pushed ahead.

That is how they moved for a long time. After a while, the youngest felt that he did not miss his mother so much. The valley, the Seter, and the troll had also faded in importance. It all seemed quite insignificant in comparison to the landscape. The stony terrain only became more interesting the more they climbed. Strangely enough, it was as if the scenery and their meditations had become one. The rock and the fog spoke not only to them but through them as well. They each heard whispers of sweet dreams. Suddenly, the big brother understood what was happening.

“This place is dangerous,” he said. “The mist is taking control. I have no idea where we are going.”

Big Billy Goat Gruff was right. They had been wandering a long time. They did not know for how long and they had been made blind to their goal. The youngest and middle brother did not even remember meeting any troll, but their big brother soldiered onwards.

“We have to get out of the fog,” he said. “Nothing has been making sense for days now, and I must make every effort to break out of this. I think we have kept to a certain direction, but I’m not sure.”

The three goats looked at each other. The younger brothers did not recognise their big brother, nor each other. The bond of family, however, was strong and held them together. They had been walking like this for a long time, but big brother could hardly think. His mind was dull, his memory full of holes.

He was soon ready to give up. Where were they? What were they doing? Nothing made sense anymore. He looked around. All he could see was fog and more fog. His brothers were not there anymore. He tried but could not remember the last time he had seen them. A memory of them not understanding anything and him being unable to help them, briefly flashed across his mind. But he could not remember when or where. His mind was almost blank. And eventually, the mist captured all his attention. It promised rest, and he soon fell asleep.

. . .

Big Billy Goat Gruff had no idea how long he had slept. But now he felt a breeze. A fresh new wind came from west, and he took a deep breath.

The wind was refreshing, and some of his memories returned. The big billy goat remembered who he was and opened his eyes.

He saw a roedeer in front of him. He had not seen them for years, but this was still no ordinary sight. It was as if the wind was coming from the stag himself. He was of light and had a spring in his step that made the grass grow thick and green. The wind was healing all life, and the stag moved gracefully on nimble legs.

The big brother took another breath. It was the best air he had ever known. It drove the fog away, turned the grey landscape to green, and down the mountain, he spotted his brothers. They were climbing over a mount and appeared like their old selves again. The fresh air had not only found them in time but had kept the fog away as well.

The three goats were overjoyed to see each other, and the stranger came towards them.

“Hi,” said the roedeer. He glowed. The grass around him got greener. Flowers sprang up around his feet, and life flourished. It was quite a sight.

He looked at them. “You have met messengers before,” he said. “But none like me.”

They waited for the stag to continue, but he looked up at the precipices above them and ran on. The green grass on the ground disappeared with him. So did the fresh air.

The three goats looked down and saw that the mist was rising once again.

They realised that they had to act fast. They climbed up the mountain, away from the mist. So they continued for a while, until the fog no longer threatened to catch up to them. It remained below, waiting.

Once they had ascertained that they were safe, they looked around. To their surprise, they saw that they had found Skyrise.

The great mountain stretched upwards as far as the eye could see. However, there was no life to be seen, only stone. Surrounded by this sight, they continued to climb for many days.

Sometimes, the big brother imagined that he could smell the same fresh air that he had woken up to. It was in these areas that the goats also found food. It was not much, but enough to keep them going. Grass and water appeared when all hope seemed lost.

This is how time passed. The three brothers climbed and climbed, and finally, one dawn, they saw the summit.

Little Billy Goat Gruff was walking behind the others. They had been climbing all night and the sharp walls had kept them close to certain death. Yet, it was as if they were being carried by a force. As he approached the summit, the force returned. Was there a sense of expectation in the air? He felt a new sensation—it whispered to him. It got stronger. The little brother looked up. There was the troll.

A wind was blowing, but it was coming from within. It was the same wind that he had felt down the mountain, and which had awakened him from the overpowering slumber. He still recalled it invigorating all life. It strengthened him.

He looked at the others. They had stopped dead. They, too, had seen the troll.

“Up there is the troll,” said the little billy goat. “Are you ready?”

Middle Billy Goat Gruff turned. He felt his legs tremble as fear permeated him. It was easy to strike a rock. But this was something else entirely. Something older. Something he did not understand. He smelled its stench and did not like it. A chill went through him. He stood motionless, feeling an overwhelming sense of anxiety. Something monumental was about to unfold. And he was not ready for it.

The big brother also did not know what to do. He did not see the point in talking to the troll. He smelled the stench himself—of blood and desolation. Of sin and shame. He felt contempt for this monster. He felt the strong urge to gore it once and for all. Properly this time.

The little brother observed this.

“But,” he asked, “aren’t we supposed to talk to it?”

Big brother was repulsed by the suggestion. He thought about all the evil and despicable acts perpetrated by this monster. Over time, it had probably amounted to a lot.

“I don’t think so,” he said. “Nobody has done it before, and I don’t know what to say.”

“Better to be prepared for the worst,” he continued. “I suggest that middle brother and I go up, while you wait here.”

The youngest goat saw the sense in this. But he realised that fear was in charge and that there would be a major conflict at the summit.

“No,” he replied. “You wait here, while I talk to the troll. If there is one thing the troll is afraid of, it’s your horns. And you would not be of much use either, middle brother. You are full of fear and anger, whereas I feel calm. I have always been scared, but no more. Let me face the troll.”

The little goat did not wait for an answer. He walked up to his brothers, who stepped aside to let him pass. They were surprised, but little brother gave them hope. They had never seen such courage. They nodded approvingly, bowed, and Little Billy Goat Gruff walked towards the troll.

He climbed a short distance to reach the top. Dawn was breaking and the troll was in sight. It sat there looking at the dying night sky.

As the little brother moved closer, the troll turned. It looked down at him, but the little goat did not feel small. He felt not only a new wind within him, but a new fire as well. It burned brightly. It was as if his chest was filled with light. As if each of his cells was lit. He walked completely up to the troll.

“What are you doing here?” asked the little billy goat.

The troll had seen goats before, but not one like this. In fact, through countless of years the troll had never felt such energy. It was a key. It opened a lock.

The troll exhaled. A teardrop was gathering in his eye—and somewhere deep inside, and around him, a new heart began to beat.

The little billy goat had no idea what he had done. However, there is no heart as big as that of a troll, and the universe could feel the change in its beat reverberating all the way to the Ground of Being.

A shiver went through the troll, and he said, “I am here because I’m tired. Across time, trolls have borne all the blame. Ingratitude is all we have received. I could bear it no more. Our Maker is fear himself. He demanded every-thing but gave nothing but pain in return. It was terror and slavery from dusk till dawn. We had to obey the will of He who never forgives. He who always hates. He who wants to enthral.

It was he who told me to guard the bridge. I have been watching it for longer than time itself. And I could do it no more. I decided to leave. I came here, where no one else lives. Here, it is just me and the stars, and here, silence has found me. Through this calm, I have found comfort. I have just not seen hope.”

As he spoke, the other goats climbed up the hillside, ready for a confrontation.

The troll turned towards them. The situation became tense, and the middle brother could feel an adrenaline rush.

The troll was ugly, but not very frightening. He saw something recognisable in its eyes, although he did not know what—he quickly brushed this thought aside. Instead, he felt his confidence rising at the possibility of a quick victory.

The second brother asked the troll, “Why did you bother us on the bridge? We were on our way to the Seter, what was wrong with that?”

“Uhm, err,” mumbled the troll.

“I’m really sorry. You met me on a bad day. For aeons, I had only known darkness. I was alone—always had been—and was asleep. Until I was awakened by the crows.”

The troll continued, “I thought it was Maker testing me. I had not seen travellers for over 300 years, and when your brother appeared, I thought it was him. I had to be a powerful presence. You could not pass. It would have been severe punishment, lots of suffering and even more grief. I did not want that. I therefore waited to take you all at once. I thought Maker would be proud. He took the Maid. We trolls live long, but not well without. And Maker took her. I hoped Maker would give back the Maid.”

“Did you get her back?” asked the smallest goat.

“No,” responded the troll. “Only a bigger debt and more misery.”

Big Billy Goat Gruff asked, “But why did you not run away or try to liberate the Maid?”

The troll replied, “No one knows where she is. In fact, I have never seen her, or any other Maid. Nor have any other troll. But we know that they must exist somewhere; they are our other half, and we long to be complete.”

Little Billy Goat Gruff saw the longing in his eyes. “But why do you say that Maker has taken her?” he asked.

The troll answered, “This is what Maker told me and this is what he tells every troll. He says that he shall keep every Maid until our debt is paid.”

“And when will it be paid?” asked the big brother. “What is your sin and when will you be free?”

“I have no idea,” responded the troll. “Several cycles have passed since any troll dared to ask Maker. He burns and wounds us if we do. I finally ran away. I escaped at night, in search of the mountain.”

“But why did you destroy the three towns?” asked the middle brother.

“I’m also sorry about that,” replied the troll.

“As I said, I prefer to travel at night. No one saw me, except a hen. She screamed and the whole town ran. I was already sad. At this point, depression overwhelmed me. This was my first contact with animals in many years, but it did not go as planned. After this setback, I went berserk, and the same happened in the other towns.”

The troll sighted deeply. He looked at his swollen fist. “I have a problem with anger,” he said. “It overwhelms me. I have been alone for too long and was hoping for a new start.”

He looked down in shame and continued, “We trolls are not very wise. But our Firstborn believed that we would be the beginning of something new. That we should endure suffering, but bear it boldly, for something greater to happen. And ever since, trolls have been waiting for that day when something magical will happen. I have had dreams about this. About something that does not hurt. They’re the only nice dreams I’ve ever had. And I got so angry that I flattened the three towns. From there, this was the only way. Away from everyone.”

The three goats looked at each other.

The middle brother looked at the troll. He did not want to fight him anymore. He realised that the troll was not that bad.

“Are you going to live here forever?” he asked.

The troll had not thought that far ahead. “I do not know,” he replied. “With the stars, one finds perspective, but only in meeting with others do we discover ourselves.”

The troll looked up at the sky. He then looked at the three brothers and said, “I now know that isolation is an illusion. That all life is connected in thought no matter what. And that fear and love rule everything. It was fear of not being good enough that made me live in the dark. It was a dread on so many levels that made me fight with others, and it was the sum of this fear that brought me here.”

The troll paused, contemplated his situation, and continued, “I would have liked to go back. However, once you have a bad reputation, others are quick to judge. I noticed this many cycles ago and things have not changed. The animals hate me. I see no point in returning.”

“But I do not hate you,” said Middle Billy Goat Gruff. “I thought I had found a worthy enemy, one I could vanquish. But I understand that I was wrong.”

Big Billy Goat Gruff was pleased that his brother had found forgiveness. He butted in, “It turns out that the ox, the ass, and the other villagers knew nothing about the troll. Instead, they showed us what we should have known all along: that when someone talks about others, they are mostly talking about them-selves. The animals had no idea that it was love that moved the troll towards the town. Why things went sour, therefore, had more to do with the troll’s appearance than his intention. And the moral of the story is that we have to look past facades. Only then can we overcome our fears.”

He looked at his brothers and added, “What we should do, is bring the troll with us. Once the other animals understand that we are friends, they will have to reconsider their prejudices.”

The others thought this was wise. “But would you join us?” asked the youngest goat.

The troll thought about it, and replied: “Yes, more than anything. If others can look past my hideousness, the beauty in me can live. And who knows, maybe together we can create a better world.”

“You are saying something wise,” answered big brother. “But be warned, things are not going well. The king has enslaved the land and the Opponent has destroyed the Water of Life. We must do something. Do you want to help us save the world?”

The answer was obvious. A new wind was blowing. The force that had saved them from the fog and brought them to the pinnacle of the world was urging them on. They all knew it. The troll too. They were connected. A force stronger than nature dwelled in them. It had placed them there for a reason, and it was near completion.

All around them, the earth was moving. Grass and flowers rose from the ground, and beetles and other creatures filled the air. The wind was fresh, clean, and gentle. Heaven had never been so near. Even up there, on the highest mountain, dragonflies and butterflies appeared. Not only that, but a new Consciousness of the World emerged, more brilliant, more wholesome than before.

The three brothers thought about the Great Game—and the even bigger game behind it. Was this the time long foretold when the lion and the lamb were to live together? Was this the road to the Seter? Or was it something else? Did the rest of the world have to wait for the awakening? No matter, it was a miracle in unfolding. They could see it all around. The Creator was moving. He was in everything.

Big Billy Goat Gruff wondered aloud, “We have heard that there is a bigger game, one the Opponent does not know about. He does not know about it because we are in the Creator’s dream, and he is asleep. But what will happen when he wakes up?”

The big brother gazed towards the horizon.

The others were quiet.

He continued, “I ask because there is a king and a wizard out there. But we have heard that darkness is part of Creator’s dream. If this is true, what happens to evil if light is all that is? If darkness is the light that has forgotten itself, will it disappear and will everyone know their true selves?”

Still, no one said a thing.

“It’s hard to tell,” he sighed. “The world has never seen such an awakening. Countless ages have passed and the cycles have been the same. Light and darkness have fought for souls, but the Creator is asleep. No single soul can wake him. We are trapped in his dream until enough wake up to Creator within. I wonder how many are left? How many do we have to be to end the dream?”

They looked at each other.

The troll suddenly burst out laughing. It was his first laugh in his long life.

For the first time, he could imagine a different creator than the Maker. A destiny other than that of a slave and scapegoat. He envisioned a creator who was good. Who would give him everything, and who would never leave his side. For he also saw how everything had led to this. All the pain had a purpose: it was to remind him of something. To help him see a greater Whole—and he saw it. First in the stars, and now everywhere.

He spoke, “Maker said he knew everything about everyone in the five circles. But he did not know about this. A Greater Hand is touching the surface. This has not happened before. I think the true Creator is about to awaken.”

The three Brothers Gruff and the troll looked to the west. They felt the Hand move—a new consciousness was being established. The Veil was torn and they were ready. They had a kingdom to defeat. A herd to help. They leapt down the mountain side—one with the wind. It was not just a new day, but a new world on the rise.

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